How do you start your day?
My day begins before daylight, while the children are still asleep. Over time I’ve learned that our mornings are more peaceful if I’ve had time to get dressed, do my hair, and throw on a little eyeliner and mascara before breakfast is served. But the most important part of my morning is my coffee – though occasionally it may be tea. Sometimes I drink it standing in the kitchen, but I usually sit in this old rocking chair by the window where the morning light falls across my lap. That first cup is a pause, a moment where I take a few sips and breathe and remind myself of all there is to do and be grateful for.
What do you do when you are overwhelmed or stressed?
I know I’m overwhelmed or stressed when my shoulders lurch forward, when my breath feels shallow, or when my temper boils over a little quickly. Those are all clues that I am in need of two things: movement and solitude. I’ve recently begun walking the 1.1 miles to pick up my oldest from school. Sometimes I do a quick 20 minute yoga video; it’s long enough to get me back to center, but short enough to squeeze into a busy day. During the weekdays I try to find 10-15 minutes where I can be left alone on my bed. On the weekends I take a few hours during midday. Everyone knows that when I’m on the bed, quiet, and the door is closed, that this is mommy time. It is sacred time I use to decompress, close my eyes, and surrender to whatever I am feeling in that moment.
What gives you the feeling of true bliss within?
True bliss comes from coffee and dinner dates with kindred souls. It comes from a meal that leaves me feeling warm and full. It comes from the moments when I feel truly seen, heard, and understood by my partner. It comes from my children when they do or say something that is beautiful and profound and innocent.
What are you currently reading?
On my night stand is a stack of literary journals and magazines on the craft of writing. I love reading work by a diverse body of writers and I also love having little glimpses into the lives of other creative people. At the end of each story or article I am inspired to continue growing in and practicing my art.
What are you listening to right now?
I have always loved melancholy songs. This goes back to being a child and listening to soft rock radio with my mother; love songs and anything in a minor key stirs something within me. Right now, my playlists include Of Monsters and Men, Young the Giant, Hozier, Phantogram, Steely Dan, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, and John Mayer. Always John Mayer.
What is your go-to simple recipe?
My favorite meal to make, especially during fall and winter, is pot roast. It’s a simple recipe I found a few years ago. The entire process is done in a dutch oven, which makes for easy clean-up, and the low and slow cooking process adds so much depth of flavor and tenderness to the meat. And, it’s something I know I won’t have to struggle to get my children to eat. Everyone leaves the table full and happy.
What are some simple things you do for self-care?
My morning coffee ritual is definitely an important piece of my self-care, but I also journal in the mornings. I do three pages by hand before I do any other writing for the day. My journal is where I ask myself the really hard questions or find solutions to problems. Sometimes I simply organize my day. I fill it with my dreams and desires. It’s a place that holds everything.
My other very simple but essential self-care act is my nightly shower. Our home has only one bathroom and five people, so at night, after the children have gone to bed, it becomes my own sacred space. My showers are hot – almost too hot – and very long. I usually lean my head against the wall and stand there as the water rushes over me, melting away the stress of the day. I think about what went right and what I’d like to change for the future. I think about stories and characters I want to explore. I let the steam soak into my skin and then down into my muscles. When I come out I am renewed. Softened, even. It makes going to be bed much easier for me.
What does nourishment look like to you?
For me, nourishment looks like good food. I often forget to eat a lunch (sometimes because I’ve had too much coffee) which means that I make bad snack choices before dinner time. But when I choose to consume food in a way that keeps me feeling satiated and energized, I am a much happier person.
Nourishment looks like authentic connection with the people who matter to me most. That means spending quality time with my children where we are not having to do anything other than be together. It means a dinner date alone with my husband where we talk about more than just kids and home and work. It means going into the city for coffee and lunches with women who are deep, passionate and loving.
And it also looks like devoting time to creation. Any time I’m writing or taking pictures or cooking a meal, it’s me using my gifts in a way to connect with others. Choosing to honor my creative impulses keeps me connected to myself in such a joyful way. Being creative is not just a want, but a need for me. I have to do it in order to thrive.
How do you make space for play?
To be honest, playing is hard for me. It’s not something I did very well as a child and it’s not something I understand much as an adult. But I’m learning to find my own ways. Lately this has taken the shape of driving or taking the train into the city alone, challenging myself to step out of my comfort zones. Not only am I exploring a new place physically, but I’m also learning about my own personal edges.
What are some favorite mantras you cling to?
“You’ll figure it out.” – Danielle LaPorte
“Everything you want is already yours.”—Serendipitous words spoken to me by a friend, Maya Hackett
Please share some words of wisdom you’ve learned as a direct result of soulful and embodied living.
You have to choose to do and be You. The longer you wait for permission, the longer you’ll be alive without truly living. I can’t even begin to describe the blessings that have come to me from simply believing that I was worthy of doing whatever was necessary to feel embodied and empowered as a wife, mother, friend – as a woman. I believe that I am not only setting an example to my daughter as to what is possible when you love yourself and surround yourself with people who support you, but also to my sons who will grow up to know that a woman doesn’t operate and exist in one dimension. From this place of wholeness comes genuine joy and so much light. I can’t imagine living any other way.
WRITER, MAMA & PUBLISHER
Alisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she's not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists and is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course. You can find Alisha at her website, AlishaSommer.com, and in her favorite playgrounds: Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.