Archive for the ‘self care’ Tag

A few things 

Here we are, more than two weeks after my last post, and I’m copping out with another listy post. Truth is that I want to write more, better, and more frequently, but I am in my own way. My inner critic and the demands of my daily life sometimes overwhelm my creative urge to express. The simple goal of one post per week for the remainder of the year seemed so reasonable and achievable when I set it a few months ago. But it has proved much more challenging than it should be. 

Still, I want to write, so I’m writing. Even if it’s just that paragraph and the following list, it’s something. I set the goal for myself, so any progress is also for me and I’m counting this as some (small) progress. 

So here goes, a few things I want to share:

  • Wil Wheaton, actor and author and Internet personality, is someone whose work I admire. Truthfully, on the basis of only his public persona and online commentary, he himself is someone whom I admire, in addition to his creative works. I’ve followed his blog for a couple of years and almost always find in it something to think about, laugh at, or learn from. I love the wit and intelligence I perceive in his writing. This week he posted, as he does not infrequently, about his struggle with mental illness. I so admire his honesty and willingness to be vulnerable about his condition for the sake of helping others. Read his post, please. Even if you don’t struggle with depression, this is a message on self care and realness with yourself that everyone needs to hear. I got a lot out of it and I hope you will too. 
  • Summer time is awesome. I don’t do as much outside as I should, but I still appreciate gorgeous blue skies, warm breezes and sunshine. 😎☀️👍🏻
  • As my work responsibilities have increased over the years, I have grown to deeply appreciate the exceptional benefit that is the work of a good executive assistant. The amount of burden and bother an EA lifts off the shoulders of anyone they serve is enormous! I’m so so lucky that my boss’s EA does so much for me. She’s just volunteered to do a job for me next week that is absolutely not her responsibility, but will save me a half a day of lost productivity, the value of which far surpasses the dollar value of my time and hers. It sounds overly effusive to the point of being fake, but I am genuinely overwhelmed with gratitude that she’s taking that off my hands. Perhaps that speaks somewhat to the level of stress I’m working with right now. Probably. But it also says a lot about how valuable a good assistant is. 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, full of sunshine and things to feel grateful for. 

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The Case for Self Care

Self care is a concept that makes sense intellectually. If you take care of yourself, you’re in a better position to care for others. But for me, emotionally, I struggle with the sense of selfishness that always comes with putting myself first. It feels exactly opposite to my entire upbringing. 

But I can appreciate that everyone needs a rest, a break now and then. So here are three ways I’m indulging in some self care:

  1. I’m taking the week off. I’ve been working a lot. I always have worked long hours, but in the last few weeks I’ve been under a lot of stress with a lot of executive-level decisions. So I have told myself that I’ll be sharper, better equipped to keep up that level of work if I take a break. Plus, I promised myself last year that I’d use my PTO this year. I lost two weeks last year, and I don’t want to do that this year. It’s going to be a challenge, but I’m down to one week and still hopeful to use most of it. 
  2. Also, I have given up on social media. With the exception of a few #lookingup Tweets to post a few cool sunrise/sunset pics, I haven’t opened Facebook or looked at my Twitter timeline in a week. The relief from the constant barrage of anger, unkindness, and hate that saturates media feeds, I have been calmer and less anxious. The trade-off is a deeper sense of isolation. I’m still trying to find an IRL community, friends with shared experiences and interests. That’s harder to do than you’d expect. But even so, the lessening of the angst is worth the isolation. Sorry if you’ve posted in my timeline- try PM via Messenger or text me directly. For now, I’m giving FB and Twitter a miss. 
  3. Finally, I’m finding time for quiet time alone. Minutes to hours where the screens are off and there’s no one talking to me are precious. It isn’t that I don’t want people near me or to talk to me. But I have to be “on” all the time, both at work and home, when people are there. I’m expected to make decisions and give direction and contribute to the conversation. That’s part of the job and part of being a family. But it’s part of what makes me stressed out, too. For whatever reason, noise, especially voices, build up a pressure inside my nerves, make me want to run and hide. So I’m trying to find time, at least a few minutes every day, to sit quietly alone and let my jangling nerves rest. 

I hope you’re finding ways to treat yourself well. Peace and light to you all. 

Back to Work Wednesday 

As I write this I’m fighting to keep my eyes open. One day of actual work and I’m beat at 9pm. Granted, I have just had four days off in a row in which I did next to nothing and, as a result, actually using my brain today felt extra hard. 

But I didn’t have more than three meetings and only a couple of drop-ins from my boss. I even wore my favorite, ratty, indeterminate salmonish colored sweatshirt and comfy jeans with no tie as a sort of self care slash wearable security blanket moment. I really shouldn’t be this tired. 

Whatever the cause, my familiar, beloved bed awaits and I can sleep a good sleep before getting up and doing it all again tomorrow. Vacation is over and I gotta get back into the swing of working hard. 

Good night, peeps!

Selflessness: Broken Paradigm 

First, I’m not against the concept of selflessness, of putting others’ needs above your own to serve the greatest good. 
Second, this is not a rant on anything or anyone, not my parents, my church, my friends, or my employer, not on any of the communities to which I claim to belong, and not on any creed or ethos. 

Third, this is not a humble (or not-so-humble) brag or attempt to elicit compliments. Indeed, I think the very fact that I’m struggling with this may be evidence that I’m not actually selfless to any measurable degree, despite my upbringing. Maybe I’m just a glutton for punishment. 

