When Pete and I were in the throes of his months of hospitalization, a lot of people told me to make sure I made time for myself—for “self care.” I barely had time to shower let alone make time, for anything more luxurious than that. If I had had the time I would not have had the mental focus. I know, self care shouldn’t’ require concentration, but when my brain was trying to create a mind-meld with Pete, concentrating so hard to keep him alive, I didn’t feel that I could let go long enough to enjoy any self care. The extent of my self care was a bottle of wine, something microwaved, and a Netflix film in my hotel room as I tried to turn my brain off just long enough to sleep, then get up and do it all over again the next day.
Now, I have all sorts of time for self care and figuring out what that means exactly. Originally I assumed self care involved long massages, or pedicures and manicures. Those things are expensive and, even though I enjoy them on occasion, they can’t be part of my self care routine.
So, I started thinking about what the results of self care would be if I were to find the time, the mental focus, or the money if need be. Self care to me would be activities that force me to mentally relax. Things that relieve anxiety and that loosen my rigid muscles. Something that helps me sleep, makes me laugh, and forces me to breathe, which I often forget to do.
As I built this framework for choosing a path toward caring for myself, it became slowly obvious. The regimen that would most meet all of my needs and would include the things that I procrastinate the most? Exercise and meditation. Things that are free. I procrastinate them because they take time–time away from my work, which is my #1 distraction from grief. Frankly it’s scary to clear my mind too much because my thoughts instantly move toward loss, and that is painful.
That being said, I had cut back significantly on my exercise over the summer. I had so many trips away from home that it became too easy to procrastinate. I had a million excuses. Maybe I’ll write a blog called “My Million Excuses!”
Two weeks ago, two different friends unknowingly gave me a nudge toward exercise by telling me about their workouts. The end result is that I launched back into my beloved yoga classes taught by a wonderful instructor. She is smart, gentle and spiritual. It serves as exercise and meditation combined. I also started walking again. What could be more meditational than a fall walk?
Another self care activity, for me, is reading. I read a lot but it’s in disjointed spurts. I’m trying to make myself sit still long enough to actually get swept up in the story. In the mornings I generally read something philosophical. That’s something I’ve always done and isn’t a practice that suffers from procrastination. My grandfather was a Christian Scientist. He was always up before 5am, and when I’d walk in the kitchen early, he would be sitting at the table reading his scriptures. I always feel like I’m channeling him when I ready heavy stuff in the mornings before I begin my day.
After only two weeks the self care is paying off in such large and obvious ways that I cannot figure out for the life of me why I ever procrastinated. My mind is clearer, my body looser and more relaxed. I breathe deeply. And sometimes, when I’m alone, I even smile and laugh.