This weekend, for the first morning in a very long time, I woke up feeling heavy and weighted down with the kind of sadness that I hoped had passed me by long ago. I immediately felt frustrated- angry that I was feeling melancholy without a logical reason and agitated that I was having to deal with something that no longer felt familiar or connected to who I am. As I stared up at the ceiling, I worked hard to align my thoughts in a positive and tidy sequence, one in front of another. I asked myself if I'd missed a dose of my medication or if there was a biological connection for feeling out of sorts. (I couldn't think of one.) I then marched through my list of things I'm thankful for - my home, my people, my health, my job. I let myself think about the weekend and the sunshine that I would surely get to experience. I thought about what I'd already accomplished this past week and the things that I felt proud of myself for. I then mentally scheduled a time in the near future where I could write in my journal or read a book I love or sit in a quiet place and let the sloshing in my head level out a bit. I said a very quiet prayer that sounded something like please help me see the good today and then I forced myself out of bed and into the kitchen to put the kettle on. Moving always helps. Or it always did. So does getting out of bed to make coffee.
Today, my self-care looks a little different than it has in the past. This isn't just because I'm married and sharing a small house with two large dogs and a very tall man. And it isn't just because I'm older, busier, and adjusting to a new, evolving set of priorities. Instead, I think that maybe I've just gotten better at being kinder to myself. I've relented to the fact that my introverted nature will not always get hours filled with quiet, lovely, lonely spaces (and that I will survive!) and that my need for perfectionism cannot (and will not) trump my pursuit of finding the smallest opportunities for optimism and joy. For me, self-care is no longer only an idea bound in an all-or-nothing approach. I cannot immerse myself in yoga, or church, or writing, or diet, or music, or friendships, or family in the ways that I used to. I cannot give myself over to feeling better in all of the ways, all of the time. But, I can get out of bed quietly, feed our sweet dogs, pay a little extra attention to the morning light streaming through the kitchen window, and do my best to make a decent cup of coffee. I can acknowledge feeling sad, acknowledge that it won't last forever, and then look for ways throughout the day to slowly lighten the load. And when I'm not perfect in these things, I can forgive myself, and I can try again. And try again. And then I can try again, again. Because sometimes letting ourselves off the hook is the best self-care we can give, even if it feels a little bit too much like failure. (It isn't.)
So, this week, I'm working on letting myself off the hook. I'm looking for the small moments and doing my best to let the good stuff outweigh the bad (and the sad.) Sometimes it feels tedious but it almost always feels like progress. No perfectionism here. Instead, I'm putting the kettle on and I'm keeping the windows open and I'm putting pen to paper, amen.