Shared by Amelia Bennett - SFTT Editor in Chief & Content Author
Self-Care, Blowback, and the Work of Self-Kindness
It’s safe to say this week hasn’t been my favorite. If you read my story on Tuesday, you know my Monday started with a trip to the Emergency Vet Clinic for my sweet dog, Valkyrie, and the next couple days have just felt eternally long. By the time I am writing this, late on Wednesday night (sorry again, Jen), I am finally starting to feel almost caught back up at the day job, but there’s still plenty of chaos. My husband is back to school for his last semester of classes, our daughter is gearing up for her return to classes next week, and my editing clients are wondering if I’ve died. It’s not my proudest week, but it’s not all bad.
In case you were wondering, Val is feeling much better. She’s basically back to normal, but the vet told us to wean her slowly back onto solid food and she is not liking the reduced rations. She’s sniffling around the house like a pig hunting truffles, ears attuned to the slightest crinkling sound (that could be a bag of treats!), and if she sees you putting something in your mouth all bets are off. Those glorious ears snap forward, her forehead wrinkles up in concentration, and she turns the head tilt up to 11. It’s brutal psychological warfare, and the ups and downs were getting to me. It was time for a break.
How About a Bath?
I’m not great at Self-Care. I know that’s hardly a shocking revelation, and I know many of us struggle with it. We know that we need it, but not really how to do it. My search history is full of stuff like “What is Self-Care?” and “Self-Care Tips on a Budget” and “How to Run Away from Home and Change Your Identity.” Just kidding on that last one (mostly). I think what bothers me the most about Self-Care is just how much time it takes to be kind to myself, and how myself is the person I am supposed to be kind to. Instead of being kind to myself, I usually prefer to watch hours of British people baking impossible things in a tent.
It always seems like Self-Care is a bubble bath. Or a bath with your favorite essential oils. Or a bath with a homemade, ethically-sourced, environmentally-friendly, microbead-free bathbomb. I didn’t have the mental energy to think of anything else, and my phone battery was dead (from playing dumb games), so I didn’t have the juice to search for any other ideas.
I enjoyed the bath, I honestly did. I half-watched a few episodes of a dumb show, washed my hair, and got out feeling that boneless sort of exhaustion where you just know you’ll be asleep as soon as you hit the pillow. I emerged from the bathroom a new woman, and caught my dog peeing behind the Christmas tree.
I’ll repeat that for everyone in the back. I caught my dog. Peeing. Behind the CHRISTMAS TREE.
I can’t say I blame her. There are so many fir needles on the ground back there she probably thought she was lost in the wilderness. We almost got the tree all the way down in a respectable timeframe, ladies. My husband, who had the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve off work, faithfully braved the retail crowds on December 26th to buy those storage boxes for ornaments. Why don’t we have those already, after seventeen years of marriage? This was our first tree since the year our house burned down. Anyhow, he bought those boxes, he came home and took down the ornaments, and then it was my turn to un-string the lights. In celebration of having a tree again, I insisted on a THOUSAND lights. I do not believe in moderation. I took down 400 lights, my husband took down 300 more, and the rest are still waiting for me. I am easily distracted.
So I caught the dog peeing, and my whole body flooded with resentment and rage. Why can’t anyone else let Mom have a break and let the dog outside to pee while she takes a bath? Why can’t someone else catch the dog having a wee? Why did I suddenly feel like someone performed an “undo” on my Self-Care?
I threw a bit of a fit. I was unkind to the people I love most in the world. I glared at the dog and huffed through my nose and realized that my natural tree, which had hardly smelled at all while she was still thriving, seemed to suddenly flood the air with the sweet scent of fir. What on earth is this nonsense? I don’t have time for the smell of Christmas to finally, belatedly arrive on January 10th. The Three Kings have come and gone, and the retail world has forgotten George Bailey and General Waverley and Linus’s TEDxTalk, and we are already on to Valentine’s Day.
And I have a Trench to climb out of, and a story to write about it.
And today, as you’re reading this, I am going to take another stab at Self-Care. When I get home from work, I’m going to put down my things and bury my face in that tree. I’m going to un-string the last 300 lights with as much joy as I could barely contain when I hung them. I am going to knock so many fir needles to the ground that my dog will think she’s in a whole new section of the forest, and then I am going to bear-hug that tree and haul it to the curb.
I will emerge from the branches of that tree a new woman—likely scratched and covered in sap and smelling like an air freshener—and I will remember that sometimes Self-Care is loving myself enough to give myself a better environment. I will rub fallen fir needles between my fingers until I smell like a used car dealership, I will vacuum them up, and I will put the lights away. I’ll drag my armchair into the corner, and I’ll let my clients know I’m still alive. I’ll take care of myself by taking care of my home and my business. And it might not all be fun, but the effects will last longer than my bath.
What about you, my friends? How do you practice self-kindness? What are your favorite activities? How often do you actively practice Self-Care, and what steps do you take to make sure you don’t forget?