Self-Love: Self Care

It’s 9 am on a Sunday here in the Ozarks, and I’m still in my pajamas and cuddled into my bed. The holiday weekend has been glorious. Some are complaining about being unable to see family over Thanksgiving due to the pandemic. I get that, but I am secretly hoping I never have to go back to a holiday filled with chaos and unmanageable expectations.

I am taking Monday off, too, so I’m indulging in some self-care over these five days. Some much-needed self-care, for sure. Mostly, I’ve napped. And for those of you who don’t really know me, I don’t rest much. This has been an unexpected request from my body, and I’ve listened to my inner-self. In fact, I’ve napped every day so far since Thursday. Can’t wait to see what today brings. The cat is already nestled next to me, and if I didn’t have company coming over, I’d just stay right here in bed. I’m not prone to laziness, so this slothful nature of mine is definitely my body and soul telling me to chill the fuck out. My child is with his father this holiday weekend, and my inner-self is saying, “Take advantage of this time.” So…I have.

We are continuing our series together on Self-Love, and, yep, – you guessed it – self-care is next on the docket. I’m a huge proponent of self-care, having neglected myself for most of my life but definitely over the last nine or ten years. The thing about self-care is that it doesn’t have to be complicated or financially indulgent to be helpful.

When most of us think of self-care, we think of massages, facials, beachy vacations, and weekend retreats at high-end resorts. Yes, those can be forms of self-care – I get massages and facials regularly – but self-care doesn’t have to be economically draining or time-consuming.

My favorite form of self-care is coming into my own bedroom with a glass of Barefoot Chardonnay (see…I told you it didn’t have to be expensive), picking up a book, and reading for as long as I can before I can no longer keep my eyes open. My next favorite is the Gentle Yin Yoga class I participate in each Thursday night. It’s yoga by candlelight; it’s relaxing and also very spiritual for me. I find I am closest to my Higher Power when I am on that mat breathing in and breathing out than I am any other time during the week.

Of course, all the ideas mentioned above and activities can be forms of self-care: massage, facials, vacations, reading quietly, but there are so many other forms of self-care. As a single mom, it took me a very long time to realize that if I didn’t fill my cup first, I couldn’t pour into my child the love and attention he so deserves.

So, what really is self-care if it doesn’t have to be expensive or indulgent to make a difference?

It’s activities we do to keep us as our best selves. Practicing self-care is an action-oriented way that we can show ourselves self-love. … It means loving all aspects of yourself by accepting your flaws, weaknesses, the things you don’t always like, and holding high standards for your own well-being and happiness.

What is self-care to one may not be self-care to another. My friend, Machell, is one of the best seamstresses in the county, and she designs and sews the most beautiful quilts. She engages in self-care each time she turns on a football game and begins to bind together pieces of colorful fabric so that they can live on in the form of comfort and warmth. For me, making a quilt would be self-torture, not at all fun in the least bit. Definitely not a way I’d express self-love. But, I find drinking a cup of black coffee while a cat is nestled near me as I write this blog to be quite delightful – and some of you may disagree with me. And so, proving my point of what is self-care to one may not be self-care to another.

You can type in ‘What is self-care?” into a Google search bar and get all kinds of ideas on how to engage in self-care, so I won’t bore you with a list of ideas. (In fact, here’s a good one for you!) What I will tell you is how essential it is to show kindness and gratitude to yourself. You are fearfully and wonderfully made…even if you don’t feel like it sometimes. It isn’t easy in this ‘season of COVID’ to find joy in the simplest acts, but I implore you to do your best to try. I think it is essential to recognize your mental and physical state when considering ways to practice self-care. For example, if you are physically and mentally exhausted, then forcing yourself to go for a run or a hike in the name of ‘self-care’ may not be the best route for you. Maybe a nap is better. Or perhaps merely sitting by a fire counting your blessings would refill your soul in a much better manner.

