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Self-Care: Good for the Soul and Productivity

Vacations and Quitting Time

If you’ve ever been a mom (or any sort of caregiver really) and stepped into a counselor’s office, probably with much protest on your part, you’ve heard about how important “self-care” is. It’s like the buzz-word of the time. Especially during the past year and some change, when the entire world has been in panic mode because of that whole global pandemic thing. Everyone is always talking about how we all need to practice the mythical practice of self-care.

The Myth of “Balance”

I’m doing WW, you know, that thing that used to be called Weight Watchers, and is now supposedly all about an inclusive health experience. It is. But most of us sign up because we want to get healthier – by losing weight. Anyway, a week or two ago, I actually got to sit in on a zoom broadcast with Oprah and Drew Barrymore, among others. It was right before Mother’s Day, and we (by which I mean, they, I didn’t get to talk to them for like real, lol) talked a lot about how balance is this mythological entity. It was a great idea in the beginning, but now for so many of us – especially moms (and probably some fantastic dads, too – like my husband, he’s outstanding) this idea of balance is just one more thing we use to torture ourselves. Instead of understanding that we can’t give 100 percent to everything, we try to “balance” by being fair and giving the same amount of energy to all aspects of our life.

I’ll be honest, I do this and do it poorly. Nothing gets even close to twenty percent, in my opinion. My husband will tell you that’s not true. But parenting gets the most; even though it’ makes me feel like the biggest failure. It’s such an enormous task, taking responsibility for this tiny person and making sure they learn and develop and do all the things right. That should be the first thing other parents tell you when you’re thinking about it. I’m convinced they keep it a big secret so you’ll join the club. I don’t. Parenting is hard. It’s a huge commitment. Make sure you’re ready before you pull the plug.

But, I digress. We all spend way too much time focusing on everything, so this self-care business is really important. But some people, like me, are terrible at it. I get stuck up on fair. Like, my husband has to work a “regular” job all the time, that pays for our house and food and stuff, so how is it fair for me to take any self-care time? Especially any more than the time we spend unwinding in the evening together?

Like him, you’re probably like: “Lady, you’re crazy.” Especially if you’ve ever had a toddler and know how much impossible energy they have. So, we’re working on the whole treat yo’ self thing over here. It’s a work in progress. But, I’ve made some strides toward self-care and balance at least. Several in the past week.

Practicing the Art of Self-Care

We took an amazing vacation last weekend. Yes, I do know there is a global pandemic still. No, I’m not a crazy anti-masker. We traveled a couple hours away to the state capitol, practiced safety, and mostly did outside activities. We visited a dinosaur park, an animal preserve, and some parks and museums. It was a much needed soul retreat. I highly recommend if you’re able and feel safe to get away, even if it’s one night. Even if it’s just a little jaunt.

Was it a little scary? Absolutely. We’re all vaccinated except my toddler, and hopefully that’s coming soon – fingers crossed. Did I feel silly taking a vacation less than two hours from my house? You bet. But it turned out to be amazing. Walking around and exploring new things is my happy place. For some people, that is out in nature. But mine is city-based adventures. Learning new things – like the fact that my state has a real mummy. My daughter and I were pretty equally excited about that one. And a giant triceratops skull. Whoa, were those things big!?

Our toddler loved it. My husband – who is awful at vacations – actually loved it. We got to meet a sloth, an Australian possum, and a kangaroo. My toddler wasn’t the one that got punched by it. No toddlers were harmed in the making of this vacation. But that little girl came awfully close.

My husband and I have, short of our honeymoon, never taken a vacation. We’ve visited new cities, but only when there was some need – a job interview, to visit a friend (the closest thing to a vacation before now), or a job event. So, in some ways, this was as much our first just-a-vacation trip as it was our daughter’s. And, sure there is a lot of argument in the news lately about how if we all just saved our money and never went on a vacation, none of us would have college debt. I can guarantee you that wouldn’t have been true of my parents. But that’s a whole other conversation. And, I’m pro-vacation at the moment. It absolutely lifted our spirits. Extravagant ones, maybe not. But humans were meant for more than work and cleaning and dieting (if that’s your particular lifestyle).

Don’t Be Afraid to Say So Long

In other news, I shed some mental weight that was holding me back in my writing. I had long been a part of this critique group. I adore it. It’s an excellent resource. Bogged down almost since I joined it, finding time to submit my work was increasingly difficult as I struggled to read other submissions. I don’t mind helping, but I wasn’t able to benefit from it. And it was holding me back. Psychologically I was convinced I could not publish until all these people had read each chapter, and it was going to take forever at the rate I was going.

Sometimes, we have to make tough decisions. Whether it’s staying home, getting a shot, or wearing a mask for our physical health or giving up something we love for our mental health, it’s important to do what’s best for us and our families. It doesn’t make it easier, knowing that it’s for our own good, but the only way through is through.

There’s light at the end of our collective tunnel. Maybe if we can all learn some more about this mysterious self-care and balance, the journey there won’t feel quite so long. And, like one expert said in the Oprah call, if the only self-care you can find is hiding from your kids in the bathroom – do it. ‘Cause at least it’s a minute alone.

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