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Morning Cup

Morning Cup

(from Brainstorms &

Artwise Poetry Roulette Cards)

Do you fill your cup with coffee

or fill it up with tea,

with all your mental anguish,

or possibility?

Do you pour it out for others

leaving nothing left for you?

Steeped in good intentions,

the result a bitter brew.

Me, I fill my cup in nature,

with laughter and good friends,

by making time for myself

and a present, mindful lens.

If my cup is filled to brimming

and teeters on the brink,

there’s so much more I have to share

as I offer you a drink.

My son's preschool best friend lived just a few blocks away from our family. I often picked up both boys from school in the afternoons and delighted in being able to eavesdrop on the conversations their four-year-old minds concocted. Sometimes the boys wanted to play together after school and I'd take them to the neighborhood park or have them over to our house. It worked out well for the boy's mom, who had infant twins who were frequently napping right around school pick-up time.

Over time, the boy's mom and I became friends, too. We started walking together a few evenings a week after our little ones were sleeping. One night while we were walking she confessed to me, "I don't know how I'm ever going to pay you back for all the rides and playdates."

"I don't think it works that way," I responded. In my view, our circumstances were so different and so were our needs. What was a huge help and support to her was not an effort for me; in fact, it was a joy. And the emotional support and connection I received from our friendship was more valuable to me than her taking an extra shift of carpool. "Someday," I added, "the twins will be older and you'll be more rested. Who knows? You might be driving their carpool and get to pay if forward to someone who has a younger child at home. I just think the universe has a way of sorting things out like that."

There have been times in my life when my cup has felt not just full, but also easily fillable. Over time, I've learned what nourishes me and what drains me (and that it's probably not the same for you). But for the past couple of years, the circumstances of my own life have offered me a different perspective. My cup has seemed smaller. I'm drained more easily and activities I generally considered to be in the category of "self-care" began to feel like effort. I've needed to develop a different way of being in the day-to-day, one where I give myself permission to receive support without guilt or shame or a sense of obligation. Easier said than done!

I realize now an element of naïveté in my message to my friend years ago—it can be much harder for me (and maybe also you) to receive unconditional care and support than to give it. But these days, the way to fill my own cup is to ask for the space I need to replenish myself, to let a friend make dinner for me, or to say "thank you" instead of "sorry" when my neighbor brings my garbage bins down from the street for me at the end of the day. Lately, I fill my cup more often by saying "no" than by saying "yes," and appreciating the people who are still around when I emerge from my cocoon.

There are parts of me that still struggle with letting go of the conditioning that says it's selfish to ask for what I need to sustain myself. Perhaps that's the part of self that needed the message of this poem when I wrote it years ago. But then I remember that my "self" is not isolated and separate from other people, but rather an integrated part of this dynamic experience that we call life. I imagine each of us as tendrils of life, entwining around and through the structures of community that we are creating for ourselves and one another.

Last week, one of my dearest friends reached out to apologize for being out of touch. He's been navigating his own challenges in the way he needs to. I responded that I feel his presence, even when he disappears. I also texted, "Life feels weirder than ever and I'm giving myself a lot of grace and slowness so I can stay centered."

"I like the sound of that," my friend wrote back.

What do you need to feel taken care of these days? My wish is that you receive it.

With love,


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