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Prioritizing Self-Care

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

Seriously, this is the biggest and best secret I've learned. And it's a "secret" because most people don't believe it's true. I never did. How can prioritizing yourself - putting yourself in front of others - even be a good thing?

I was raised in Catholic household and taught the "Golden Rule": Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

It's a lovely theory, but there are some problems.

First, how does it make sense to do unto others as you have them do unto you? I mean, for the big things - like stealing, it works. I don't want my stuff stolen, so I guess I shouldn't steal anyone's stuff, right? But for other stuff, more subtle stuff, it doesn't work.

When I'm cranky, I like to spend time alone and regroup. I have a good friend who is the opposite. When she's cranky, she wants to hang out, eat ice cream, and watch Netflix together. Therefore, in this case, the Golden Rule is pretty tarnished because if I followed it, I'd be leaving her alone and totally not doing what she wants. So that's a problem I have with it.

But what about self-care? Well, here's the thing. Many of us - women, especially - have been raised to put our needs on the back burner. We are taught that life is about service, and we will find joy in helping others.

Um - yes and no.

Of course it feels good to helping others. But if we help exclusively, our well runs dry. We burn out.

So we need to find little things to do that make us happy so we can continue to be good friends/partners/community members/global citizens.

It's all about balance, babe.

During 2020, I decided to stay with my dad and see him through the pandemic. He's older, close to 90. Luckily, he's in good health, but my mom is gone, most of his friends are dead, and his only grandchild lives several states away. It made sense to stay in Chicago and help out. He doesn't cook and he subsists on hot dogs and ham sandwiches. It felt good to help out and cook nutritious meals for him, and it felt good how much he loved it.

And then, after several months, I started wondering what the end game was. How long would I be staying? What was the plan? What about my life?

I realized I was so much in the mode of service, and making sure that my dad was happy, that I hadn't checked in with myself.

I started what I jokingly called the PTSD Retreat Center.

PTSD= Pandemic Times Self-Care and Development!

I made a list of things I could do that would make me happy and would be good for me, and I stuck it on the door of my childhood bedroom. The list grew, and eventually I started what I jokingly called the PTSD Retreat Center.

PTSD= Pandemic Times Self-Care and Development!

It started as a game, but it became this very real thing for me where I told myself that I had try to do 4 things from the list each day, and if I couldn't do 4 things, then I had to sit with myself before bed and forgive myself and show myself compassion for not being able to make time for myself to do these nice things.

So either I did 4 things (e.g. take a walk, practice my ukulele, do a mud mask, read a book), OR I was getting some self-care when I had that little heart-to-heart with me, myself, and I at night, taking a good look at how, instead, I was spending my time, and did it really benefit everyone that I didn't take time for myself. And some days it did, right? Cuz the B word (balance). Some days I would maybe sit quietly in the morning for 5 minutes and enjoy a cup of tea - I mean really enjoy it, taste it, think about my friend Jeanee who made the mug, think about the people who harvested the tea, looking at the packaging, and then it was go go go all day long after that, but then later that week, maybe there would be a day when I'd take the afternoon off, go for a long bike ride, stop under a tree, pull out my sketch book, and draw for a while.

It became clear that my ability to be present and make space for not just my dad, but my partner and my friends depended very much on keeping this retreat center going!

I have been a proponent of self-care for a long time, but the pandemic really opened my eyes and helped me understand that it's not just a good idea, it's a necessity.

I'm going to use this space to share self-care ideas and suggestions, as well as my own wins in the arena of making time for me.

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