Numero Uno

I promised myself I would explore the notion of self-care. Yuck. I even hate that phrase. It just sounds like selfishness, masquerading as self-improvement. I’ve often lamented that there isn’t one person out there designed to take care of me so I don’t have to. But alas, Adam doesn’t get a kick out of flossing my teeth for me. I am an able-bodied individual and I am grateful, to be able to do these things for myself. There it is again….gratitude. I need to rest in that notion for a few….I am grateful. Grateful that I can walk, move my hands, use my eyes, hear my own complaining mouth. I am profoundly blessed to be in, and to have, this body. This beautiful, masterpiece. This incredible, self-healing machine. And so I should find a way to enjoy the privilege of being able to care for it. Not just the bare minimum, but care for the whole self, and do it well. 

Sigh. So once again, I need to remember that I get to care for myself. It is a blessing. It is because my body is fairly easy to care for, that I have the gift of being able to care for others as well. I can take care of others physical needs as well as my own. And I truly do enjoy caring for others. I enjoy extending myself, especially for my little family.

I don’t really actively think about myself and my higher level needs. I don’t actually know what they are. I just know how it feels to not get those needs met. It feels physically exhausting, lonely and even frustrating. So how do I locate and unpack those needs so I can address them?

I’ve thrown a bit of time investment into myself lately, just to see how it feels. It feels weird, but invigorating. Along the way I tapped into some things that felt like “self-care”, at least to me. 

Find a way to use your body

  I really love music. It ferried me through an angsty adolescence and eased me through three natural child-births. When I’m “caught up in the music”, I feel like I can do anything. I often wish I could dance with some skill to the songs that move me. Home alone recently, I indulged that whim. I blasted songs from The Greatest Showman and I pretended I had skills. My body came alive and moved in ways I didn’t know it could. Everyone knows exercise is good for the body and soul, but it doesn’t excite me to let a treadmill force locomotion. I’d rather find a song that I can’t sit still to and just go with it. I’m too old and embarrassed to go clubbing. I’m too uncoordinated, for now, to go to a dance class. But I can take some time to blast some jams and let loose. Dancing in the dark made me realize, it feels good to use the body God gave me to the fullest extent that I can. 

Use one of your talents

All through my childhood, people would comment that I’m a good writer. It came naturally to me. I never pursued that in any way. Never honed those skills, so they atrophied. I once had an extensive vocabulary for a kid. But I stopped reading challenging books, so when It came time to study for the GRE’s, I didn’t know any of the vocab words. But teacher after teacher had seen something in me. My parents saw something in me too. Somewhere in me was a budding talent, if only I had nurtured it. Well, I’m not dead yet, so there is still time. Writing is an investment in myself. It gives me a creative outlet and makes use of talent I may not have developed yet, but I believe God instilled in me at some point.

Invest an extra effort into your daily physical care… 

The other night I chose to honor my body by cutting my toenails. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s often the little things. After bathing three kids, and a dog and generally scrubbing this old house, the last thing I want to clean is myself. We have a gorgeous claw foot tub that I love to admire from a distance. We don’t even have a shower set-up. We literally have no other choice but to take luxurious bubble baths and pamper ourselves. But that takes too much time. I find lame shortcuts to avoid the bubble bath all the time. I use the handheld sprayer and only fill the tub a few inches most of the time. Even when I do indulge in a soak, it lasts a whopping 10 minutes before I can’t stand it anymore and I climb out. I knew that cutting my toenails was a 30 second detour. But it felt like an enormous obstacle between me and the couch that had been calling me all day. Because I’ve committed to exploring self-care (blech), I chose to spend that 30 extra seconds on myself. Now that my toenails aren’t stabbing my other toes, I might just take the time to enjoy the bathtub. 

And mental care…

I see a counselor regularly. I’m fortunate that my health insurance covers it. I think everyone should have access to counseling. It’s unbelievable to me that it’s not a right in this country to have great health insurance that includes counseling. Sigh. Sometimes I need to gripe. Sometimes I need to sort through stuff and I don’t always want to dump that on my husband and my friends. I have depression and anxiety. A really winning duo of mental garbage. And I owe it to society and my loved ones to do what I can to keep it together. There should be no shame in mental illness. I didn’t bring it upon myself and I am doing what I can to own it and cope with it. For the past few years, I would say that most days I cope well. So to care for myself on the next level, I find time for creative and spiritual outlets. I’ve been making time to drink my coffee slowly and read my Bible. And occasionally I’ll walk around my property by myself and commune with God and nature. Both activities bring a peace to my day that helps me keep my head on straight. I also do want to find more time for creative pursuits, because they make such a huge difference to me. Art is an outlet. Life is full of crap, and we need healthy avenues to channel that through. Even taking the time to color a picture with my kids can feel like I’m creating. And bonus, I’m spending quality time with them.

And then go the extra mile.

No one knows how to put everyone else first like a mother. My kids will always get new shoes before I do. They sleep in cute, matching pajama sets fresh from Target. Meanwhile, I sleep in oversized, thrift store pajama bottoms with a giant hole in the crotch and an old stained t-shirt. My kids point at the hole and laugh hysterically. Once in a while I will get a massage or a haircut. Or buy myself new underwear. I need to make a pact to do that more. And not feel guilty about it when I do. The problem is, every cent I spend on moi is one cent less to spend on the kids. And kids need stuff all day long. But I have needs too and I’m not less important. Besides, investing in myself is investing in everyone. We all know that a mom that feels good is a much nicer mommy. Of course, it doesn’t always have to cost money. An investment could be a walk with a friend, or time to work on a project. But I should be willing to invest in myself financially as well.  

Lately lots of people are pursuing and advocating for, self-care. I think we all feel selfish to some extent about investing time into ourselves. If we don’t sleep, we can hustle more. If we just push a little harder, our business can be all that we want it to be. Our kids can have everything we wish for them. If we can just take a little more from ourselves, we can offer more. But it’s simply not true. 

That’s the problem I have with all this “self-care” talk. It seems to promise that “if you just invest in yourself a bit more, you can deliver more“. The more is the problem. Let go of offering more. You shouldn’t bubble bath yourself to a more productive you. Invest extra in yourself when your life gets out of balance and you’re worn thin, and then, learn to say “no” and back away when you need to. Restructure your life so you don’t find yourself worn thin again. Don’t just say no to other people, but to your visions of your perfect self. If you are expecting to be Wonderwoman, you’ve stacked the deck against yourself. There is only one Wonderwoman and she’s fake. The biggest part of self-care is to create realistic expectations for who you are and keep circling back to those. It’s good to challenge yourself, but spend some time figuring out where that bar should be set. Everyone’s bar is going to be different, and you have to determine what you can and should handle. Learn to prevent those times of wearing down. Self-care isn’t once and done. Like everything in life, it’s an ongoing process and you will never “arrive”. Get comfortable with knowing your needs and addressing them. No one else can know you like you do. And you shouldn’t fault anyone else for not meeting your personal needs. If you need something from another person, advocate for yourself instead of feeling sorry for yourself. Self-care is also about communicating your needs when outside help is required. 

Ultimately, don’t be afraid to put yourself first some times. It’s not selfish. When you’re juggling all the people God has given you to take care of, don’t forget to juggle your needs as well. God didn’t just give you others, He gave you, you.

{my featured photo is from Marie McLean Photography of my beloved kidlets in our bubble bath ready tub}

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