I have a serious question for you all: What does it mean to take care of yourself? What does that look like to you?
I ask because . . . well, because I was on the train recently and had a delightful interaction with a lady who seemed happy to see a hugely pregnant woman and her 3 children. This is a rare thing to come by—someone who seems genuinely excited, and not just half congratulatory and half questioning my sanity—and so I listened to her. And she, in approximately 30 seconds (as we were about to transfer trains) told me how she has 8 kids, including a set of twins, that they are all grown now, and that it was a wonderful wonderful thing. She was happy for me. I could see her reliving her own young motherhood days in her mind, and it was a place she had enjoyed being.
I thanked her profusely as we scurried out the train doors so we could scurry to the waiting train on the other platform, and she called out, “Be sure to take care of yourself. You take better care of them if you take care of yourself.”
I’ve heard that before, and I’ve believed it. But I’ve also kind of ignored it. I tend to think that I take pretty good care of myself. I have hobbies. I have ambitions. I pursue them. I shower nearly every day and I often put on foundation and curl my eyelashes (though I save the mascara for special occasions). I prioritize running and I make food that I want to eat—even if it doesn’t necessarily appeal to the younger generation’s palate. I have friends that I connect with regularly. We get together and we talk about all kinds of things—not just about our kids.
So yeah. I’m taking care of myself, right?
Or maybe not? I’m not sure. Because there have definitely been times recently that I’ve thought, “I’ve got to get out of here.” Or, “Something needs to change.” Or, “Today I’m going to do something that I really want to do. Just for me.” And then I think and think and think and think and . . . there’s nothing. I don’t know what I really want to do. I don’t know what would make my heart sing and my soul feel free.
I feel like I should want to go shopping. Get something new to wear—something that I actually picked out for myself because I liked it and I liked the way it looked on me. Or that maybe I should treat myself to a scoop or two of ice cream from Ample Hills that I don’t have to share. Or maybe sit and read a book all day.
But I don’t actually want to do those things any more than anything else. (Maybe because I do also have ambitions and ice cream and new clothes don’t necessarily get me any closer to achieving them.)
One time, I thought maybe I would hop on a bus with my laptop and some books and find a hotel room or an Airbnb for a couple of days. If nothing else, that seemed like a good way for me to tune everything else out long enough to figure out what I really did want and need to take care of myself.
But then I didn’t do it and eventually all my big emotions and whatever else blew over and I forgot about it . . . so maybe I didn’t really need to do that to take care of myself?
Generally speaking, I am a low maintenance person. At least I think I am. I don’t need a lot of attention, and in some ways it feels better to be ignored, or at least not constantly needing something. But I have plants that are supposedly low maintenance as well and they have nearly died from neglect. Even though I see them and I remember them and I water them at least every couple of weeks.
The point being that maybe I don’t know how to take care of things that are low maintenance. Maybe I don’t know how to take care of myself. And maybe one day, I’m going wake up to discover that I’m half dead and in desperate need of . . . something else, something more.
I just don’t know what that might be.
Which is why I’m asking you: What does it mean to you to take care of yourself?