An essay by guest Gero-Punk
I am feeling grateful for the laptop, which enables me to write to you from the comfort of my new flannel sheets. I have a cold glass of chardonnay on my bedside table, and the glow through the windows from the snow covered outdoors eliminates the need for me to switch on the lights. Even if it is 5pm. I’m still wearing the cozy fleece hat I put on to watch my kids sled down our street for the 3rd day in a row, a personal record for these native Portlanders of mine. Yet in spite of my comforts I am also feeling restless and unmoored. A four-day break from our routine thanks to a nice big snowstorm has been both pleasant and a source of discontent. The discontent being mainly mine, as I feel I haven’t been able to get anything done over the past few days. Which leads me to wonder, what is it that I am not getting done, and how important is it after all? Let me also mention that I have, in fact, done quite a bit over the past few days, particularly in terms of the domestic work required to keep a household of snow-worshippers happy, dry, warm and fed. That fact doesn’t seem to satisfy a certain voice in my head, a voice who is persistent about reminding me of all that remains un-done around the house.
Which leads me to tell you about my manifesto.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the notion of self care. It’s a term that’s relatively new to me, and one I have researched and written about extensively in the privacy of my notebooks, yet been reluctant to share anything publicly until lately. Mainly because self care is an odd term; what does it mean to care for oneself, beyond the activities we perform day in and out to keep ourselves on the planet in fairly decent shape?
It turns out self care has to do with things like listening to our instincts, following our gut feelings, taking time to nourish ourselves with good things to eat, getting fresh air into our lungs and moving our bodies in energizing ways. If this sounds like fancy talk for what you’ve heard a million and one times before, then you are already familiar with what self care looks like, but maybe you aren’t as familiar with what it feels like. Allow me to tell you: good self care feels great! Really great. It isn’t easy, and it might not even come naturally to you, but when you make the effort to look after yourself in kind and thoughtful ways, wow, does it pay off. For me, it was primarily a matter of allowing myself the same amount of consideration I have for all of my loved ones. Why not include myself in the circle? I did not realize there was plenty of room for me until I jumped in and discovered how good it felt. Nor had I discovered how when I felt better, everyone in my circle seemed to benefit, too.
What I noticed, when I started to pay closer attention to myself, was that my initial reaction to a situation was just that: a reaction. As such, it didn’t require anything other than acknowledgement. Once I got past those immediate (and often negative) thoughts I was able to move into more productive and fertile territory, resulting in much more positive outcomes. For example: I have two young kids, and often find myself in the midst of assorted messes, misplaced items and overall disorganized chaos. My first impressions of these disorderly scenarios generate a lot of anxiety: “No one picks up after themselves, I am raising slobs, where did all this stuff come from and why isn’t it where it belongs?!?” My mind begins to wail like a toddler in need of a snack. Swiftly enough, the toddler’s imminent tantrum is replaced with my self-care trained response: “A-ha! The kids need to be reminded to clean up their things. That is my job, and I shall get on it. Maybe I’ll reward them with a treat when they’re done. Let’s see if there are any marshmallows left to go with the hot chocolate!” Thus my potential domestic unrest is transitioned to the normal daily running of a household. Of course this doesn’t mean that self care practices have eliminated all frustration, sadness and anxiety from my life, but it does mean that I have a healthier perspective on what situations are in fact worthy of my frustration, sadness and anxiety.
So, as I wrap up this long snow-bound weekend, and as doubts over my perceived lack of productivity enter my brain, I will rely on a few tricks I’ve learned in practicing self care to ease my conscience and shush that doubting voice in my head. I know that regardless of what I’ve done in terms of household chores or other duties, my family has enjoyed a mini vacation at home. Friends have visited, games have been played, we’ve eaten well and often, and we’ve made the most of the unexpected winter wonderland outdoors. I may be sporting a few new bruises and my hands are chapped, but I got to go sledding with my kids right outside my front door, and that’s pretty special. I can focus on the moments at hand, and be less worried about what happens next.
As my husband’s mom often says, “Events will unfold.” Just like the weather, much of the future is out of our hands. And for what is within our ability to manage in this unpredictable thing called life, I offer you my mantra:
life is happening now.
past is memory.
future is imagination.
don’t wish for what was
or what might be next.
be here. be open. be kind to yourself.
be mindful of your future-self.
be generous towards your younger self.
love. breathe. dwell.
Erica is a 2003 graduate of the MAIS program and member of the adjunct faculty at Marylhurst University. Since 2005, she has taught courses in human science inquiry and gerontology. Her day to day life revolves around orchestrating and facilitating the schedules of two curious and confident grade-schoolers, all while vainly attempting to establish a semblance of order to her surroundings. When the whirlwind of the school-week subsides, you can find her in the kitchen, experimenting with a cocktail shaker and savoring the company of friends and family as everyone toasts to togetherness and the simple pleasure of a good meal.