Self-Care Through Life’s Transitions

life's transitions

Self Care Through Life’s Transitions is part of a series called “Your Life in Progress.” In this series we hear from other women like you and I – women who are learning to love and care for themselves well. They are taking risks, making mistakes, trying new things and letting others go, sometimes struggling, but ultimately pursuing beautiful, gentle lives of purpose, health & JOY.

Ever since I was a young child, I have been a morning person. I am not sure if it was because my parents were night owls or if it was due to other factors, but having the early mornings to myself has always been something I have been overly attached to. When I first met my husband, I lived alone in a lovely studio apartment and I generally went to bed at 9:00 and woke up at 4:30 to read, journal and think about life. I had a ritual of drinking coffee, a bowl of fruit and thinking about the day ahead. I lived alone, so it was very easy to carve out the time to do it.

When my husband and I started dating and he found out about my schedule, he looked at me and said (nicely), “Wow, you are kind of like an 85 year old in a 25 year old body, right?” He was right. I had a very rigid schedule and routine, but it was easy because I lived alone and had great control over the outside influences of my life. I lived close to a lovely trail and could set out on the weekends for long walks without any thought of what might be waiting for me back home. I lived alone, was unmarried and had little obligation to my extended family, so spending long hours in solitude was fairly easy and I was pretty disciplined about it.

I was able to continue my mornings in this way until our first daughter was born unexpectedly early. She was mostly okay, but had to stay in the NICU for several weeks, so my routine had to undergo a quick and radical change to meet our new circumstances. I think it would have been easy for it to fall by the wayside, given our situation, but I was unwavering in my need for a little time to myself and I found a few ways to make it happen. I maintain that it allowed me to be a better parent, spouse and patient on behalf of my daughter.

Every morning, I went to the hospital a little before 6 AM for her morning feeding. After the feeding, when she was asleep, I would leave her in the care of the lovely nurses and head out for an early morning walk along the river. I had always enjoyed walking, but had never seen it as a critical self-care practice, but it became one during that time. It was October, so the fall leaves were in full color and the morning sun had a crispness to it. It was a balm for my soul. After my walk, I would sit with my journal and a cup of coffee from the hospital coffee shop. I would sit in (mostly) silence for as long as I needed before returning to the NICU and my daughter. I realized, then, that any self-care I could engage in was far superior to none at all.

We have added three more children, moved several times, pursued graduate degrees and had our share of hard times, but my commitment to taking care of myself has remained strong. I know that when I was younger, seeing a book titled “Five-Minute Devotionals for Women” or something like that would have produced eye-rolling on my part, but not anymore.

Anything we can do to start taking care of ourselves is valuable and important work.

My self-care routines have changed during these transitions and when you think about it, this is how it should be. Just as my oldest child has outgrown some of the games her younger siblings like to play, my practices have changed over time. Currently, my youngest gets up very early, so I actually do more of my “me” time in the evenings or while she is at preschool. I still prefer first thing in the morning, but it isn’t possible during this season, so I am doing what I can.

While I was in graduate school, we had a lovely childcare situation on campus, so I often scheduled for the kids to go there so I could take a walk around the nearby park. In the summers, my husband would keep the kids home with him for an hour or two so I could head out for a bit on my own to go walking or to a bookstore and gather myself after spending the day with the kids. Small things, really, but vitally important to my family’s well-being.

I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. ~Maya Angelou

A few years ago, I saw a display in the children’s section of our beloved library. It was a collage of open hands with the Maya Angelou quote “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back” printed in the middle. At first, I thought about the quote in the context of my paltry efforts to give back to my community in the midst of being a mother of four small children. I resolved then and there to be more engaged and involved with the larger community. And I do think that is important, but I have started thinking of it more in the context of taking care of ourselves.

I think too many of us think that if we spend the time and energy taking care of ourselves, we are like the person wearing a catcher’s mitt on both hands. The truth is, though, if we are not engaging in meaningful (this does NOT have to be hours or even an hour a day, but can be the five minutes I referenced above, I have even seen ones for three minutes) self-care practices, we will not have anything to throw back. We will not be able to contribute meaningfully because we will be empty.

Somehow, though, we have bought into the idea that we must give at all costs, the biggest cost being ourselves.

I urge you to find ways, even if they seem ridiculously small, to fill up your mitts so that you can give back from abundance not from a place of emptiness and unnecessary sacrifice. It is really the best gift you can give yourself and those around you, please try to find ways, no matter how small, to take care of yourself. Build it into your life, no matter how daunting it may seem, not as a burden but as the most important gift you can give to yourself and those you love.

Shana Hutchings

Thank you Shana for another thoughtful guest post: Self-Care Through Life’s Transitions. Shana is an Alaskan Ex-Pat, Lover of the Neglected, Quiet Agitator, Enthusiastic Pedestrian, and Part-Time Writer.

You might like to read more about “small self care”, about “life in transition”, or about learning to identify “what you want or need.”

