Who has the time? It seems everyone I encounter advises me to practice self-care. The advice is well-meaning and definitely warranted but a gal has to have her priorities. It’s taken me years to have the time to 😉 stop and evaluate my stance on self-care. When I did, I found that my logic was way off.
When I was caregiving for my parents, I was in the throes of it all: work, home management, parent care, and trying to keep my head above the water. I began to notice a steady stream of information and suggestions about “self- care”. I’d notice but scroll past posts on social media, absolutely disdain magazine articles about it, or avoid like-the-plague events and speakers about self-care. I’d even sing-song it to myself, aloud in low and sarcastic tones: “self -care, ugh!”. Yay-yuh. Right.
Has anyone reading this ever been a caregiver and had that reaction? I thought so.
My reaction was always the same: self-care?!? Who has time, and I’m workin’ over here…. Can’t you see this is Mission Critical, a better use, expected use of my time?
My time was already stretched beyond belief. It’s a full life to have work and career demands and the responsibility of home and life outside of work. Add to that caregiving and there remains precious little time. If I care at all about that responsibility. If I care one shred about those for whom I caregive, in this instance my own parents, then that extra time is automatically devoted to them. It was a default. There was no time.
And because of what I thought was logical devotion, ethics, and love, that should never be in question. Nancy is to come second because their need is greater or more pressing right now. Whatever all that was (Bravado? Pride?) I thought it was a stance formed from devotion. Then ego crept in, smugness, some “look at me”, at times “poor me”, and a teensy bit of “this is my lot in life, for now”). Nevertheless, I was stuck. I’d do what I knew to do: tighten the girth again and say “Trudge forward, Nancy, tow the line, improve what you can, stay the course and see it through.” That all made for a big dose of HOW DARE I?
HOW DARE I not do all that I can for the parents in my case who had done so much for me? HOW DARE I steal precious time from the need? I saw it as falter, a failing of such. HOW DARE I not throw all my time and knowledge and skills into the care of those who cared for me? The result was my delay in self-care. The result was denial of self-care and my worthiness to even expect a crumb of it.
Still, the helpful articles, book mentions and suggestions flew by (or was I flying past them?).
In 2013, just after the passing of my second parent, I became a Patient Advocate and opened my practice. Roll up the sleeves, there’s serious work to be done, Nancy! Maybe you know where I’m going with this.
Here it all came again, just dressed up in a different package. Suddenly I had commitments and clients to care for and their loved ones to bring along. There was research and referral, there were meetings to arrange and hold, negotiation and communication to gain. There was my own learning to be accomplished so as to be able to foster the learning of clients and loved ones… Before I realized it, I was All In again. Consumed, but this time so engaged, and happy and learning, I would tell myself. Doing it because I love it, and I’m feeding my heart and my brain, my soul, and able to help other people, and, and, and.
The self-care articles existed and persisted. So did the invitations from friends to join in on this or that. I would see but ignore all the posts and events with speakers. The more frequently they appeared the more automatically I would ignore them. Once again, I denied self-care.
It’s a funny thing when your logic and knowledge verify something to be true, factual, and even beneficial, yet we do not take action. That logic can be so right, so very case in point, and yet we choose to ignore it.
This kind of quandary is so aptly represented by when those oxygen masks on an airliner fall down before us. The parent/protector/caregiver is expected to go against their every grain NOT to place the life-saving oxygen on their child. We operate under the assumption that our responsibility is to protect the vulnerable among us, and then we are presented with this. Later we come to understand the counterintuitive logic that we must protect ourselves so as to be able to protect. Ohhhhh, I thought, I can get behind that idea.
Why then, with coming to understand logically and intelligently that weird logic could I only accept it for others? Why not myself and my own self-care needs? Beguiling!
That oxygen mask has dropped down in front of me more times than I care to admit.
That’s where I’ve been, and that’s where I’ve continued to find myself, over and over again. This self-care thing that I know to be right and beneficial – why do I hesitate? It can help me, it could extend me, it could make me a better person, and it could prepare me to help others better. Why then the delay?
Over time I’ve received lots of messages (and oxygen masks) from well-meaning people who suggested that I really should take a look at this self-care stuff. Finally, I did, or let’s say I have. I found some immediate positive returns, and slowly my stance shifted.
Wow, never say never, huh? Life experience is a great teacher, wouldn’t you agree?
A few simple acts of self-care felt good, and I realized some great results in my work! Since I put work first, I could accept that, but it’s a change nonetheless. It will have immediate positive results on me personally if I will allow myself to look at it.
Over time I’ve had a change in me and in my thinking. The logic of it, the benefit of self-care seems to have overtaken the HOW DARE I. My logic has changed based on what I have experienced, and now I have a very achievable goal of establishing a work-life balance.
There is still some HOW DARE I lurking within me. Until I fully embrace the new thinking for myself, I can more easily embrace it for my clients and the people I serve. Here is my logic and how I make it OK in my mind.
The people I serve count on me, and I am very proud of that. They expect me to be in tip-top shape so as to be there for them. My job is to help with solution and remedy. It stands to reason that I have to place some logs in the wood stove before the fire will burn hotly and do its job to radiate to others. I have to feed the furnace. I need to rest, exercise, take breaks and eat healthy foods. The very thing that I tell my clients and their loved ones that they need to do is also what I must do! I can because the thing I hold dearest is to be the best person I can be for others.HOW DARE I take care of myself? I do it for the people that count on me, the people that I love and who love me, for my clients who need me, and for the people I’ve yet to meet. My new answer to the suggestion of self-care is not HOW DARE I. It is: self-care, HOW CAN I NOT?
How goes your self-care, really? I assist folks with finding solutions to their concerns regarding eldercare, healthcare navigation and aging successfully. One could say that contacting me is a form of self-care, so let’s chat about getting life more manageable for you. Offering Complimentary Consultations, visit nancyruffner.com or set yours today with this link.