Did you ever notice how you have to learn the same damn lessons over and over before they stick? (Unless that’s just me?) You know in your heart that something is true, and right, and sensible… but there’s a disconnect somewhere in between your heart and your brain, and you can’t seem to make yourself do or practice or even believe that which you know is true. Then, when things start to go haywire – and they will go haywire, when you’re ignoring a vital piece of your well-being – you remember. And you go, “Oh yeah, I learned this once before. Maybe this time it’ll last.” But no. You’re stubborn. And busy. And stubborn some more. And before you know it you’re once again off the rails and the lesson comes screeching back to remind you.
Repeat 12,000 times. It’s exhausting.
For me, the area in which this most applies, BY FAR, is the idea of self-care. In fact I get a little cringey at the thought of self-care, particularly the idea of self-love. It just sounds so touchy feely and woo-woo and kind of makes me think of naked people hugging around some sort of goddess-worshiping sun circle. (*Disclaimer: I am not judging. More power to you if that’s your sort of thing. It just doesn’t happen to be mine*) It makes me feel uncomfortable and icky. Plus, as a mom, there’s the whole issue of balance. And guilt. And “Do I really want/deserve/have time for self-care, when I could be doing something for my kids? Or my house… Or my husband…” Really paying attention to self-care, and self-compassion (seriously, I even have trouble using the word, “love” in there) means prioritizing. It means deliberately choosing to take time away from something or someone else, in order to invest it in yourself. It’s hard. And it’s conflicting.
And it is so. freaking. important.
I hear moms all the time saying that they’d love to take up this hobby, or read this book, or pursue this craft, but that they don’t have time. That their KIDS are their hobby. Their kids are their passion. Their kids are their life. They don’t have time for anything else. I know because it’s what I’ve done. It’s what I do, even when I swear that I’m going to be better about it.
But you know what? I really am a better person – a healthier person, a stronger person, a more contented person – when I take time for myself. By extension, I’m a better mother too. A better wife. A better friend. I know this. I know this.
So why do I keep having to learn the same lesson over and over?
I’ve been depressed lately, and the approaching holidays (and all the trappings they bring) don’t help with that. Self-care – or any kind of care, if I’m being honest – has once again slid by the wayside. And I’m beating myself up because the laundry is piled up, the house needs cleaning, there are presents to wrap, there are cookies to make. So much to do and so little time, and I’m going to add more to my plate by doing something for myself?? I find myself constantly conflicted between giving myself the rest I so desperately need, and tackling the next Very Important Thing on my to-do list. The dissonance makes me immobilized, and the immobilization makes me sit there, hovering, right in the middle…. not doing anything to take care of myself, and not getting anything productive done either. I’m stuck. And guilty. And burnt out.
And again, I find myself having to confront the icky love stuff. The thing I can dole out in spades to my children … but not so much to myself.
I’m working on it. I have to work on it. It’s not optional. I’ve seen firsthand what it does – not just to me, but to everything around me – when I make it an afterthought. It isn’t pretty; it’s really not. My mental health suffers. My physical health suffers. My relationships suffer.
So I’ll deal with the discomfort of whatever it is that makes me balk so much at the very words, “self-love”. I’ll face all the yuck of my past that makes me think I’m not worthy. I’ll work through my issues of perfectionism and guilt and black-and-white thinking that make me think things have to be done to a certain standard or the whole world order will collapse. I’ll give myself the care that I deserve – and good grief, that I NEED – and not feel guilty about what I have to say no to in order to make it happen.
(Well, maybe just a little guilty. I’m a messy work in progress.)
It is now four o’clock in the afternoon. I’ve been home for about an hour. There’s unfolded laundry beside me. There are stains to be scrubbed out of the carpet. I need to vacuum. There are emails to answer, and bills to be paid. I need to make a list of cookie ingredients so I can go to the store. I still have to plan a menu for Christmas day. I need to finish shopping for stocking stuffers. There are packages to go in the mail. The bathrooms haven’t been cleaned in…. too long. And have I mentioned the laundry?? Holy hell, the laundry.
But it’s okay. IT’S OKAY. It really is. And I’ll sit. And I’ll write, and I’ll drink my tea and eat my candy cane, and I’ll breathe, and I’ll know that I’m not doing nothing, but rather doing something… for me. And once I’ve done something for me, and filled up my own cup (another phrase that gives me the absolute heebie-jeebies but I’m going to use anyway), I’ll know that it’ll be easier to commit myself fully to whatever task I decide to tackle next. Full attention on me. Full attention on the next thing. And so on. Non-negotiable from here on out. And I’ll resist and I’ll whine and I’ll grumble… and I’ll lean into it all and trust that eventually I’ll get it. Eventually it won’t be so hard.
Because I really am worth it. I really do kick ass.
And sooner or later I want to be able to say the words, “Yes, I DO practice self-love”, and no longer wince when I say it.