In the past 24 hours I've had 3 friends tell me they have no time to take care of themselves. Sandwiched between caring for their aging parents and their own small children, these women are truly spent. And to me, in retrospect, the need for some self-care is clear-cut in every single case. Think "yellow oxygen mask" and breathe deeply.
I didn't always see it that way. Self-sacrifice (with pretended alacrity) seemed like the higher road. But I realize now it's often just the path of least resistance. Fighting for some time for ourselves, to take care of ourselves, isn't a self-indulgent luxury. It keeps us sane, keeps us whole, reminds us who we are. It allows us to offer our very best to those we love. It's actually indirect service.
In a song she wrote about going to therapy, called “What Do You Hear in These Sounds”, folk singer Dar Williams describes this principle:
“But oh how I loved everybody elseBlogging fulfills that need for a lot of us. And we discover a lot of love in the process. New friends, new ideas. More to share.
when I finally got to talk so much about myself.”
Exercise is a big one. I notice I'm more patient with the kids, have more energy, am happier...after I work out.
One of my lifelines is music. When they delivered my grand piano to our second apartment after we were married, my dad told me how glad he was that I had my piano back because he knew it was my therapy. Father knows best. I can totally lose myself in a beautiful piece of music. Unleash passion (like Lucy Honeychurch). Pour out peace. Another, not surprisingly, is writing. (Actually, I crave word-crunching in all its many forms -- including late-night Scrabble.) My best poetry often arises on the cusp of personal crisis. Journaling is its own form of healing. And last (but not least) is painting. Watercolor stirs my passions like little else. Just watching the colors run together in unpredictably beautiful patterns makes it worth getting up in the morning. And the luminosity is, well, illuminating.
So what’s your yellow oxygen mask?
What’s the single most important thing you do for yourself that then increases your capacity to love, appreciate and care for everybody else?