The older I get the more I realize how much control I really do have in this moment. I am not at the whim of my monsters, I am in control of them. Because they are me. Those thoughts, are mine. Those words and cruel intentions, mine too. The desire to lash out, say awful things to my husband, bury myself in my bed with my phone and distraction layered with indulgence, pretending it’s ‘self care’ is me. All me. When inspiration runs dry I find myself shutting down. The sure indicators that I am choosing to sit in an empty well are my next actions: I run to Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, or any distraction that allows me to imbibe without giving.
I feel things deeply, deeper maybe, than a lot of people. I analyze (I hesitate to say ‘over analyze’ because I think that it’s a skill, and a benefit more times than not, but maybe I’ve just over analyzed that term and that’s brought me here?). I am a HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person (the book is very worth a read), and as such, I feel a lot. And endlessly.
I allow the negative thoughts to grow larger and larger in my head until they loom like monsters who rule the space and my positive thinking and strong little voice are sobbing in a corner, fearing the next actions.
When my well is dry, inspiration gone, I am in a scary spot. Extra prickly. Depleted and looking for self care, confused.
So when I feel that familiar ‘rug pulled out from under me’ feeling that accompanies heartache, hurt feelings, and inspiration gone… I have two options.
Let myself fall fully. Heartache wide out there, tears streaming, kicking my feet in embarrassment and frustration at my own incapability to shake it off. Or stand slowly back up, and gather my tools. (I don’t always choose wisely, and I’m learning that that’s also ok.)
It’s taken 30 years to know my tools well. To be able to distinguish the self-care bandages, from the self indulgence bleeding out. Sometimes I tend to the latter. I feel unliked, embarrassed, or made fun of and instead of moving out of that I sit and think through all the reasons they are likely right, that I am a silly narcissist oversharing on the internet and that the way I love to parent is over the top and I need to cut some apron strings… or something. I do this with chocolate, internet, bitterness and TV. Nothing lends itself to feeling worse-better than hate-reading IG and overeating ice-cream. I know it’s indulgence and not healing because I end it feeling more depleted than before.
My self care tools look different than before. I would have listed them differently than I do now. My self care now… right this minute: Writing my heart out, in ways that leave me exposed, to the sound track of The Magic School Bus.
My self care is a hot bath and no media, allowing myself the space to cry about things no one else would, judgment free. My self care is the workout I’ve put off. It takes my brain somewhere else for 45 minutes and leaves me with space for new thoughts, loving thoughts, at the end. Self care can look like chocolate and a perfect view, but most of the time is looks like Getting Stuff Done, and spending that ‘self care time’ reminding myself that I am capable, and worthy, even if I am over sensitive and empathetic to a fault.
I’ve started to embrace that what a calm brain looks like for me, won’t be the same as someone else, and that’s ok. Even if it’s something that gets poked fun at. An organized, curated home, calms me. A clean kitchen and home cooked meal fills me up. Playing deeply with the girls gives me love and satisfaction that no cup of wine ever did. I have tried for quite a while to push those off as ‘not self care’ because they still Serve someone else. Lately I realize, my self care, and my serving, are often inextricable. Ridiculous or not, that’s written into my code pretty deeply.
Charlie and I made a pact in our marriage to always “Strive to Out Serve” (FYI: this only works if you are both into it, duh). It’s given to us hugely. It’s changed perspectives, kept our home in a way that calms us both, and leads us both to asking “what do you need, now?” on a regular basis. It’s been scoffed at as ridiculous, but 8 years in, it’s still pulling us closer to each other every day. It’s self care, for me, to serve in a way that builds up my confidence. My confidence in my parenting, my marriage, myself. When those things bloom, so do I.
I in no way have this figured out. Earlier this week, tending to my over-sensitive wounds looked like skipping a workout, eating an enormous fro-yo, and crying to cheesy early 2000’s music (Save tonight, fight the break of dawn!) while I spewed all my jumbled thoughts to my BFF (Charlie). Today I woke up ready to pick up true self love.
Waking early to write, hot coffee, employing Ms.Frizzle as my babysitter, and putting my heart out onto page in the way that moves me forward, even if it doesn’t make sense to everyone.
I think my life mantra for year 30 is a simple one. Know Thyself.