Monday, January 16, 2012

What Self-Care Looks Like: A Picture

It’s 3:44pm. And I just drank my first cup of coffee today.

A couple months ago, my daily coffee in-take outweighed my water in-take. The result? I got sick. The kind of sick where I had to track down a clinic for some antibiotics.

You should have heard the nurse practitioner’s “tsk, tsk” when I answered her about how much water—or lack thereof—I’d been drinking each day. At the time, I was on the tail end of a two and half year project. Completely at the end myself in so many ways.

Her judgment wasn’t that helpful. Just give me the prescription, okay? I wanted to shout.

Still, I knew something needed to change.

So, I gave myself a new practice: no coffee until I drink at least eight ounces of water first. Now, I find myself drinking even more water than that before I go for the coffee.

It’s a small choice. Indeed, sometimes that’s all it takes. The small choices—daily, weekly, or whatever—add up to important practices.

Recently I read The Care and Keeping of Creative Souls: A Manual by Jen Lee. On the first page, Jen reminds us that we are a culture driven by results. We forget about nurturing and feeding ourselves, body and soul.

As I got into the booklet, I discovered I follow similar practices. Some of the ideas I use are from other resources. Some are simple ideas I came up. I need them in order to live, not just survive, in the various situations that come my way. I can honestly say God uses these exercises to keep me going.

Here are some of the practices I use, based on who I am:

Music. I listen to my music loud, especially when it’s been a bad day. Working fulltime while caring for my young family is tough. On my way to pick up the girls from school or babysitters, I often listen to music. On rough days, I have my emo punk or Avril Lavigne close. (Some days just call for angry chick music!) Other times, I listen to the Les Miserables soundtrack. When I’m writing or cooking, it’s Mumford and Sons or Ingrid Michaelson.

Art Journaling. I regularly receive two magazines in the mail: Martha Stewart Living and Real Simplicity. I read them and then I do something else with them—I tear them up. In art journaling, it’s not so much about creating a masterpiece as it is recognizing how I’m feeling and what God is doing. No scissors in art journaling. The pictures and words rip where they rip. The sound of ripping paper is now sacred to me.

Reading. Reading consumes most of my downtime. I do have a couple of specifics related to this practice though. I force myself to read one classic each year and something else for fun. Last year it was Tina Fey’s memoir, Bossypants. Hilarious! Sometimes I need to remember how to laugh.

Retreats. For the past few years, I’ve made it a priority to attend at least two retreats a year. Some were with the women at my church. One was a vocational retreat and another one was with A Beautiful Mess. It’s possible to retreat on your own but so much better if you go where you have someone leading a group. I received so much at these experiences, mainly from those several decades older than myself, and God showed up for me in those times to remind me who I am outside of what I do.

Mentoring and Friendship. Many of us have friends we can count on, but I also choose to be intentional with a couple of individuals. They don’t even live in my town. One is still in Colorado and the other lives in North Carolina. I’m beyond words when I think of what they mean to me and how they so help me process every area of my life on a regular basis.

Prayer. Based on my season of life, I can’t join every ministry opportunity I want to. However, I can pray for them. I’ve made that my ministry. I pray during the quotidian tasks of my day or while sitting in rush hour traffic. Scrubbing dishes or folding laundry naturally lends itself to a rhythm for prayer.

The other night, I was sitting on the living room floor. (Appropriate name for that room in the house, I think.) I looked around and realized I was surrounded by several pieces of my self-care practices. Such a beautiful moment that I snapped a picture:

Notice the glass of water on the right.

Of course, there are many other practices I could mention, and I’m exploring new ones all the time. Recently I added spiritual direction, and Jeff bought me a yoga mat for Christmas.

The best part about intentional practices is that they keep me from unrealistic expectations and help my struggles with perfectionism. Sometimes practice doesn’t make perfect. Sometimes it just makes living. I’ll take living.

Other resources:
Spiritual Direction section on Kristin Ritzau's site
Soul Custody by Steve Smith