I was a college student who also worked nearly full time and she was a stay at home mom to the most beautiful little girls. We made plans to meet for lunch, which meant sandwiches at her house while the girls napped. She had lunch mostly ready by the time I got there; she was just cutting onion for our turkey sandwiches as I walked in the door. If I was ordering a sandwich somewhere I’d love that it had onion on it, but if I were making myself a sandwich at home it would be bread, mayo, and meat. The minimum amount of effort on my part. Lettuce, tomato, and onion are all great, but I’d have to get out the cutting board, find a knife, and then clean that all up – which sounded like too much energy to put towards something that was really just a “want”. The effort she made to add the extras to our sandwiches that day meant a lot to me and also taught me a lesson in self-care.
I was reminded of this again last week when my prescription sat on the counter twelve days after the doctor gave it to me. When my kids need medicine I don’t even hesitate; I rearrange my schedule to get to the pharmacy that very day. But when it came to something for me, it sounded like a waste of a trip or too much of a bother. Can you relate?
Self-care is a trendy thing right now, and if you google for ideas you’ll find things like take a nap, get a manicure, take a bath, or watch a movie. When I think of self-care I think of a day spent in pajamas binge watching Netflix and being checked out of life. I picture cake for dinner, no responsibilities, and no guilt. I do love each and every one of those items, but after the first one I find myself even more sluggish than when I started. I suppose I can chalk that up to good ol’ inertia – an object at rest will remain at rest until acted upon by an outside force. Even just one of those super chill self-care items leaves me totally lacking motivation and struggling to reengage with my life. They aren’t the most helpful type of self-care days for me.
For me self-care is getting up and taking a shower, even if I don’t have to leave the house that day. It’s balancing the checkbook because the peace of mind when it’s done is priceless. It’s digging deep and finding the discipline to work on my book, even though an afternoon of Candy Crush sounds more fun. It’s making a complicated dinner recipe that will dirty too many dishes and make the kids complain, just because it’s a dinner I like to make and the leftovers will be great for lunch this week. It’s writing cards of encouragement to mail, it’s taking ten minutes to clean off the stack of papers on the counter, it’s mopping the kitchen floor because the house smells good when the kitchen is freshly mopped. These things don’t qualify as restful, but they are things that have the bigger payoff. When I choose to spend a couple minutes each day on something that will pay dividends later, that’s self-care. It’s about meeting my own needs and not waiting around only to be disappointed when unvoiced expectations aren’t met. It’s cutting the onion even if I’m the only one who wants it. It’s being my own hero and doing things that make me smile.
Self-care is about doing the things that need to be done because that is what builds the kind of life I don’t need to regularly escape from.