This is a far more open-ended post than the ones before - as for me, speaking about self-care is like delving into an uncertain part of the sea, which I am only now learning to navigate.
I have travelled for the last ten days, meeting my needs for self-care in many ways. At the same time, while I have been trying to write about this one for over a week, it has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would. Even sitting down to try to write about it has been an effort - as this "weekly needs study" has taken on the character of an introspective investigation more than anything else.
Self-care, as a need, showed up in a big, unmet sort of way last week, when I found my instincts leading me away from a plan I had made a month back. Instead of attending a workshop I was looking forward to, I found myself honouring my instincts, though I didn't realise at the time that they were leading me towards caring for myself in a way that served me better at the time.
This helps me trust my instincts more, as this was exactly what I needed. And yet, I know that as a conscious choice, I would not have taken the break that my body, mind, and heart needed. In fact, the decision to change my plans, and do something entirely different, was almost traumatic.
I am aware that I find it very hard to give myself permission to relax, care for myself, and give myself the loving attention I need.
Writing this is difficult as well; I have some resistance to this, in the form of blankness and confusion. Clearly, I am still learning.
I do know that Self-care is a hell of a lot more than the occasional pedicure or backrub (though god knows I love those). Over this last week I've had a few big thoughts, which appeared as fancy neon-sign-like epiphanies, without much elaboration, as mostly I don't understand them enough in a practical sense.
- Self-care is a kind of SELF-PARENTING, or caring for yourself as a parent would
- Self-care also as SELF-LOVE, loving yourself as as someone who loves you would care for you, though treats and gifts that express this love
- Basically, Self-care as treating yourself with the love, kindness and actual respect that you would offer anyone else, with presence and empathy. Through TALKING to yourself, LISTENING to yourself, and indeed, taking TIME to heal what's going on within
While these sounded very nice in my head, I have a thought that self-care, much like most other things, is a daily practice.
There are a number of wonderful, amazing people, like Line (thehugdealer) and Hazel (who likes to 'spreadjoysmile'), who are blogging more regularly about radical self-love, and about creating a sort of regular, doable, everyday practice. Perhaps, in our habitual practices, most of us are not able to (or just not used to) take time to connect with ourselves. Making friends with myself requires me to show up for myself everyday, to create a path to myself that, over time, becomes easier to access.
As always, it helps me to think about this in terms of puppies. If my inner self is a puppy, and I have not given it much attention, it may choose to show up as an angry wolf monster type thing, or to retreat inwards and refuse to emerge until it has the assurance that I am here. Showing up on a daily basis - whether it is through half an hour of rest in the afternoons, or an hour for reading everyday, or talking to oneself in the mirror - creates that pathway, and offers that assurance to an alienated part of myself.
So how do I do that? Here are some of the things I've learned about meeting my need for Self-care, either through hands-on learning, or from others who have a better grasp on it, over the last ten days.
Jumping into the ocean
I did this not ENTIRELY literally, but also quite literally and quite often. For me, this has something to do with PERMISSION. Allowing myself to do whatever I am longing to do without doubt, guilt, or hesitation. In the most literal sense, it means jumping into the ocean when the instincts call for it. It also means exercising requisite caution, as that too is a part of self-care - and giving myself the permission NOT to jump into the ocean on days where it felt less than doable. Oddly, I was always supported when I needed to be!
I don't know why this surprises me every single time I come to this realisation. There is simply nothing as healing, heartening, and fortifying as sleep, and the lack thereof can create utter chaos. Have you ever slept on a bed that feels like a teddy bear's tummy? It may or may not be the best thing in the world.
Talking to my body parts
I do this sometimes, and not often enough. The intention is to do it when there is injury or illness, or even crushing self-loathing and shame, connected with my body parts, to treat every part of myself as a unique, special being, and offer it the gift of presence and empathy. This is also connected with Focusing as a practice. Recently, I've been diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and, perhaps because this is an area of shame, I have not been paying attention to my throat and thyroid glands. One commitment I have to myself is to have a conversation with them in the next week, and see what's up. (This is exactly what it sounds like!)
Self-care often sounds like a "selfish" need. And yet, it is a Need that lives amongst other needs like harmony and peace, and is life-serving beyond myself. My biggest learning (which was offered to me by a couple of others) in this context, is this: when I am cared for and nourished, when I have enough resources to care for others and nourish and serve life in whatever way I choose to. Caring for myself does actually serve life. Doing what I love, what my instincts call for, supports life to come into its fullness - as I am fulfilling what is natural to me. In that sense it is not "selfish", so much as "self-full" - filled and nourished to my warmest capacity, and therefore able and willing to give from my own heart.