The Importance of Self-Care

self-care, caregiving, aging, over 50, relationships, vulnerable

The Importance of Self-Care

It’s been so long since I wrote here that I don’t even know where to start. I feel like I don’t know what to write–or what you might need to hear right now. So, I’ll just write and hope it flows with some meaning. I’ve been sharing decidedly unglamorous moments of life over the last several months. I spent two weeks documenting a chemotherapy cream treatment for my nose on Instagram.  Sun damage and skin cancer compounded by a family history of melanoma. And recently I shared three photos of me, in my bathrobe, having a challenging morning.

There’s something cathartic about showing the nitty gritty of our lives. Though I’m pretty sure there’s some judgy stuff out there when we do show up like that. I’m tired of us pretending we’re presentable all the time. Because we’re not. Women face a lot of pressure to appear as if they’ve got it all together. Pretty, well dressed, nice neat house, and happy lives. I haven’t felt that way lately so I decided to let myself be seen.

Our lives are not neat and tidy.  I have dishes in the sink and laundry on the bed. I’m neglecting all kinds of things. But, this morning I’ve chosen to sit out on the patio, to watch the baby ducks, and linger over coffee. And I’m focused on writing again, to get back into some sort of rhythm. I’m trying to figure out who I am and what I want to do with my work life, all over again. What is it you need to hear from me versus what I feel needs saying, for example?  And I’m not sure and all the perfect selfies and touched up photos in the world couldn’t hide the fact that I’m at a fork in the road.

It wasn’t planned. We can’t anticipate the moment that throws our lives into chaos. This round of chaos happened last July when my mother fell and broke her ankle. My caregiver role escalated and my personal and work life took a nose dive. I was distracted enough and stressed enough to have stopped writing. That creates stress too. I’ve had to cancel a trip or two and cancel a visit from someone I wanted to spend time with. We’re on hold again, awaiting a surgery (the second one of this year) and for me that feels like my whole life is on hold.  I already spent 10 post-divorce years being my ex-husband’s caregiver. I’m more than weary of this; the timing is awful. I got my wings, I started traveling and creating great adventures and now I feel stuck. And I resent it and that resentment is part of what’s dragging me down.

Part of getting unstuck is changing the way we approach things. For me this has meant joining a 100 days of art project, for one. And giving myself space to experience my feelings.

In sorting through email yesterday I came upon an interview with Maria Shriver. This caught my attention, “…sometimes it takes a really long time to feel like you deserve to be on the stage; you deserve to be in the room; you have earned your “I.”

I don’t know that she’s literally talking about being on the stage but the concept of self-care involves and impacts every aspect of our lives. What resonates for me is that we/I have earned the right to to our “I” moments. Whether that means self-care, or saying No more often or understanding that we, the “I” are important. Just because. We don’t need justification. We don’t need permission, except for our own.

 

We have earned our “I”. What ever that looks like for you.

 

What does it mean for us to become more focused on our own needs?  When we get to a place of realizing we deserve to be center stage all kinds of things can happen.

This is mostly a process of understanding your own worth, of figuring out that you matter, assessing what you need, and then making the necessary changes. Start slowly. Start by recognizing moments of discomfort, times when you feel tense or you catch yourself holding back on speaking your truth.  For me it’s being more mindful of what’s going on internally. It is about setting boundaries as well.

No one is going to do it for us. We start by recognizing our own value. We decide what we will or won’t do. We decide who we want to spend time with. We gravitate towards the things and people that make us happy. We settle on priorities that will advance our work, our relationships, or our free time. It means we have to speak up for ourselves–that is in part what Shriver is saying, I think.

This is part of what I am examining in my life. I can’t change my current situation; I can look at how I deal with it emotionally and make some adjustments. I can reach out to others for support. And ultimately I can declare what it is I want for my life and figure out how to make it happen.

My mornings now start with the question, What do I need today? Which includes, What do I need in order to show up the way I want to? It’s a process–of letting go, of being with, of embracing and sitting with the unknowing.