So, I’m curious – what are your ideas for self-care? What is the most expensive ‘self-care’ experience you’ve had and the least expensive? Do you regularly engage in self-care, and if so, what brings your heart joy?

Here’s your song for the week ahead. I would love to hear from you, so drop me a line. I’m always up for ideas to love myself.

Self Love: Gratitude

As I continue this series on developing self-love, I am fascinated by how the Universe opens up chances for me to write in the most perfect timing. Isn’t it amazing that the topic of gratitude comes up in the same week that we are to celebrate a day of thanks? I don’t believe in ‘accidents’ and this is no exception.

I am so grateful for many aspects in my life. The first being that I’m still here to experience both the challenging and the joyful experiences but also that I get to share those experiences with people I love.

There is so much research out there about how expressing gratitude is right for your soul. Words are powerful and using yours to speak words of love into another person – and yourself – is one of the easiest and direct ways to express gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is linked to happiness, success factors, and even receiving more of what you are grateful for as a ‘reward’ from the Universe for merely acknowledging the goodness in one’s life. In her book, The How Of Happiness, author Sonja Lyubomirsky posits that 40% of our happiness and success can be attributed to partaking in intentional activity – and part of that is expressing gratitude regularly. (Here’s a great PDF with ideas on how to practical intentionality) Additionally, David Steindl-Rast tells us that the key to being happy is in the practice of being grateful.

I think I am a grateful person. From a young age, I realized that the hand I’ve been dealt could always be worse. I am extremely grateful for the items and materials I have at my disposal. Having worked with the unsheltered in my community in some form or another for nearly 30 years, I’ve learned to be less materialistic and more cognizant of the importance of a warm bed and a roof over my head. As a minimalist, I don’t care too much about amassing a lot of clutter and I am grateful for all the things that I own that allow me the opportunity to live a comfortable, albeit simple, life. (Like, for example, a coffee pot.)

But what about those experiences that aren’t so great? The divorce? The disappointment? The struggles with anxiety and depression? The job losses? The holidays that can’t be shared with loved ones because of a global pandemic? And speaking of a random global health crisis…are there aspects of that we can be grateful for even in the midst of calamity and setbacks? I don’t have the answers to my questions – I’m putting these are there for you to ask yourself. Some folks, like Brother David Steindl-Rast (see his Ted Talk), suggest that we don’t have to necessarily be grateful for negative experiences…but rather to be grateful for the opportunity to rise to the occasion of becoming resilient.

I am grateful for my life. My brother died at the age of 27, leaving a six-month-old child and a life of possibilities and what-ifs ahead of him. I am grateful for all the experiences, even the painful ones, because I know I am a calmer, gentler person than I was even twelve months ago due to those life lessons. I am grateful for the little things: How my child has learned to push the button on the coffee maker if he gets up first so that I have freshly brewed coffee when I wake, the texts from my friends telling me they are thinking of me, the sounds of the birds who wake me in the morning. I know from experience how hanging on to bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness only breeds discontent and rage. In contrast, gratitude begets more for which one can be grateful.

So what really is gratitude? Well, I think the expression of gratitude is unique to every individual but gratitude in and of itself is wonder…appreciation…looking on the bright side…fathoming abundance…counting your blessings. There are many ways to which one can start expressing gratitude and begin an intentional practice of becoming a grateful person. Here are some ideas:

