Self Care for Tumultuous Times
2018 was a rough year.
That spring – and for the first time ever in my life – I gave myself permission to be fully honest about how I was feeling, on most days. “I feel miserable,” is what I was candidly sharing with the many others in my life.
And no matter what those spiritual, new age websites tried telling me, a daily gratitude practice was not what I needed to address my woes.
For months, the low-grade anxiety that I have lived all of my life with had begun climbing, once again, into a more acute state.
The year before, my partner finally confessed to me – right in the middle of an extremely challenging pregnancy that culminated in my most traumatic miscarriage – that he felt burdened by the heavy weight of providing for our southern California lifestyle.
I certainly couldn’t blame him for his feelings as it is a highly expensive choice living here, where the sun shines year round and we can raise our child to intimately know the Pacific Ocean.
Along with feeling anxious about money and, more specifically, my need to contribute towards my family’s monthly expenses, I also began to experience daily overwhelm.
We live in a large, 2-story suburban home. Although we moved into it three years ago with the intention of sharing it with another family (or others), we found ourselves living in it alone for a couple of months. In hopes of getting more sleep (because early childhood = sleep deprivation for most families), I even tried to give our son his own bedroom for one of those months.
So, there I was, a mother to a 3-year old with 3 bathrooms, 3 bedrooms, a downstairs office, large garage and expansive yard to keep up. Everywhere I looked there was a mess and I felt overwhelmed by all of it.
It was a burden to have to cook, clean and keep up this suburban lifestyle – which was something I never wanted anyways!
To magnify matters, the premium amount of space, stuff and upkeep for all of it is fairly equivalent to having less people and less meaningful interaction in one’s everyday life (after all, I was spending hours care taking daily!) The suburban lifestyle is a wholly isolating experience.
And then, my partner Burt was diagnosed with stage 4 nasopharyngeal cancer and, for the last half of 2018, my partner spent his days in and out of acute head pain and in and out of bed.
So you wanna know how I have cared for myself in the midst of all of this, huh?
I will leave here with you just a few steps that I have taken on my journey, thus far. And, I will intend to come back and share more about how I have been caring for myself during all of this in the days to come. xo.
1.) I give myself permission to feel everything I am feeling and to even be a “Negative Nelly.” Hell, Winnie the Pooh is our primary teacher for how lovable Eeyore is – even with the constant cloud over his head. This also looked like my having a huge, emotional release that included: big, fat tears; loud, wailing cries; and stomping my fists on the floor – and all while in front of the people I have spent 10+ years with every Sunday morning at “Dance Church.”
I also give myself this permission because I recognize how reasonable my feelings are – especially in response to how insane our culture and society is. E.g. We are not meant to live this way – with a 1 adult to 1 child ratio, day in and day out; with tons of stuff but little meaningful interaction; & with loads of space but very few people to share it with.
And, 2.) I didn’t take my partner’s cancer journey on as my own. At the very beginning of Burt’s dark night of the soul, he and I were playing Legos with our son when I came across a Legos Superman figurine. “Look, it’s the real Superman,” I said. “It’s Christopher Reeves.” And then, I remembered how Christopher’s wife, Dana, took on caring for her husband after his tragic horse accident. Two years after he passed, she died of breast cancer.
They too had a young son. And women’s breasts are the site where the indicators of our personal self care, or lack there of, show up. “I’m not going to do what she did,” I told my partner. I just have to trust that he understands.