I grew up in the 80s and loved Top Ramen and a can of Coke. I collected both Cabbage Patch Kids and Care Bears. I invested in Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and even tried to collect comic books. I cried when I watched E.T. and danced to the soundtrack, Footloose. I stayed awake on Friday night, so I wouldn't miss the 6 am cartoons.
I watched my mom work in one office and dad work in another. I watched mom continually cleaning up after us, and dad always fixing things around the house. I sometimes witnessed them nap. I occasionally caught a glimpse of them relaxing. I watched my parents discuss politics, community, religion, and faith. I listened to their frequent debates about essential life issues. I do not recall ever hearing either parent say that they needed to take care of themselves amid their discussions.
Self-care is likely not a new concept, yet, I'm sure that the development, capitalization, and marketing of the idea of self-care has really changed a generation. I have the mentality that I earn rest once my work is done. My parents likely grew up with the mindset that rest is a privilege we can't afford. They may have thought, a parent works so maybe one day, their children will get an opportunity to rest.
Today, the concept of self-care balances on the edge of brilliance and mindless banter; and even detrimental in some ways. Maybe I'm biased because I'm jealous that I wasn't raised in a "self-care world." I'm an overstressed type A cortisol dependent dopamine starved wife, mother, and entrepreneur who does not speak self-care language, except to her patients. I struggle to model this concept to the younger generation, especially those who work with me.
I'm becoming fluent in the self-preservation language, however. Is there a difference, you ask, why yes, and it's staggering. Preserving one's self is about a constant quest to live your truth by setting your guidelines on how you choose to spend your energy, channel your thoughts, and live with the acceptance of the fact, you are beautifully flawed and remarkably perfect despite every improvement you would like to make. Self-care has various meanings. Basically, the words are almost as useless as there guided recommendations. Caring for oneself, l believe, is one small part of the act of self-preservation.
I'm actively avoiding lists. I cringe at rating scales, check the boxes, and articles that provide an abundance of generic recommendations of "how-to's." If you see a piece of advice that states to do these five, ten, or one hundred things that should make you: 1) feel______ ( fill in the blank) 2) or achieve _____ (fill in the blank), consider if this is really what you're searching for in life.
Creating your own advice guide may come from some in-depth reading and research or self- reflection while listening to what your internal dialogue is saying to you. Or maybe it will arrive from having meaningful conversation perhaps with honest lifelong friends or helpful, almost strangers. As a psychologist, I may have my patients develop lists, yet, there's never been one prescribed set of activities that combined will amount to their achievement of self-care.
To begin a journey related to preserving ourselves, let's start by throwing out our lists. Discard the records you failed to start, the ½ way there are lists and the one-day (almost there!) lists to the year planners and schedulers. I already feel less stressed just thinking about how accomplished I'll be in trashing my undone to-do lists. I expect that I'm feeling mindfully enlightened, realizing the weight of emotional baggage assigned to each un-done list, as it leaves my hand and hits the trash. For example, the often bothersome and sometimes crippling guilt, personal loathing, and feeling failure feeling is contained within every written and unwritten confinement of our lists, is tossed out with the paper into the trash.
Self-preservation, for me, has to come from eating what I love yet not eating it all at once. God made everything balanced. It's not wrong to have good things, yet, too much of any good thing will chip away from my energy, my mind, and my physical self. Persevering me means letting go of an image of my youth and embracing the march into the unexpected premenopausal lows and the markedly cheerful burst of raging highs. Being open to the newly revealed parts of my being, physical and mental; and, well I guess, spiritual, I suspect will be a self-preserving move. I've confronted plenty in my forty-three years. The fights, especially the imaginary "I can win this one, " really drained my energy storage. I focused energy on unchangeable things. When it came to the inevitable, stable circumstance of change, I dug in my heels, called on my physical, mental, and spiritual resources to, fight something that I needed to accept. I suspect my energy and self-sustainability fuel was almost burned out entirely by my late thirties by wasting my resources on the inevitable aspects of life.
I take note of how well and preserved I feel when I'm full of faith. However, I mainly run on half a tank of fuel. I'm a wait-er and wish-er when it comes to deep faith. Don't get me wrong, I've been brave as well, yet I haven't found a way to sustain such bravery. If I cannot maintain my faith, then I'm fluctuating between joyous optimism to relentless fear and anxiety. This is no way to self-preserve. If anything, I'm losing days and weeks, maybe months vacillating. Self-preservation, for me, comes down to making a decision and taking the alternative off the table. I would like to decide to keep the fulfillment of faith and forfeit the option that there is none. This I'm sure will add my missing days back into my energy stream, especially if I start today.
In love and relationships, I waste energy on my ego. I withhold love even though it feels so satisfying to give it away. I sometimes block love from coming in from others, despite how wonderfully vital the emotion is to our human existence. I rely on reserving love as if I'll run out. I tend to ration love, and offer a little here and there, and, just a little at a time. If I have love moments, when I'm overwhelmed in love that it spills onto others without my knowledge, then I immediately conserve and store what is left, rebuild my supply, in other words. I've shed and wasted probably most of my life's energy on this category. I've failed to "love" up to my full potential. A steady stream of my energy sources leave my body each time I resist that four-letter word, love, regardless if I'm the supposed to be the receiver or the giver. I'm making attempts to both receive and give love more freely and this the start of my journey to preserving what matters to me!