I began the habit of swaddling myself this past December when I experienced an unexpected crisis and needed a way to sooth myself. (Or perhaps I resumed a practice that my mommy used when I was a wee baby. I’ll have to check with her to find out.). I don’t remember intentionally deciding to swaddle myself, I just did it spontaneously at bedtime on the first day of the crisis. Since then, I haven’t been swaddling myself every night, just on the nights when I’m feeling smaller than usual, careworn, or sad.
Here’s how I do it: After I’ve crawled in between the flannel sheets and pulled the down comforter which is ensconced in its ruby-red duvet cover over me, and once I am situated on my back and I have adjusted the pillows just so under my neck and head, I tuck the top layers around my body as tightly as I can.
Here’s how I feel once I am swaddled just so: I feel like a protected, loved, nurtured “Baby Creature,” a description that comes from my colleague, the writer Jay Ponteri*. “I’m Baby Creature and you’re Baby Creature,” Jay writes. And I add: We are precious, new beings muddling our way through this beautiful flummoxing life. Muddling alone, muddling together.
My youngest friend just turned 8 a few weeks ago. I will turn 47 this coming December. Despite the chronological gap between us we have quite a lot in common right now. We’re both Baby Creature and we are both going through growing pains. Life is asking a lot from us and we are struggling to rise to the occasion. Sometimes we have trouble falling asleep at night. As she told me yesterday, her legs fall asleep but her mind doesn’t. Sometimes we are like toddlers who need naps — there’s no gap between trigger and melt-down.
Swaddling is the ideal caring practice for a tender Baby Creature during the colder months of the year. However, as the temperatures begin to rise sometime around the beginning of July (yeah, I know, I live in Oregon, but the temperatures do rise!) the down comforter will need to be replaced by a lighter bed-spread. My summer bed-spread is quite handsome: pale moss green, old-fashioned puckered fabric. But as much as I admire my fair-weather bed-spread it isn’t very well suited for swaddling.
Do you remember the inside experience of being 8 years old? Can you conjure up your girl or boy self and invite them for a play-date? Can you reconnect with the embodied experience of being a little person confused by what your body is doing, what adults are asking or expecting of you, what the thoughts you are thinking might mean? Whatever age you supposedly are now, do you ever feel like an overly-tired toddler who needs a nap or a snack (or time alone, or time not alone)? Do you ever feel like a precious little baby who needs to be swaddled or rocked or hummed to?
Jay remembers and reminds: “I’m Baby Creature and you’re Baby Creature…let’s shield one another from the cold winds of things we think we know, let’s let the mystery draw us to look more closely, to listen more carefully, to imagine what we cannot see and hear…”
I remember and remind: We are each of us a particular age, all ages, and no age at once. We are each of us traveling through the life-course, alone and hand-in-hand.
Let’s help one another embrace this mystery.
*From: “for my students on Thursday May 9, 2013, around 3:30 pm pst, invocation,” by Jay Ponteri, Marylhurst University