Once I understood the “what” of my journey (self-care intention) and the “why” (maneuvering detritus), it was time to focus on the “how.” Self-care is a lofty goal, one that is as individual as we are and that can be achieved with as much variety. How, then, to unpack the concept and move forward?
I was pondering this question and scrolling through my Facebook feed when I stumbled upon an article entitled, “This Is What Self-care REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake.” (Read here) Et voilà! Another synchronicity. The title’s unfortunate length aside, I clicked the link and read the first sentence: “Self-care is often a very unbeautiful thing.” Humph, I thought, as memories flooded my mind.
There was me in a beautiful spa waiting for a massage surrounded by glorious floral arrangements and soft-focused light. There was me in a trendy salon getting a professional-grade color, cut, and blow-dry. And me, there, among the racks in my favorite department store stroking colorful garments of soft cotton and spun silk. I reflected on the short-term sense of relaxation and happiness that accompanies a new outfit and great hair and how these indulgences maybe missed the self-care mark.
Who am I kidding? Over the years, I’ve expended a considerable amount of mental energy convincing myself that superior self-care first requires a break-in at Fort Knox, and that there’s nothing wrong with the full-pressure kneading of my deep tissues or hot tamale coloring of my hair, and there isn’t—except when my mind sends up flares to the contrary. One after another, I’ve watched those flares rise, burst into flame, and burn out, preferring to ignore the intended warning signs just like I wanted to do with this author’s “unbeautiful” one. But a new year and a new intention require a new perspective. Determined to persevere, I read on.
The author indentified some of her “uglies,” like debt reduction and sweaty workouts, and then dropped this bomb: “True self-care. . .is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
Whoa. I’d never thought about it that way before. Have I been confusing numbing with self-care? At least some of the time? Running away to the spa or salon or mall suddenly seemed akin to drowning my “self-care” in Chardonnay or smothering it with In-N-Out. Avoidance will never amount to self-care. It can’t. In fact, it’s time to fess up to what those flares were illuminating. Habits like these are some of the bits of rock and shards of glass—the detritus—strewn across my pathway to healthier living. There was a time when these behaviors served a purpose (read here), but not anymore.
A fresh view of what self-care is starts with an understanding of what it isn’t, and it is not steering towards the DETOUR sign whenever life gets complicated. Fabulous hair and clothes are just that, treats meant to adorn a beautiful journey not derail one.