Thursday, May 15, 2014

All or Nothing

A couple of years ago, I attended parent education classes which put a big focus on self-care.  This was foreign to me.  Self-care?  What was that?

As a parent, I believed in giving my all to my kids.  Putting them first.  Wasn't that what parenting was all about?

But I wasn't just putting them first.  I was making them everything.  I was somewhere after the kids, the family in general, and my mate; a distant afterthought that rarely occurred.

When I found myself in a health crisis, followed by several aftershocks of ongoing health problems and worsening mental health, I just couldn't, any more.  Couldn't put them first; couldn't take care of them - couldn't even take care of myself.  The state stepped in, and I had to look at my situation from an objective point of view.  I came face to face with the fact that where we were wasn't working for any of us.

In taking apart the tangled mass of fishhooks that was my childhood, which was a necessary part of tending my mental health, I realized I watched my own parental unit nearly work herself to death.  She would throw all of herself into whatever she saw as needed for the family, neglecting herself completely.  When she couldn't, any more, she would disappear into a book, a soap opera, or, in the latter part of her parenting life, a video game, all the while defensive and self-loathing for not being able to keep going.

She demanded the same from us, and directed toward us the same hatred of weakness if we couldn't keep it up.

It struck me deep to realize how profoundly and unconsciously I had adopted this unhealthy pattern.  There was no balance.  And for what?  After all, perfection is unachievable.  Therein lay nothing but the grave, and a bitter one at that.

Self care, then, was vital, and I had no idea what it even looked like.  I had to learn balance.  I had to learn to let go of the trap of perfectionism that triggers all or nothing.  Grow beyond it, to an understanding of what was good enough - both in care of my children, and in care of myself.  To pay attention to what I needed so that I could be what they needed.

Now, for me, self care is in daily routines that include a balanced, limited amount of time with a great cup of tea and a good book, or my latest video game passion.  It is exercise that benefits both my body and mind.  It is regular visits to my doctors and specialists so that I stay healthy.

Bit by bit, as I journey on, I find new healthful, soul-nourishing activities to add, in a few minutes a day.  My latest is taking time to stop and enjoy Oregon's vibrant green trees.  We're blessed to live on a very green, shady block with an ancient old beauty of a tree across the street.  I can sit on my porch, stare across the street, let all thought go, and just feel.

What is self care for you?  Have you thought about it?

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