I have been cultivating a place of Self Care in what I call The New House, but which in truth, is now a toddler, having celebrated our first year here, last week.
I decided in 2014, after too many years in which all I read were board books, or the backs of medicine bottles, that I deserved more of my own time than I was currently being given. My reading, like my writing, had slowly evaporated until I felt thoroughly like the machine I had beaten myself into being.
Work faster. Work harder. Do more. Be more. Clean more. Take on more. Say yes. Say yes to everything. Say yes to every one. This was the never-ending loop that played in time to my cog-like heart.
As I emptied the dishwasher, I considered the laundry. As I cleaned the bathrooms I was mentally gearing up to vacuum the floors. I went to bed and laid awake wondering if I shouldn’t just go back downstairs and pay the bills.
The end game was always that somehow I would eventually get far enough ahead of my mental to-do list that I would have time. Free from obligations, I would do whatever it was that I wanted, but if I ever got that time, I was by then, a creature so unrecognizable that I wouldn’t have even known what to do with myself.
Self Care is not the same thing as Selfish, although that idea was (and continues to be) a hard knot to untie. Similar to a lump in my throat that I could not swallow around but could not push down. Threatening to asphyxiate me, or own me, perhaps both simultaneously. Slowly though, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t just deserve sanity so that I can push forward for others, I deserve it because I am deserving. And so are you.
So in 2014, I decided I was going to read a book. I made it my job, put it on my checklist with everything else. And I worked at it.
Reading isn’t hard, I have always been a decent reader, with an appetite for words. But it was hard to force myself to take the time. It was an act of Self Love, not Selfishness, because on days when I treated myself like a human being, as opposed to a piece of machinery, I found others took notice. As though suddenly I was tattooed with ‘I am worthwhile’, what I put out, others returned. It was a ripple in my tiny pond, this revelation.
January 1st 2015, the first year I ever made a New Years Resolution that I carried out to completion. The year when I said I was going to Read Books, and the year when I read 96. The year when I realized I could put my exceptional skills for multi tasking to work For Me instead of Working Me. I gave myself face masks while I read, and drank coffee hot while turning pages. I turned my love of books into a way to get in touch with my millennial side and started an Instagram Account (https://www.instagram.com/the_pumpkin_reads/) where I met like-minded bibliophiles and learned about different genres, and new books. I continued on with a book club of wonderful women who have become some of my closest friends. Those small ripples became waves of confidence. Small chunks of time I took for myself, new topics of conversations, ways to connect with people, the rewards were endless.
It was incredible to me, that being taken from the mundane tasks and repetitive cycles of in-the-trenches parenting, marriage and life, could serve to center me more firmly. Contrary to books allowing me to sprout wings, they assisted me in appreciating the roots of my life. Books gave me back to myself. A gift, incapable of being repaid.
In the deep heat of summer 2016 I realized my love of the written word could drill a hole into the dried up well of what was once my creative outlet. Having long since stopped writing anything remotely productive, poetic or otherwise, my latest writing endeavors included apologetic emails to my kids teachers for one thing or another, and Facebook posts. But what if I could write about what books mean to me, instead? Reviews, or passages, or emotions they unwillingly made surface?
So I’m here, and you’re here. Maybe you love books this way also, maybe you identify with losing yourself so completely that you’ve looked in the mirror and not known who was staring back out. But I implore you, whatever your interest, do not let it go, and if you have, take it back. Self Care is not a Selfish act, but a necessary one.
Drop a comment to talk about how you love yourself.