I'm wild about the Self Care Club podcast with Natalie Ross ... she takes such a unique approach, guiding her audience through the idea that there is no "one-size-fits-all" definition of self-care.
Check out our discussion about my own journey with self-care, which was prompted 25 years ago by my bout with suicidal depression ...
Before this episode aired I was feeling anxious about some of the things I said on the show. Was it right for me to endorse acceptance of my own limitations? Between the time we taped the episode and its airing, I made some breakthroughs in my odyssey with PTSD. That slow Mercury in Aries we just experienced helped me to bust through some limiting beliefs and feel better about being bolder in my life. I took some long drives by myself and actually enjoyed them, instead of experiencing massive anxiety behind the wheel. I started exercising again and felt really good about being in my body, as opposed to yucky. My husband celebrated these personal milestones with me because he's witnessed firsthand how the onset of PTSD into my life three years ago totally short-circuited my "normal" routine.
Wouldn't it have been better to have promoted my more proactive and aspirational self? Shouldn't I be more invested in proving to the world that I have my shit together, since I advise others on getting their shit together?
I was lamenting having missed a chance to showcase a more perfect me on Sunday, and then Mom Monday happened. I was awakened at 6am by an epic pee-pee accident that required a lot of mopping. It was a relatively minor crisis as far as Momming it goes, but by the time I got my son calmed down and back in bed, I had maybe only ten scant minutes left for centering myself for a full day of childcare. We filled the morning with games and songs and puzzles, but by the afternoon we were running out of sources of entertainment ... Keeping a three-year-old busy at home involves an epic struggle to clean up each activity we set up after his five-minute attention span wanes!
The friend who came over to cut my hair was late which threw off our schedule ... My son was a perfect angel during the haircut, but after she left he let me know that he really resented those two hours when he didn't have Mommy's attention. He most certainly did not want to go grocery shopping, and neither did I, because our late start shopping meant a late start to cooking which meant that there would be no time for exercising in Mommy's new ass-kicking routine.
I voraciously devoured a salad when I got home at 6pm on a table that stank like old milk because my son had poured a full glass on the table-cloth earlier, and I hadn't yet had a chance to take everything off the table and throw the table-cloth in the wash. He poked and kicked and otherwise harassed me while I was eating, while both my husband and I told him to stop - a pretty normal occurrence in our house because my son always gets anxious around the transition from "Mommy time" to "Daddy time."
I started cooking the pasta and my son proceeded to have an absolute hysterical meltdown. Mommy's not perfect, Mommy forgot to buy more milk. So my son irrationally accused my husband of "stealing his milk" for about an hour and there was screaming, time-outs, door-banging, hitting Mommy, hitting Daddy, and lots of compassionate explanations about the lack of milk on our part which my son refused to hear. Finally my husband had the genius innovation to console my son with the offer of purchasing three kinds of milk at Trader Joe's. And when I asked him if he was upset that my glamorous hairdresser friend had not paid more attention to him, that's when the tears really started to pour and the secret of the milk crisis was revealed! So we spent some time praising his drawings and hanging them up and my child's sunny disposition returned.
I ate my pasta in a haze while my husband and son were at the market. And when they came back from the market - with three kinds of milk - I poured myself a glass of almond milk. And then added brandy. And a plate of cookies. And then more cookies. And had a hearty laugh to myself about getting my shit together, because some times self-care looks like milk, brandy, and cookies. And telling your husband who is looking to connect that you would really like to not say another word all night and could we watch Full Metal Jacket instead because Lee Ermey just died and it's streaming on Netflix.
All in all: a pretty average day. It's hard to know what to say to my childless friend who is currently upset with me for not responding to non-emergency texts in one day's time or ever. My life is so completely consumed with the care of my child that there's very little energy left over for me, and even less for those who love me.
Last week I had a talk with an old friend, an old friend who manages more commitments than I could ever dream of, and she counselled me in the fine art of "just doing shit" even if there's no possibility of having time to do it well or consistently. Plan to exercise four times a week even if you only manage to do it once, AND CELEBRATE THAT ONE TIME. There's nobility in the struggle even when you fall short of your own expectations. Just work on the book even if you only manage twenty minutes a week at first, and congratulate yourself on creating forward momentum.
For me, the biggest change that motherhood has wrought is an awareness of how to be grateful for every moment of joy and connection, instead of pining away for more and better connection. I sent a string of texts to my old friend who manages all the heavy commitments. It's been over a week and she hasn't returned them. I would like her to respond but she may not ever get around to it, because she's busy kicking ass and being a Mom and a professor and a wife and writing books and hosting conferences. I'm proud of her and I wish her the best. I'm grateful for the conversation we had that turned my perspective around, and I'm looking forward to the next time we get to connect. I'm also grateful that she's never been offended by how long it takes me to return phone calls (sometimes it's months).
After my son was born, my sex life improved dramatically because my husband and I realized that we literally DID NOT HAVE TIME to entertain all our neurotic complexes that were standing in the way of us enjoying each other. Our gratitude in finding that we have an hour of time to spend together easily overwhelms the psychological "issues" we used to find so pressing.
Anyway ... here's to everyone else whose self-care looked like milk, brandy, and cookies this week. You're not alone.