Week 4 (a little late) is all about self care

How appropriate that my schedule listed Self Care as the topic for this weeks’ blog, because I got really sick and was forced to spend a LOT of time taking care of myself, and had time to think about self care as well.

This is another area of my life where I struggle to maintain focus and consistency. If it were up to me, I would totally live inside my brain—thinking, reading, writing, and creating art. I would never have to stop a project in order to do silly things like eating food, brushing my teeth, or plucking the pesky crazy chin hairs that have started popping up in my life on a regular basis! I might be more inclined to go to the gym if…nope, there’s not really anything that makes me actually want to go to the gym! (If you have tips on this, please share!) I know that I feel better when I eat regularly, when I go to the gym or do some yoga, and when I take a shower! I just have a hard time making these things a priority.

One self care ritual that does come naturally to me is writing and reading. I’ll journal all day if you let me. I’ll read inspirational books and think about how to apply the lessons that they teach to my own life.

Recently, I had a conversation that changed my entire approach to self care, and that’s why I put the topic on the list of things to write about. Here’s what I learned:

Self care is not a reward

Mind. Blown.
This is exactly how I was thinking about my self care, and I didn’t even realize it until she pointed it out to me. I was waiting to eat until I did a certain amount of tasks. I was waiting to shower until I had completed so many chores. I was allowing myself the ability to put down my responsibilities in order to read or relax only after I got past that arbitrary point on my to-do list that I’d created for myself.

Self care is also not optional. I was missing that aspect when I thought about it. I had an image in my head of massages, bubble baths, and face masks as self care. Those extras really could be considered rewards or special occasion treats for times when we want to celebrate a goal reached or a task accomplished. But that’s not the full picture when it comes to self care.

Self care is actually taking a step back (if you have trouble with it) and looking at your life and realizing that EVERYTHING needs maintenance and care in order to run properly. Our cars need gas, and oil, and tire changes. Car washes aren’t even frivolous because they help maintain the materials that make up the body of the car. If you don’t wash your car regularly, rust and other deterioration happens a lot faster.

Our homes need to be cleaned, we need to fix the little things that break, and do preventative measures like adding salt to our water softeners, and checking our fire extinguishers and alarms. At our house, we have to call a plumber every 2 years to get a pipe routed out or our basement floods. The maintenance saves us from emergencies.

We feed our children and our pets everyday. We make their doctor appointments, dentist appointments, or grooming appointments.

I realized that I was taking care of all the other humans and animals, and all the things in my life. But I wasn’t taking good care of me. Self care is simply maintenance—but we have to do it ourselves because as adults, we’re responsible for our own maintenance.

Why can this seem overwhelming? Because we don’t take time to do this on a regular basis, and wait until our bodies are screaming EMERGENCY!, until our engine lights are blinking, and our metaphorical basements are flooding. When you’re standing in ankle-deep water, wondering what to do next, you don’t have time to address the cause until you clean up the effect.

Which brings me to last week, when I was supposed to be writing this post. Instead, I was sleeping, sick and exhausted. AGAIN. I hit full-on crash and burn mode. I had a list of self care that needed to become a part of my schedule that was literally a page long, but I hadn’t implemented any of it yet.

On this list?

  • Start taking my supplements and vitamins again
  • Drink more water
  • Get back to the gym and start doing yoga again
  • Get back on my anti-inflammatory diet that helps with my PCOS
  • Make a doctor appointment
  • Make a dentist appointment

(See, all these things are just regular maintenance necessities that I wasn’t doing. And I wonder why I was sick?!)

I am also creating a second list, of things that help me to relax and feed my soul. I’m putting them in my planner as priority items that I will do in order to take care of me. These are all simple and free.

My Self Care List

  • Take a hot bath
  • Use my foam roller, or use the sauna or steam room at the gym after exercising
  • Drink tea, make a latte, or eat a snack
  • Color, paint, or draw
  • Read
  • Meditate
  • Do a face mask or paint my nails
  • Go on a nature walk
  • Watch a movie or listen to music
  • Pet a cat
  • Turn off my phone for the evening
  • Dance in my kitchen

I’ve decided that none of those things are rewards. If I have some money to spare, having lunch with my girlfriends, getting a massage, or buying myself flowers are also things that I might do to reset my mind and spirit. But I’m not using them as rewards anymore. I don’t have to spend a week at the gym in order to have a snack. I don’t have to eat healthy all week in order to go out with my friends on Friday. I don’t have to work for 2 hours in the morning before I take my shower.

I’ll keep you all updated on my progress with this goal of not turning self care into a reward, and I’d love to hear from you. What is your best strategy for making time for yourself? What are your favorite things to do to reset and center? Do you wanna go to a yoga class with me?

Sending love out to you all! Take CARE. 🙂

Week 3: Attitudes & Exercise

A reward for trying to do things you always thought you couldn’t do? Taking pictures with cute firefighters!

I’m a big nerd. I’m not naturally inclined to sports or physical activities. There’s a joke that occasionally shows up in my social media about having Celtic genes means that when you exercise, your genes protect you from the marauding Englis by keeping you plump as a partridge if you are running. Pretty much me!

But, I have learned a lot about myself, the expectations I have for myself, and what I really can do in the last ten years, and these lessons are what I want to take forward with me in the future.