  1. Say Thank You. I work an IT help desk for a national nonprofit organization. When the customer tells me I’ve fixed their issue or answered their question, it would be really easy for me to simply mark the ticket ‘resolved’. But, in most cases, I don’t. I say “Thank you for allowing me to be part of the important mission you carry out each day” because first, I realize I am here to help and if they don’t need my help, I’m out a job…but also because I’m grateful that my skills and my knowledge can be of service.
  2. Give A Gift. Ok, I admit…gifts are not my first love language, and I don’t like to spend my money on items that seem completely impractical, but some people love this expression of love and gratitude. When choosing a gift aimed specifically at expressing gratitude, opt for meaningful over monetary value.
  3. Ask how someone is and actually listen to their response. In this age of COVID it is easy to feel overwhelmed; the simple act of listening to your loved ones can be an effective way to show them that you value them. Put down your phone, remain attentive, and let them steer the conversation. Listening rarely requires you to respond. Keep that in mind.
  4. Keep a gratitude journal. Psychologist Sean Achor talks specifically about how expressing gratitude can rewire your neuropathways and can result in feeling happier. He suggests that grateful and happy people are more successful (not the other way around: “When I’m successful I will be happy”)
  5. Say it outloud. Dr. Wayne Dyer once spoke about how he, before even placing his feet on the floor each morning, opened his eyes and expressed gratitude outloud for three things, thanking Source for the opportunity to have another day.

Today I don’t have song for you but rather a short gratitude story for kids that I love to watch. Also, know this…I am grateful for you. Not for the increasing blog stats but rather for your presence on this planet.

Self-Love: Speak Love

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been using the below meme to write a series about self-love. I’ve been on a journey to develop more love for myself for a period of about two years, with it really coming to an expedient head in July of this year.

One of the aspects I’ve worked on consideribly is to speak love to others but also to myself. I ain’t gonna lie…I can be very mean to myself and the level of self-criticism I offer myself on a regular basis would be considered abusive if I let others talk to me in that manner. So, it takes a lot of energy for me to play nice with myself. However, the benefits of this regular practice have started to kick in and I am realizing that for all my faults and flaws…I actually am an incredibly good human. Alas…I don’t knit blankets for homeless people…I’m not that talented…but I do my part to make the Universe a more friendly and safe place for others.

Speaking love to others has incredible benefits. Even if their respective love language isn’t words of affirmation, speaking kindly and with love to another person certainly isn’t going to hurt anything. I just ask that if you are speaking love…be authentic. Also, don’t invalidate a person’s own feelings by negating their insecurities, but rather, build upon those.

Here’s an example: I am very self conscious about my tummy. I had a baby at 41 and I’m never going to have the cheerleader-body I had in my 20’s again. Ever. My lover knows I’m sheepish about this part of my body so instead of saying something to negate it like “Oh stop it. You’re beautiful” (which would be somewhat invalidating) he says, instead, “I know you dislike this part of your body…but I am fascinated by it. Not only do I find it beautiful, I am in awe that you created a person with this part of your body. I adore it…and I adore you.” (Now…how on Earth can you not love a man like that??)

The thing is, the way in which he speaks love into me – especially in my moments of full on, somewhat obsessive self-criticism – is paying off. I’m finding myself less critical of my body – this area {squishes tummy} in particular. Even to the point that I can say “I created a human with this. How amazing is that?!?” now when I look in the mirror.

And speaking love to yourself is equally – if not MORE – important than speaking love to (into) others. Once I wrote a post about how I was going to stop asking myself “What the fuck is wrong with you?” and instead start asking “What the fuck is so incredibly awesome about you?” I made a list of the things that are awesome about me and I, from time to time, pull this out when my inner critic tries to tell me how awful, dark, and twisty I am.

Speaking love to myself has been one of the best practices I’ve adopted in this quest. I invite you to do the same. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Make a list of the things you are good at doing
  • Make a list of the attributes you like most about yourself
  • Make a list of your strengths and talents
  • Make a list of the things your friends and family ask you to do because you are the best at it
  • Make a list of the things you do to show up for others when they need you
  • Make a list of the positive things you’ve accomplished in your life

Once you are done – and you can edit this from time to time (it is a dynamic list) – keep it close by and read it often. I have little post-its on my bathroom mirror (“Well hello there, Gorgeous! Those blue eyes of yours are amazing!”) and I keep my full list of awesome traits in my journal so I can pull it out when the inner mean girl is rearing her ugly head. I invite you to do the same.

