One of the sad things about “growing up” is that people around us (parents, friends, professors, teachers, partners, even children) don’t notice our hard work and efforts. The most improved awards are all gone, homework got hard, work is challenging with all the politics and expectations of productivity, and breast feeding and toilet training are hair-pulling exercises very much in the category of thankless jobs.
As my friend Liz put it last weekend, “No one really notices or tracks if you are exercising daily, eating well, and doing your best to take care. You have to parent yourself.” My response? “Well that sucks! Where are the gold stars, blue ribbons and participation trophies!?!”
On Sunday, I was taking an on-line yoga class. As I stood there doing mountain pose, I was overwhelmed with my own body odor. I realized I couldn’t remember my last shower (why shower when you sit in a room all alone these days? I have other priorities like googling J P Sears’ latest YouTube video). I STUNK! I am sheltering with three other people, having dinner together, talking, doing chores together, hanging out in the evenings, and no one said anything. My house is not that big. After 10 days, they may notice. But the day-to-day care is something only I notice and appreciate.
Just like showering, if I don’t exercise, get fresh air, meditate, do some praying, connect with my HP, sleep enough, connect with loving friends, I stink a lot after 3 days. I lose empathy, compassion, presence, and balance. I also get controlling, a little manic… but no one but me notices the discomfort until about 5-8 days in when I am fully off my rocker and then, THEN it takes 10-20 (20!!) days of extreme self- care measures to get back to my old balanced self.
After 1 or 2 days of ignoring balanced self-care with work and responsibilities, we are OK. But 3 days and we feel the stench of our own misalignment. I am discontented and borderline grouchy. And that impacts my ability to be present, yada yada yada… You know what I am talking about. I can’t do a peaceful sun salutation if I can’t raise my arms up without gagging. I cannot be present with (or even notice) my daughter’s homework struggles if I am not “in the room” with her even though we sit at the same table for a meal. If I am not doing self-care, my son’s friendship issues/decisions don’t even register on my radar. I can’t get perspective on the issue going on with his Social Studies teacher, and end up taking the easiest road out of the conflict.
So- I am committing to parenting myself- I need to notice and hold myself accountable for my routine, my work ethic, my parenting logic, my life balance. It is not any more self-indulgent to take time alone for meditation, journaling, prayer on a daily basis than for cleaning our bodies. Stink is stink. Our souls need cleansing too!
Breakthrough Action: Write down your non-negotiable self-care practices and when during your day you will do them. How will you cue yourself to do them? (e.g. with your cup of coffee, after you brush teeth, after you eat breakfast, etc.) Pair them up. Put 5-7 little boxes next to each line. Post this list on your mirror, your dresser, or your planner, along with your reward. And this week, commit to actually doing each self-care item 5 times! Give yourself a check mark next to each one after you do it this week. After you finish your week, give yourself the reward. (e.g. new shirt, a milkshake, a new ____, something tangible and immediate). And then decide if you want to do it next week too. Just make your list of cue-habit-reward each Sunday.*
Affirmation: I am a grownup, I love myself and I deserve to treat myself as a precious child because I am precious!
*You just set up a cue, habit, reward system for yourself. If you do it as often as possible (every day) for a few months, they will be habits. We like good habits – they save time, give us energy, and lower decision fatigue. It is like Steve Jobs wearing the same thing every day. The black turtleneck and jeans gave him time for other thoughts.
Here is my sheet-