1. I Am Capable. I started running when I was 29. It was kind of a self dare to see if I could do it. I have vivid childhood memories of my elementary school gym teacher screaming at me while we ran the mile for the Presidential Fitness rest because I was so slow and I have that thing where your skin is so pale that when you run, you turn red and people think you’re dying!

I never thought I was made for running, but I wanted to challenge that belief. It was hard. I had to run from one light pole, walk to the next, and run to the third when I started. I couldn’t believe it later that summer when I ran my first full mile! I had a good friend who patiently practiced with me, though she was faster and fitter. She ran with me in my first few 5Ks. I’ve run in a 5K almost every year of my 30s! I’m not fast, but the point is that I can do it!

2. I Don’t Have to Be The Best. I’m a pretty competitive person, and I do like a challenge. But I’m never going to be a competitive athlete and I am okay with that now. I had a hard time realizing that I could do sports and fitness activities just for the joy of moving and having a body that works. That was one of the biggest benefits of going though the first phase of my chronic illness before I was diagnosed and didn’t have the simple joy of health! Now, I know that the reward for fitness is just doing it and having the blessing of a body that holds me up, moves, stretches, and breathes!

3. I Don’t Have to Be All or Nothing. I can skip a day, a week, or longer depending on what’s happening and where my priorities are without giving myself a guild trip anymore. It’s my choice to workout or not. No one is able to do everything all the time, and I have lots of things that I want to do and that I love to do. Yes, yoga and running are on that list, but I do them when I have time, and when they’re a priority. My life is full and varied and I am happy with my body because it functions.

4. I’m Not Afraid to Exercise In Front of Other People Anymore. I don’t know where this quirk in my personality came from, but I was very secretive about exercising when I was younger. I didn’t want to go to the gym with my friends. I didn’t like taking a class with anyone that I actually knew. I was embarrassed of just the way I moved and felt in my skin, and didn’t want others to see my awkward flailing! Think if a human danced like a Muppet and you’re pretty close to my typical level of gracefulness.

But it’s no fun to hide and avoid things in life. I’m really tired of all that nonsense. So, I’m no longer afraid of moving in front of people. I’m embracing my fully nerdy self and doing things with my friends! I’m even doing yoga with my husband.

5. Finally, I’m embracing my beautiful body as it is. I’m wearing what I want to wear when I am doing regular life, when I’m working out, when I’m at the beach. I’m so pale that I glow in the dark. I have a squishy body with great curves. I realize that my double chin isn’t hideous when I hang out with my niece who has the same chin! I’m just deciding that I’m having fun being me.

I read a meditation last year that rocked me to my core and changed a lot for me in this last area. And the idea was so simple: I am not my body.

I am not my body.

I am the spirit, the essential core, that resides in this body. My body is my shell, like a turtle or a crab. It’s my protection and my vehicle. It’s how I do my mission, whatever the mission is. And that idea is pretty freeing. I may be judged by my body, but that’s not a judgment of who or what I really am. Whatever I really am will outlast this physical body.

Whether you love or hate the shell you’re currently residing in, take care of it. That’s the most important thing I hope that my experience can impart to you. Health is a gift. We’re so lucky to have whatever health we’re given and it might not last. So move for the joy of it. Let other people move with you. No one actually does care if you dance like a Muppet!

Week 1: Setting up the Plan

Imperfect.

We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

— ellen goodman.

In my mid-30s, I blew up my life, and over the last 2.5 years I’ve been slowly working to put everything back in order—but not back together, because I want a completely different life by the time I’m all done and ready to move forward.

I went back to grad school, I left a job that made me miserable, and I started my own business. Those were the big 3 of the shakeup.

As I let go of those big things the smaller things that I’d put up with because there were more important things to address started to clamor for attention, too. I started to ask why I didn’t stand up for myself more, why I wasn’t taking care of myself, and whether the beliefs I’d carried about myself through life to this point were even true anymore. I started to take a look at my relationships and the way that I spent my time.

Now, I am starting this project as a way to reset my parameters. I’m going to experiment with how I do things, do a lot of writing & thinking, and talk to other women.

By my 40th birthday, I hope that my life will be all set for the next chapter, full of joy and intention. I hope to have a framework to get me through whatever challenges come in the next decade.

While I’m going to write about a lot of ideas and subjects organically, these are the main topics I plan to dive into each month:

  • January: Health
  • February: Visibility, Self-Love, and Self-Care
  • March: Soul Searching
  • April: Financial Independence
  • May: Fashion and Organization
  • June: Relationships & Family
  • July: Travel
  • August: Creativity
  • September: Stepping Out of Comfort Zones

Another part of this project is being okay with imperfection, and being kinder to myself in the process of redesigning my life. My husband recently pointed out that I was hyper self-critical…and I knew that, but it was startling to know other people see that in me, too.

I don’t deserve to have to live under such hard criticism, even if it is from myself. I need to show myself some grace, and learn to make room in my life to learn, to make mistakes, and just to breathe. So, I made my word of the year for 2020: Imperfect.

If any of this sounds interesting, I hope you’ll follow my blog. I’ll have some challenges if you’d like to do some of the same projects that I tackle.

So, there it is. That’s the plan. I’ll share January’s Challenge on Wednesday.

It’s all happening.

Penny lane, Almost Famous.