As always…here’s your song which is a delightful little ditty by the Josh Abbot Band that I found by accident yesterday. I hope you enjoy it!!

Cueing Contentment

If I have learned anything on my journey to living a more simple life, it is that contentment is the real key to being successful.

It hasn’t always been easy for me. Now, with being a single parent, it is even more difficult at times. (Did I mention my sudden hoarding of empty wine bottles? So strange….) There have been several times where I’ve let others dictate what I should buy, should do as a career, should feel and should do in my spare time.

(By the way, anytime a conversation starts with “You should…” prepare yourself for the coming judgement. “You should…” is just someone’s way of telling you that they think they know how your situation could be better. Ignore them.)

On one such occasion, a colleague recently asked me “So, what do you want to do when you grow up?”. Normally…if I have been functioning on all cylinders, I would have quickly said “I am grown up. I am doing exactly what I want to do.” But I was tired and cranky. Before I could utter those words…Ego reared his ugly head and I began to doubt my life path and all that I am doing. Afterall, didn’t this person just insinuate that I wasn’t doing enough?

What if she’s right? What if I am wasting my talents? OMG! I’m failing at life!!!!

Ego begins to speak:

“You have an MBA…and the job you currently have isn’t really one someone with an MBA should have. After all…it’s an MBA for God’s sake.”

“You’ve managed, organized, implemented, planned, executed (fill in any other resume building bullshit word here…) – You should do more with your life. Climb that ladder. Boss people around!!”

And so on and so on – until I had worked myself into a complete I-am-totally-wasting-my-life-tizzy which required some wine and a conversation with a good friend who is good at talking me off the ledge.

So…after a week of quiet resolve and contemplation, once I was sitting on the couch with my dear little guy in the simple home that provides shelter and safety, I remembered my true self.

Shut up, Ego. I am doing exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up.

I’m living a peaceful, simple, free life of joy and contentment.

The MBA was expensive and quite frankly, somewhat useless, because I’ve learned that anyone with some common sense, a bit of diplomacy, and a heck of a lot of empathy can manage people. Relationships, not rocket science.

More than two skillets is silly. French presses make yummy coffee. Less clothes means less laundry.

One good, expensive, yet comfortable pair of shoes reigns superior over ten uncomfortable and cheap pairs.

Getting off work at 5 pm and sitting in the grass watching the sun set while a gregarious child tells me about a video he just made beats arguing with committee members or complaining about work over drinks with friends any day.

I could go on, but the bottom line is…contentment is what brings us to this place. Contentment reminds me that I don’t need a bigger house, a nicer car, more clothes, or a ‘more important’ career.

Contentment says “A few good friends who will come to your aid in times of trouble are better than 800 so-called ‘friends’ on any social networking site.”

Contentment whispers “You have enough. You are enough. Carry on.”

Carry on this weekend – what’s left of it. Forget the emerging ‘Early Black Friday’ sales and spend time on a blanket in the park. Cuddle up with your kids and watch the stars. Write a note to a service man or woman. Find contentment in your life and relax.

This song has absolutely nothing to do with contentment, but it’s a cute little song by Tyler Childers that I love. My questions to you today are: Do you find there are times with others have too much influence over your decisions? Are you content with your life? If so, what is perfect in your eyes? If not, what is off balance?

Self-Love: Letting Go

A few days ago I introduced a series I’m planning to share based on a meme I saw. I’ve been on a two year journey of being more in love with myself that really came to a head in June of this year. Since this blog has always been about providing my readers with suggestions on how to live a better and more simplistic life, I hope you can gain some insight on how moving to the center of loving yourself can open the doors to a calmer and simple life.

Since I actually wrote a post about the first point on the list – forgiveness – a week or so ago, I’m going to jump ahead to the second: Let Go.

