For the majority of my life, my thoughts on self-care boiled down to this: I can’t afford to!
I’m guessing by the response to my first post that many of you can relate? We may have grown up in cultures that emphasized a form of ‘hard work’ that was not in proportion to our time or health or limitations. But we kept going. Down-days, sitting on the couch, putting self on the list of priorities may have been frowned upon or equated with laziness. So we kept going. Occasionally, we would get physically sick and find ourselves laying in bed. And we would call this rest. Or we would grow more and more demanding of ‘me time’ that, when we finally clawed our way into it, it was not refreshing.
Then become a parent and forget about it! I have literally been caught saying, “Ah, I’ll rest when I die.”
Sound familiar? Well, even if that wasn’t you, it was me. I would go and go and go until I was sick or exhausted or feeling like a martyr. In case you’re not familiar with the martyr routine, it involves going about your daily activities while having the following conversation in your head: Why do I always have to be the one who (insert task)? How come (insert person) doesn’t help more? I hate cooking. No one appreciates what I’m doing. Maybe moping and complaining will elicit the sympathy and appreciation I’m craving. That’s not working. Maybe I need to elaborate on how tired I am. Smile less. That’s not working either. Maybe just pretend I’m not tired. Smile more. And to solidify how not exhausted I am, take on more responsibilities. That’ll fool’em!
Insert a very wise woman who asked me a very simple question: how is that working for you?
The answer: a very very weary it’s not!
To which she suggested: Then why don’t you try something different?
Guilt! That’s why! Butterflies-in-stomach, pounding-heart, white-knuckled, clenching your jaw GUILT. I had lived with it for so long that I never. even. noticed.
It’s been three years since that blessed conversation, and I am happy to say that I am steadily growing out of that person. It’s taken incredible courage and help to overcome the guilt associated with caring for myself. For so long I felt caught in the cross-hairs of guilt that kept the following mantra continuously running through my head- and ruining my life: I can’t! I can’t!! I can’t!!! This summer I sought counsel from a wise man who gave me this advice: Do yourself and the world a favor- resign as General Manager of the Universe.
It’s been a hard lesson to learn- that my home, my family, my community, the world…doesn’t hinge on me! Equally challenging has been accepting that my physical, emotionally and spiritually well-being have a very real impact on my home, my family, my community, the world!
In Part 3, I will share some ways I have replaced I can’t afford to with I can’t afford NOT to and what in the world that looks like! Until then, I would love to hear your view on self-care and what hurdles you face.