(Writer’s Note: I wrote this post awhile ago, but didn’t publish it, so the timeline is off, but the message still matters.)
Ever since I wrote this post about Crew’s New Year’s Eve experience I have been thinking more about “self-care” and what it really means. I have been using the phrase a lot more as well.
Last Saturday afternoon Chad lay on our bed. He planned to go running but made the mistake of lying down first. He was exhausted from a 2 week work trip to Hawaii. (I know, poor guy, right?) But the time difference, long work hours, and red eye flights really had taken their toll on him. He laid there torn between exercise and a nap. He said, “I really should go running, but I really want to just go to sleep.” Our schedule that day would not allow him to be able to do both. He had to make a choice.
I replied with, “What would be in your body’s best interest right now? Which one would be better self-care today?” And then I left the room for him to decide. To he honest, I don’t remember what he chose since I was off to a meeting.
Yesterday, I was faced with a similar dilemma. I faithfully go to yoga on Thursday mornings, but this Thursday felt different. The day before I was in charge of a dinner for 80 teachers. I had spent all my free time the three days prior preparing for the dinner in some way – Costco, grocery, Partyland, emails, texts, cooking, chopping, etc. My house was thrashed; my kids missed me; my car was packed with bins to unload, and I had a sink full of dishes. The girls needed some guidance with schooling and Locke didn’t want to go to co-op.
I had also started to reorganize my bedroom on the Saturday before so I had piles of clothes everywhere.
But I am in a wellness challenge right now and if I don’t exercise I don’t get points. Plus I know I feel so much better after I do yoga and if I don’t go in the morning my chances of exercising later in the day are slim to none. I changed my clothes and planned to go.
Then as the time approached to leave for yoga, “self-care” crept into my head. And I asked myself, “What would be the best self-care TODAY? What do YOU need? What does YOUR BODY need? What do your children need TODAY?”
This time I chose to stay home and get my house in order, spend time with my kids, and regroup. I had exercised the three days before and would exercise the next day, but I did not want to leave my family that particular morning.
The choice between exercise and rest are not the only two choices in self-care. We have to decide between
Saying yes vs. Saying no
Turning it up vs. Dialing it back
Taking a nap vs Starting a project
Eating vs Not eating
Time alone vs. Time with friends
Staying in a relationship vs. Ending a relationship
Getting out of bed vs. Sleeping in
None of these choices are right or wrong or good or bad, standing alone. We most likely will do all of these at one time or another. What is best for our self-care changes and it is important to evaluate and honor our individual circumstances. It takes complete honesty with ourselves and our motives and fears to understand why we do what we do.
I realize that there is a fine line between self-care and excuses, justification, or rationalization. To be clear, self-care is not permission to be lazy or a pass to be selfish. Rather self-care is realizing that pushing through and sucking it up are not always the answers. Self care is doing whatever ultimately honors yourself and your body. It is playing your edge, but not going too far or exhausting yourself.
A guy name Jeff Brown said, “… We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is willfulness. Real power is something different…”
I think real power is self-care.
What I am trying to say is that there is a time to suck it up and a time to surrender. There is a time to rise up and a time to retreat. Self-care values both options as equals and chooses the one that is ultimately best with no guilt and no shame.