Photo by travelnow.or.crylater on Unsplash

12 Comments
  • Carol Cassara (@ccassara)
    Posted at 13:25h, 07 June Reply

    It seems as though you and I are on the same topic today–self care. As a caregiver, it’s really a challenge. I have always had to balance the way caregiving is a gift I can give someone with my own needs. With my own mother, my own needs took second place for an entire year. With my BFF, I was able to get her kids to understand it was time for home care. Sometimes it’s good to have someone outside give opinion–a trusted friend, a therapist. Warm wishes to you.

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:41h, 07 June Reply

      Yes, a good friend or support person is pretty important. I think, for me, the challenge is somewhat varied given the phase of life I happen to be in at a given moment. I feel like there’s a window of freedom and exploration right now that I don’t really want to miss!!

  • beverlydiehl
    Posted at 15:46h, 07 June Reply

    We do deserve to be center stage in our own lives sometimes, whether it is for an extended trip, like I just enjoyed, or a morning sitting and watching the ducks. The laundry will still be there. The dishes will still be there, later (mine certainly are!!). I am sorry this last year has been so periodically difficult for you and your mother, while at the same time I envy you for the added time with her.

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:43h, 07 June Reply

      Thank you Beverly. I watched your travels with envy. I had some travel back around the end of last year, but this year so far isn’t panning out for that–at least not right now. how we handle caregiving is, as you alluded to, somewhat dependent on the existing relationship of the two parties. Not all of us have ideal child/parent bonds.

  • barbarashallue
    Posted at 16:05h, 07 June Reply

    I think this is a great post. We can work toward our goals with a plan in mind, but it’s a minefield of distractions and hurdles. Some we learn to ignore, but some we have to deal with – our health and dependents who need us – but it’s important to not lose sight of our goals and our own needs, and keep moving forward even if it’s only inches at times. Just as I started on my real estate career, my parents’ situation started their downhill slide, but I truly couldn’t afford to ignore my business, either, and had to get creative. My grandmother always said the key to a long, happy life was flexibility, and the older I get, the more I understand and agree with her. Hang in there, hang on to your dreams, but also treasure this time with your mom, as difficult as it is.

    • Walker
      Posted at 16:44h, 07 June Reply

      Thanks, Barbara. I recall your travels to be with your mom when all kinds of other things were happening. It is a matter of perspective with a big dash of dedication and hard work!

  • Wendy Maxwell
    Posted at 16:50h, 07 June Reply

    Thank you. I needed this today.

    • Walker
      Posted at 19:31h, 07 June Reply

      Well, thank you. I’m glad it resonated–a good reminder to keep writing.

  • Lynne
    Posted at 19:49h, 07 June Reply

    I truly enjoy how open, raw and honest this piece is, Walker. So many times I have felt like I have “shelved” me, and the stress of not writing creates even more stress. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:01h, 07 June Reply

      Thanks Lynne. It’s a bit challenging to let it all out but it felt like the right thing to do. I want to be inspirational, not in a bragging sort of way, but to show the authentic side we all have, but worry about letting show up!

  • betsycrane
    Posted at 20:10h, 07 June Reply

    So good to read your post. So much resonated with where I am, trying to prioritize what I really want to do, and feel called to do. Letting go of what I can let go of. For me the challenge is chronic migraine, and I’ve decided I’m done with trying to pretend, to myself and others, that I can do everything I used to do, or are expected to do. Sitting on the porch watching the natural world feeds me too. I’m just discovered a book about a process called Miracle Morning, a set of practices that are easy and help me start my day on a really positive note.
    Sending you very best wishes, Walker.

    • Walker
      Posted at 06:44h, 08 June Reply

      Hi Betsy, nice to ‘see’ you. Chronic migraine sounds like quite a challenge-so sorry. I’m glad you shared and I’m going to check out the book, sounds interesting.

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