I haven’t posted much this holiday season. I’ve been on break from school, it’s true, but I’ve worked a lot and to be honest, I’ve been emotionally drained. Perhaps I’ll get back to writing about Nouwen, because he’s still quite relevant to where I’m at, but for the moment I’ve had to focus on self-care.
It isn’t easy, you know. Growing up, I was taught that self-care was a bad thing. Essentially, I learned that being run down and pushed beyond my limits was a sign of true Christian sacrifice. Every week for fifteen years we hosted weekend overnight guests in our home. This left all of us exhausted–preparing food for extra people, cleaning, prepping, and doing it all with a smile while keeping sweet. But because it was expected of us in our church, we did it. And we did it again. And again, and again, and again. Not that it was all terrible. We had some great times with those guests. But the relentless pace never left time for relaxing. The only weekends we didn’t host people were when we traveled to other churches in the country and were hosted by other families, and that is not as relaxing as it seems.
I could cite dozens of other cases of self-care being scoffed or completely ignored, along with healthy personal boundaries, but most of you probably understand this feeling. When I first learned about self-care, I was shocked. I didn’t realize it was appropriate to say no to something if I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t realize I needed to take care of myself to be available for others. I had imbibed the notion that “love” meant never saying no and constantly working for someone else. “Me time” was a foreign concept, especially with eight siblings.
This holiday season I have tried to be more intentional about self-care. I have taken time out when with family to get on twitter or blog or watch a movie to vent some of my frustration. I’ve limited my traveling, opting to travel only to see one side of the family instead of everyone. I’ve purposely disengaged from conversations that turn political or are purposely designed to bait me.
It’s not easy. It makes no sense to my family, and I get flack for it. On top of everything, I got sick and I’ve been fighting strep throat so I’m not much in the way of feeling physically well. That only makes self-care more important, even as it’s more difficult.
As I’ve learned to practice self-care, I’m amazed at how much better it makes me feel, not only for myself, but also for others. I’m present better, the quality of my time is better, I’m happier and less irritable. I didn’t know this, or at least believe it, at first, but self-care actually benefits the other person–not just me.