Coping Chronicles: Self-Care

As I write this, I am thus:
feet in sink of hot, soapy water
thinking of the nail color I'll do next

For a long, long while, I was too tired, too busy, too distracted by babies to do any such things (except for the pajamas part. I think we all know: I hardly ever made it out of the pajamas ((said every mommyish blogger ever))). Then, I got sick, sick enough for other people to pay attention, and everyone started telling me to "take care of yourself." Ummm. OK. What's that?

I have really, really struggled with this notion of "self-care." I do think that in our overly-busy, self-inflictedly stressful lives, we can be really lured by the false god of self-care- it looks like over-indulgence. Like binging on things that don't really fill us up. I wanted to avoid being selfish, so "self" care seemed like a slippery slope on my way up the heights of Mount Good-Mama-Sacrifice-aRama. This goes back to my theological ponderances over how to enjoy God without feeling like I needed to pay him back for everything. If we don't have a God who loves us and wants good things for us, then things like peace, joy and enjoyment are not on our list of acceptable activities. "Self-care" brings all of those, and I am thrilled to have come to the conclusion that God just really, really loves me.

Self-care can have many appearances. Maybe it's taking 20 minutes to exercise or take a solo walk every morning. Maybe it's one afternoon of babysitting every week. Maybe it's massages, physical therapy, juicing, reading, piano-playing, nights with friends, painting, journaling, etc. It includes anything that you do to remind yourself of a few crucial facts:
1. Your body is important.
2. Your spirit is important.
3. Your people and YOU need your body and your spirit to be refreshed.

Beyond these few thoughts above, I don't have much more to add to the "why" of self-care. Hopefully by now you have been told that you need to "secure your own oxygen mask first..." you know, so you won't be DEAD when someone else needs you!! We all know that mommies (doctors, teachers, friends, pastors, whatever-it-is-you-ares) need to have a long rope so that we won't be at the end of it when we are needed most- which, by the way, you do NOT get to plan. And, for my spiritual friends, consider this: you are going to have the same body in Glory that you have now. True; it will be recreated, but it will be the same material. God does not see it as something to throw away! Jesus' glorified body displayed the scars from God's work he had accomplished on the earth. Beautiful, remade stretch-marks, anyone?

I am still not very great at self-care. It is definitely hard to learn how to balance self-care with self-sacrifice because they are both essential to a loving lifestyle. Though, not at all mutually exclusive, au contraire, they are hard to integrate successfully because humans are just so dang good at extremes. I don't have any fantastic plans, but I'm going to share what has/is worked/working for me.

1. If you are a mom, figure out a go-to childcare solution.
- I know, I know. This is very tough. But, if you value it, you can and will figure it out. I have seen a zillion examples. You let me know if you actually need help figuring it out. I observe that none of us have a true logistical problem; we, instead, have problems with value, willingness, and trust in others. I HOPE that women have partners who are willing to help with this in HUGE ways. They can see Brendan for lessons as needed.

2. Remember what you love. I love painting, writing, 90's indie rock, make-up, nail polish, hide-and-seek with my kids, yummy happy hour specials, fancy cocktails, Italian wine, spa days, Magnusson Park, Fran's Chocolatier, piroshky, Thai, novels, friends, Bible studies, books on prayer, etc. Make a big list like mine (my real one is much longer).

3. Do what you love. I don't do this in any organized fashion, but I think that I probably engage one big thing a quarter (spa day with girlfriend, day-trip, hair-cut, etc), one medium thing per month (party with friends, girls' night, book club), one small thing per week (happy hour with hubs, book-store perusal, art project, jewelry making, searching for beach glass), and one tiny thing per day (bath, reading, writing, nail polish, glass of wine, cup of tea, etc.) And, for Bible readers, a quote from a beloved mentor of mine: the Word is food. If you don't eat it every day, you will starve. I am not always good at this, but when I am I instantly feel the benefits.

4. Do what you need. JUST GO TO THE DOCTOR. JUST GO BUY THOSE NEW PANTS THAT FIT. JUST REPLACE THAT SPATULA. JUST STOP EATING SO MUCH SUGAR. JUST EAT A REAL BREAKFAST SO YOU WON'T BE SO HANGRY. And then there's this one: WORK. OUT. (I am but a mere novice and have not yet reached such lofty heights.) I think you get it. Please do not assume that I think these needs are YOUR needs. They are mine. We ignore our needs, and then we suffer- big or small. I really, really need to go to the dentist... if only someone would write an inspiring blog post...

5. Ask for help. This is last, but, naturally, not least. I ask for help a lot now. It may not be in the ways people think it should be, but I get the help that I actually need. It is wonderful, and it endears you to your friends and family who love you and WANT to know how to love you in a way that you will feel and appreciate... just like you bend over backwards to do for your family and friends.

In the time it took me to write all that, I also exfoliated my feet. BAM. Double points for self-care.

You are loved. Quit acting like a thow-away paper towel. I am hoping that you will be around for a long, long time.



P.S. I don't typically ask for comments, but if you have feelings on this subject I would LOVE to read them. What works for you? Why do you or do you not take time for yourself? What most gets in the way of you taking time to do number 4: what you need to do? What are your favorite big, medium, small, and tiny self-care activities? Feel free to leave comments on FB too! I can repost all your great thoughts in a follow-up blog! Share so we'll get a wealth of wisdom from all the great people we know!

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