The Importance of Self-Care
Before we begin with the subject at hand I'd like to introduce you to the way I'll be communicating. Imagine that as you read you're sitting across from me in a casual manner, I speak as if we're having a friendly conversation, just a stream of consciousness of feeling and past experiences from my point of view. There is no righteousness, judgment, or direct advice only the intention that this is just one friend to another expressing their life's view only to bring likeness to us all. So welcome to the first of many blogs entries. So let's begin!
Ah, Self-care! This subject brings up much emotion once I really take the time to think about my experiences regarding self-care. The feelings of guilt, frustration, angst and anger come at me. Sparks of the past flare up. My identity as a woman is brought forward and analyzed. I feel shame for thinking so lowly of myself in my past with a lack of emphasis on self-care.
I think we as a culture (especially Women) are challenged with keeping the constant balance of perfection, sacrifice, beauty, success, leadership, nurturing and guidance that is completely out of whack with the reality. We do not give ourselves permission to practice this ancient tradition instead we are shamed. We study how those around us care for us but more importantly how they care for themselves. Our parents especially. We take mental notes on what is right or wrong.
We didn't have very much growing up. My parents worked full-time and life was a bit harder for them than most. They both come from the hard working mindset adopted through their childhoods: My mother one of three children with post-WW2 parents in Rural Germany and my father a Brooklyn Native growing up as a Black young man to a widowed mother in the 1970's. My mom especially sacrificed the majority of her time towards raising my brothers and I. Maybe because she was European or she grew up with parents that were impacted by WW2 she viewed life differently than the average American. She valued hard work, cleanliness, and perfection in the home. Neither body nor Self was a priority, and over time I felt that this was true for myself as well.
She didn't enjoy drinking or socializing, but she did bring us into nature. As I look back I think that was her version of self-care. Because we lived in Brooklyn, it was far beyond the tranquil environment my mom was accustomed to. We would often escape on the weekends to nearby nature: the beach, hiking day trips, and fruit harvesting. She also would go to her room early reading or writing right before bed. But she did not care for her body in a lovingly way. She struggled with emotional eating, depression, and anxiety. She did not give herself permission to listen to her mind, body, or spirit so instead, she suffered. And I watched.
I saw her lessons right before my eyes and I took notes. I thought to myself that I needed to end this cycle of punishment the women before me had carried. I vowed to be more connected. But instead, I avoided the subject completely by not acknowledging my feminine identity. If I chose to not be associated I couldn't be flawed. My household was 4:2 ratio making it a pretty masculine energy. My dad was the King and viewed as the authority figure in the household and yet he was also our friend. I always viewed my parents equal in my eyes but had much more respect as well as fear for my dad. I was the only girl so I wanted to prove myself perfect for my dad. I wanted to be seen as a strong leader and I think through that process I noticed that I took on some of his "masculine qualities" for strength. I began to become good at masking my feeling to others, I never wanted to seem sensitive or weak as I viewed it at the time. I would always have a poker face to illustrate my strength.
Now what I mean by masculine and feminine in this context is how our society views it. The Masculine symbolizing strength, power, rigid, direct and overall positive traits and the Feminine as sensitive, fragile, overly emotional with not so positive meaning overall. Now, this is not what these dynamic pillars represent but in our society, we tend to associate them with the corresponding gender. Instead, each one of us is a composition of the two qualities and these are not their true definitions. The Masculine is decisive, protection, support, doing and the Feminine is nurture, being, feeling, receiving, and the connection to Earth. When we shift our thinking towards understanding that every human carries both qualities with themselves we change the way we live and think.
So through the years, I carried on this way. I neglected my feelings, my connection to my higher self, my body, and my true self. Until I finally began a path of healing. And on the latest leg of this journey, I became reconnected with my feminine self. I began to see how foolish I was to think that strength was denial and fear. I realized the connection to my cycles was more important than ever. And I began reading books like Moon Time by Lucy H. Pearce which gives you the spiritual importance of each cycle and Woman Code by Alisa Vitti, HHC that provide scientific and medical insight to these processes. This quest is still young for me but through it, I have learned about the magic of self-care and why it's so important especially as a woman,
So last week I found myself in a haze of emotional and mental exhaustion. Life just became too much, not because of some catastrophe but because as it was Life, layers of big and small commitments, events, to-dos, ideas, opinions, thoughts buzzed my mind all at once and I had enough. My body signaled it's time to ground down.
What do I mean by ground down? Well just go back to your natural state, silence, still, nature. This could mean going for a walk, picking up a rock inside or outside of your home, stretching on your bed or just being alone. It's more important now than ever to take this time to listen to your body and allow yourself to be still. It's not selfish, it doesn't have to be elaborate just take some time to be alone and listen to what you need right then and there. I find that it's easier when you create a nook in your home that becomes your sacred retreat, I have many that look like ordinary spaces throughout the home but on further investigation, they become pockets of comfort for me. Some plants nestled in the kitchen window, the yoga space at the foot of my bed I roll out in the morning, or the rock collection on my sewing table, these places I create with decor to be grounding points that I gravitate towards in times of relief. Self-care can also be self-love and appreciation, renewal and awareness. For some, it's an at home spa day complete with a face mask and an herbal bath. For others, it's a massage or even a new hair cut. And if you keep thinking of these investments as a waste of time or energy it can speak of a larger issue. Do you value yourself? Do you think that taking care of your physical form is a selfish act? And yes there is a line where vanity and selfishness come to play. But when you take time to care for what you need at any given time whether it be mental, physical or spiritual you are creating a foundation of positivity that not only directly impacts your life but it also affects those around. You have more energy to give. You can offer your beautiful and unique abilities to the world. And that is selfless.
Maybe I'll inspire you to make some time for self-care. Maybe you'll take an herbal bath, or curl up on your couch and read a book. Turn off your phone and t.v. and just ask yourself,"What is it that I need right now?". You'll know what to do.