Dear Sweet Sister, Mama, Wife, Daughter, Grandma, Auntie, Woman, Friend,

It was never true that I only watch the children.

I see you.

I see you working so hard.

I know you are staying up late to squeeze in as much as possible when the house finally falls silent after a long day.

I know you wake at night wondering how you will possibly accomplish all that the next day holds for you. I see you shaking your head at the tasks that got away. I see you wishing you could get back to sleep. I see you checking the time at 3:00 a.m. And again at 4:00 a.m. Then, I see you drift off to sleep in just enough time to wake again at the sound of your alarm.

I see your exasperation.

I see you use every last bit of your energy to get your children off to school, to walk the dog, feed the cats, and then pull from the reserves of I don't know where to get yourself out the door. I don't know how you do it.

I see you grocery shopping, gift shopping, meal planning, meal making, cookie baking, and house keeping. I see you pushing start on the dryer for the third time on the same load of clothes.

I see you volunteering your time to help others. I see you scrape a handful of change from the bottom of your purse so you won't arrive at the Salvation Army collection tin empty handed.

I see you wrapping gifts and sending cards. I see you wishing you had the resources to do these things when you cannot. I know you are working harder than ever before, trying to get everything done. I know you are making lists. I know you check them more than twice.

Homework with your children, homework for yourself, activities, dinner, and baths... I know bedtime is trying at your house. It all seems so impossible, and yet you do it.

I know you aren't sure what gifts to give your children's teachers this year. You wonder every year. I see you worrying, wondering how to make everyone else happy, and hoping you got it all right.

I see you planning... for work, school, church, village, town, city, state, and planet. From meals to parties. Trying not to exclude anyone. Trying to make sure everyone else's needs are met. Wondering what to wear. Hoping it will fit. Wondering how to squeeze in a trip to the mall in case it doesn't. Wondering if you can even afford that trip...

I see you rocking your baby to sleep in the middle of the night. Your eyes barely open. Wondering when you will sleep again... and yet, at the very same time, trying so hard to cherish this precious quiet you share with the tiny bundle in your arms. You know it will all be over in the blink of an eye.

I see you stumble to your child's bedside when she wakes and calls out for you. She is frightened, cold, thirsty... simply wanting to be near you. You want to hold her and make all her troubles disappear, and you want to go back to bed. You want your own space. All at once.

I see you do all of it - day after day.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one. I know you are wondering what it will be like without him, or her. You know it won't be the same. It will never be the same.

I see you grieving the loss of a loved one's beloved. Her precious child. Her husband. I see your tears. Your heart feels her pain. I know your fears. I know you wonder what the future holds.

I see you putting off your next physical. And making trips to visit a loved one at the hospital. I see you receiving bad news on the phone, by e-mail, text, and on Facebook. I know you wonder whether it will ever end. I know your heart breaks a little with each blow.

I know that sometimes you feel so alone.

I see you caring for your sick child. And your aging parents. And your own beloved. I know you are "staying strong" and "holding it altogether" all the while feeling like you are falling apart. Bit by bit.

I know that sometimes you feel trapped.

I know that you aren't exchanging gifts with your partner this year... so you can give more to your children. Or your parents. Your siblings. Nieces and nephews. Friends. The community. Your favorite charity. You have everything you could possibly need. Right?

I see you struggling. I don't remember the last time you splurged on yourself. Without guilt.

I know you worry about the cost of everything. I know that sometimes you must make choices. Do you pay this bill or that one? What will that leave for groceries? I see you making it all work even when the odds are not in your favor.

I wonder how you do it all and I wonder how you keep going? You never cease to amaze me with your tireless effort. On top of it all, you are simply radiant. You keep smiling. I know you are grateful for all of it - all that depletes you.

I see you Dear One.

And, I wonder what you really want? In your wildest dreams. Do you know? Have you thought about it? Do you have the space or time to listen to the whispers of your heart and soul?

Dear Sweet Body of Love, I know that no matter how hard you are working, you will never accomplish all that you've set out to do if you keep trying to run on empty.

Sweet Woman, you. Must. Fill. Yourself. Up.

You can be your own Santa Claus. Gift yourself. Make your own magic. Just for you.

Please.

Please make sure to include yourself on your list this year. You'll be amazed at what you can do when you take care of yourself. First.

Love,
Santa

p.s. if you think a Springtime art and heart retreat on the shores of Lake Michigan might fill you up, consider the Heart Connected Retreat: In Honor of the Journey May 1-4, 2014. Anna and her co-conspirators take pure delight in making magic for you. After all, we all need a little help sometimes.