Oh. Boy. This one was fun. Let me tell you why:

I can hold a grudge. And holding a grudge is so freaking unhealthy. But also, I realized in this journey that I also held some limiting beliefs that I also needed to let go of in order to create my authentic and simple life. I share a few with you today in hopes that my experience can open your heart to some new mindsets for your own personal journey to loving yourself more.

  1. The past is the past. Man. This sounds simple, doesn’t it? This was one I really needed to embrace in order to let go of some wounds I kept picking at from time to time. I had to have a serious conversation with my partner about how toxic bringing up the past was for us and how I just wanted to lay it to rest. This included calling someone to apologize because I had held a grudge for nearly 30 years based on my own story of how the past played out. I also had to forgive myself for things I had done because, well, it’s not as if we can change the past, right? I came to terms with the fact that my past actions and my past experiences were based on the skills and beliefs I had at the time. Now that I have better skills I can be a better person. I’m sure when I’m 60 I will look back on the past decade and still wish I had handled some things differently, but that’s what personal growth is all about, right? Becoming a better human?
  2. Let go of limiting beliefs. I became a Christian in 1993 and for many years held these limiting beliefs about what I should be in my relationships because of expectations from the Church. When I let go of these beliefs – and, in all transparency, let go of the Church – I started focusing on what my friends and lover needed most from me and I from them. As I did this I realized many of my beliefs were holding me back from having authentic connections. I am not a submissive soul and trying to be one all the time was making me crazy and making me feel inauthentic. The less I focused on ‘being submissive’ and the more focused I became to yielding to others, I found my relationships to be more balanced. I think, in my brain, it was all about semantics, honestly. A quiet little shift and the acknowledgement of this was profound.
  3. Stop caring about what others think. You’d think that at my age I’d really not give a fuck about what others think, but I still do to some degree. But, not as much as I used to and that’s a starting point. I know I reference this Ted Talk a lot but it serves as a reminder that I only have so many fucks to give and I need to budget them wisely. Oddly…when I just let go and started “being myself” I started to draw to me some really great people and the ones I didn’t need in my life started to fade away. I also think, personally, that everyone should read Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection because she speaks to this idea of living a “wholehearted life”. When I stopped caring so much about what others thought, I began to feel like I was living more wholeheartedly.
  4. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries. You know where my personal boundaries go awry? Saying ‘yes’ when I really want to say ‘no’. I’ve gotten better since I started employing a little tactic I learned in therapy. When I start to say ‘yes’ to something I really don’t want to do, I simply say “Wow, that’s sounds interesting. Let me think about it.” or something similar to that. It gets me off the hook for a few moments so I can collect my thoughts and consider how to effectively break the news that no…I ain’t gonna/don’t wanna do that thing/commitment/assignment, etc.
  5. Opening up and being transparent. I started posting these 8-10 minute, come-as-I-am-totally-unrehearsed videos on my Fake-Book page most weekdays and I’ve just started being myself. I simply have let go of the idea that if people knew how dark and twisty I can be, if they knew I battle depression, anxiety, and insomnia, if they knew how messy I can be – then they wouldn’t like me. Guess what? I’ve actually grown closer to some of my friends and repaired more than one relationship because I let go and got real.

Now, some of you may have all your shit together and this little post won’t resonate with you at all. Okay. Well. Thank you for reading anyway. I am happy to have the blog stats increased. But, for some of you…I hope you know that letting go is so vital to loving yourself. I found cognitive behavior therapy to be really helpful in replacing negative thoughts and beliefs with healthier choices, so that, too, might be helpful for you.

As always, I’m going to leave you with a song by P!nk because, well, who doesn’t love a hot, talented, foul-mouthed artist? I certainly do.

And I have some questions for you:

What do you need to let go of in order to live a more simple and authentic life? What limiting beliefs are holding you back from being your true self and loving yourself? Do you think some of your relationships will suffer and eventually die if you started to let go a little? And if so, is that okay? On the other hand…do you think some of your relationships would grow deeper if you let go of the past and just moved forward with today being ground zero?