This is just a note of some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a long time. I’ve decided to put them out into the universe and see if I can’t glean some peace from the sharing. You are welcome to comment. In fact, I’ll be keenly interested in your thoughts. But I may not respond…it may be too hard. We’ll see. 

Here goes, my first post in months…raw and inadequately edited. 

— — — —

I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian home. From the beginning, lessons of Christ’s sacrifice and my duty to be modest and selfless (in gratitude and emulation of that sacrifice), were instilled rigorously. Being thought selfish or greedy or envious was, in my family, as serious and egregious as being thought a quitter. And quitting itself was regarded as the height of selfishness. Putting others before yourself and family before all (except God), was in my family a kind of natural law, a fundamental understanding not to be challenged or transgressed. 

From the small courtesies — “May I get you anything while I’m up?”, “Please, take my seat ma’am.”, “Would you like the last piece of cake?” — to major life decisions — Does this house/school/career let me be available to help my family? Does this choice [X] bring honor or discredit to my family or friends? Will I embarrass/hurt/exclude anyone if I do [X]?– I was raised to think of myself last and everyone else first. 

As a general guiding principle, I believe this social tenet is a fine, noble principle that promotes harmony and a benevolent, kind, loving world. But it can’t stand on its own. To have these desired results, it has to be bolstered by a common understanding of the limits of courtesy and hospitality, as well as a clear definition of what constitutes abuse of that courtesy. Too, the principal must not be divorced from an equally strong emphasis on the rightness, acceptability and, indeed, the expectation of self care, the principle that even the giver must also receive. 

Otherwise, you end up with everyone falling all over themselves to be considerate of the other and then neither receiving anything in a grand comedy of the absurd. Or, more likely, you end up with a bunch of individuals who do nothing but consume the generosity and energy of the smaller bunch of individuals who burn themselves out on the pyre of selflessness. 

And I’m not even talking about “Mother Teresa” level selflessness. No, it’s the ordinary, small-scale selflessness that somehow becomes a gargantuan burden by the slow erosion of the entire sense of me and my and mine that comes from constant outward focus. It’s years and decades of accumulated yielding of the floor in tiny daily doses that destroys the ability to consciously choose “I want” over “No, please, after you”. It’s always having that pang of shame and urge to justify after the simplest choice that puts you first, like going first into an elevator, or taking the first helping of a dish at dinner, or choosing the movie you want to watch instead of deferring to the group. It’s the compulsion to volunteer to work the weekend or holiday or overtime because someone else’s family life, love life, personal issues are always more important than your own. 

Is all of that a caricature of extremes? Yes. Wildly inaccurate? No. At least not in my lived experience or in my observation of the lives of my siblings and many others whom I hold dear. I’m willing to bet that anyone reading this also knows at least one person who has taken the lesson of selflessness at least as far as neglecting their own comfort and rest because “there’s just so much to be done and not enough time”. When in actuality, if that person had help attending to the necessaries of all the others, that person would have more time and energy to spend on themselves. 

But that’s the central point: that person wouldn’t think first to spend that extra time and energy on themselves, because that would be selfish, self-indulgent, self-centered and greedy. 

So, at what point is it okay to think of you and your needs or wants first, without guilt or remorse?

That’s the enduring question of anyone who has lived a lifetime under the relentless drumbeat of the selflessness mantra. To be sure, everyone, even the truly selfless, serves themselves from time to time. It’s the “without guilt or remorse” part that’s the trouble. 

Because, unscientifically–and yes, from my own experience–there seems to be an extraordinarily strong correlation between a selflessness upbringing and deeply internalized shame, persistent guilt, and the unyielding conviction of unworthiness. I posit that these last, especially guilt, are the scaffolding that support the selflessness mindset, allowing it to become a self-sustaining paradigm. Without guilt, shame and the person’s belief in their unworthiness in comparison to whomever else comes before them, wouldn’t self-care naturally assert itself as the dominant practice? If seeking self first were not stigmatized, how would the collective good, the community interest, the societal need ever become a priority?

My point after all that rambling is that half-theories taught as full-gospel, propped up with destructive negative reinforcement, are an unstable foundation for social structure. Sooner or later the structure implodes from the pressure differential between inward need and external demand. What’s left is a twisted wreck of a once strong and beautiful framework. 

When the drive to be selfless supplants the instinct to nurture the self as much as the other, and sometimes before the other, the nobility of this ethos is corrupted into oppression. 

How much of that corruption and imbalance is the teacher and how much the student? Who can say? It’s different for every person, I imagine. But when someone who has always tried to put others first and struggled with guilt over acts of self-care begins to question the fundamental principle and to push back against the knee-jerk shame, I think it’s safe to assume that something fundamental is amiss. And when questioning turns to bitterness, all the best parts of the principle are lost. 

I don’t want to be that bitter cynic. I want to find balance. I want to serve others and the greatest good AND I want to be able to rest and be served myself on occasion, without feeling small and petty and shamefully selfish for the wanting. But having others give me a figurative pat on the head and tell me “it’s ok to take care of yourself”, feels patronizing, false and not OK. It feels like a back-handed reminder that I’m not worthy of counting first. Insidious doubt about the motive behind the message, suspicion of some sneering sarcasm painting me as a loser in this person’s mind because I want someone for myself, destroys any ability to accept what is kindly offered. That mistrust of the simple exhortation to rest and look after myself just reinforces all the negative thoughts I already harbor. 

So, if I can’t convince myself that self-care isn’t self indulgence, and I don’t believe it from others, what else is there? It feels like a hopeless loop. I don’t know if there is an answer. At least not yet. 

Guess I’ll just have to keep working on it. 

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