"Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time
to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from
the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel."
Are you taking care of yourself? When we get busy (and it
seems like we only get more so, not less), self-care practices
like meditating, exercising, getting enough sleep, connecting
with those we care about, and spending time on the activities
we love are the first things we jettison.
This post started with the working title, “Protecting the Asset”, because I read somewhere that when we start thinking of ourselves, our energy, our purpose and passion, as an asset needing protection to continue functioning at optimum levels, we start making decisions differently. It’s a bit like protecting one’s financial assets in that the principal must be conserved in order to keep generating income. It’s why the airlines instruct you to put your oxygen mask on first, and then help others. “You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first.” --Unknown
This is not an easy attitude to adopt -- we’ve grown up in a culture that treats the idea of self-care as if it’s selfish, over-indulgent, unproductive, unbecoming, and not something “good” people do. In fact, not only is self-care not taught, but NOT taking care of ourselves is somehow supposed to be a sign of virtue and modesty. It’s not, taking care of ourselves is a matter of survival.
I realize whole books have been written about self-care and my musings here can only scratch the surface, but it’s often on my mind as I look to integrate this into my life.
The plain and simple fact is that when we don’t take care of our body, mind and spirit, we often don’t have the energy to accomplish the things we want to do. It’s just that simple. And one of the things having cancer reinforced for me is how very short life can be. During treatment, that reality seemed inescapable. Especially in the company of others facing cancer in their own ways.
But then the immediate danger passes, life stops revolving around endless medical appointments and resumes some sense of normalcy again, and we forget that long life isn’t a given. Both Jess and I nearly died last year in separate medical incidents 9 months apart (trust me, the symbolic significance of the timing hasn't escaped us). One of the silver linings that I frequently think of is a Mary Oliver quote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
When I’m being courageous and truthful within myself, I have to admit that I actually have quite a list of plans and things I’d still like to do; some important and some not so much. And it all starts with me because I’m the only one who can perform SELF-care; and that’s important.
So, I’m coming to terms with the idea that I feel best about whatever I’m doing, and do it better when I’ve taken care of myself first. That means enough sleep, exercise, meditation, socializing and downtime; that I’m properly fed, and watered (still trying to drink at least 8 glasses daily), with work that is productive, and play that is not intended to be. Because…
“An empty lantern provides no light. Self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly.” -Unknown
I'm learning more about my art, and from my art, every day. It's not so much a matter of skill or practice... mostly it's a shift in perspective, a way of shaping how I look at and exist in the world.
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