Does FEAR Hold You Captive?

fear

I have allowed fear to shackle me in many ways over my 45 years. But I am grateful for this stubbornness within me, a fire passed along from my mama I think, that has propelled me to slowly, sometimes painfully, forge ahead; which calls me push back against status quo, through fear, into possibility.

It is hard to live a simple but purposeful life unless we learn to challenge fear.

I had a guest post lined up for today but I had this gut sense that some of you – even one of you – need to hear this message today. You have been bound by fear for so long and you want to be free. Maybe it will help you to know that you are not alone. Some of the following messages are fresh and others from years gone by.

Here are some of the messages fear has spoken to me along the way, in no particular order, and some of the ways I have challenged this damning voice:

Don’t fully enjoy the encouragement you are receiving about your work because chances are, it won’t last. // I will keep writing simply because I have this voice and a need to use it; I am content to hold the outcome loosely.

You need to defend yourself when people make unkind assumptions about who you are and what you stand for. // Arguing with people is a waste of my energy and the people who need my message – they hear my heart. And I need to remember to be slow to judge others because I know how it feels.

You’re going to die too young from cancer like your parents. // I have no idea what the future holds but I do know that today is a gift. I know that people often think they have more time than they do so I choose to live each day in a way that if it is my last, I will have lived well.

You don’t know how to do that so maybe you should wait. // I’m done waiting so I’ll just step out into imperfect and keep tweaking and learning as I go. I didn’t know how to parent or be a wife, how to budget or homeschool and I figured that all out as I went along.

You’ll never stop yelling/numbing/living with anxiety (etc.) so you should just give up and enjoy the wine because trying and failing hurts so much. // Instead I keep taking baby step after baby step and celebrate the small successes along the way. I have gained freedom before and am still on the journey; I’ll get there.

Take a minute and look back at how far you have come. You have healed and learned to love and laugh and rise above. Don’t quit now.

He is following in your footsteps; it’s your fault. // But this discredits all the good that is in me, too, and if he is following in my footsteps then he may struggle but ultimately will be ok. He is also wise and gifted and still young and finding his way.

Don’t let yourself feel too happy because you don’t know what lies around the next bend in the road. // You have suffered a little and walked through loss but you have also tasted incredible joy. Receive the gifts in your life today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

If you say yes to that thing you want you might fail; that would be horrible. // Actually, if I say yes to that thing there is no failure. There is only stepping through the door and enjoying the experience. Whether or not other people like what I offer is not my business. Even if there are hard parts mixed in I will grow and learn and it will be part of my becoming.

Don’t say no to anything that comes your way, even if it makes you feel anxious and way too busy because what if you never get another chance like that again? // Then I will happily live my quiet life because saying yes to everything destroys my health and happiness and fear of missing out sucks the joy out of my days.

You can’t rest because then you’ll never catch up. // Somehow the essential stuff always gets taken care of. And besides, I get to choose who and how I want to be. I can let the laundry sit a while longer and go for a walk while the sun is shining. A little dust won’t kill anyone so I can read that book, cuddle with her while she is asking, climb into bed early if that is what I most need.

Don’t reach out to her because she might reject you. // We are all just people and if she rejects me or doesn’t have an interest in chatting, no worries. It’s not all about me anyways – just be who you are and give others the grace and space to do the same.

You can’t marry him because he doesn’t speak English and your French isn’t great and there are some huge cultural differences between you two. Maybe he is only marrying you to stay in Canada. // Or maybe he actually loves me. And I have that knowing that he is to be my husband. And maybe none of that other stuff actually matters and we will build a beautiful life together.

Wait to have your baby until after university when it makes more sense. // I don’t have to make decisions based on what other people think makes the most sense. We are ready to be parents.

How can you waste your university education to stay home with your kids? // I am not wasting anything. This is my primary dream; I want to be here to read to him and nurse him and take him to the park. One day I may use my formal education or I may not. But this is not a mistake.

You are not going to get a good mark so take a zero – better to not show up than get a bad mark! // Why would a zero be better than a 70% or even a 50%? My whole identity is not wrapped up in my grades. Take the test or hand in the assignment and move on.

If you tell the whole truth of who you are they will reject you. // Yup, they might. But that is their choice. And I will survive and feel free because I am not pretending or putting on a brave face all the time.

You need to say yes to be kind – to be a good Christian or friend. // But sometimes saying yes means I give the worst of me to the people at home who I love most of all. Saying yes to perform led me to burnout. Saying yes to make others happy makes me feel violated. I need to establish healthy boundaries and respect them!

If you don’t do it the *right* way, the way all the experts say to do it, you will get left behind. // I opt out of the race. I choose slow, organic growth, and living authentically. If I have to hustle to have it then I don’t want it.

••••••••••

Maybe you don’t relate to these specific examples from my life of how fear can try to shackle us, but they help open your eyes to the way that fear has been whispering to you.

Challenge the voice of fear in your life. You do not have to accept every thought that drops into your mind (mindset matters).

And remember: though we are still on the journey we can pause to notice how far we have come. To give thanks. To acknowledge that baby steps are powerful. To speak life over ourselves – over the broken and insecure places that remain.

And then we forge ahead.

Krista xo