Falling down: It’s what I did today, quite suddenly, in the kitchen. I sent the kids outside to shovel snow while I started dinner. Except I didn’t exactly start dinner. I just sunk down next to the fridge and started crying.
At one point, my cocker spaniel came over and gave me his concerned old man face, which is when he cocks his head to the side and puts a paw on my leg. “Are you okay?” I could almost hear him asking.
“I’m okay,” I replied through tears, out loud, to the dog. “I just need to sit here for a minute.”
It must have been more than a minute, because the kids finished shovelling and I was still sitting on the cold tile floor with my back up against the pantry. By this point, I had stopped crying, but I had that splotchy giveaway face going on.
“Are you okay?” my daughter asked in actual human words.
“I’m okay,” I replied.
“Do you want to get up?” she asked.
“Not yet. Soon.”
She hugged me. “Crying can be good sometimes. But I’m sorry you’re having a hard day.”
A hard day. A hard week. A hard month.
Not depression hard. Believe me, I’ve been there more than once. This is just general overwhelmed-ness. There’s a whole lot going on with a whole lot of people I really care about, and I can’t seem to do enough to help them. Legal battles, mental health issues, critical illnesses, poverty, major life changes. So much stuff on my mind.
But honestly, what’s happening isn’t the problem; how I’m dealing with it is the problem.
A lot of what’s going on is out of my control, which, as an anxiety sufferer, is balls. I want to control ALL THE THINGS. Because then I can make it better, you know, since I could then FIX ALL THE THINGS, what with being a lawyer and a doctor and a therapist and super rich.
And since I can’t control what’s going on, I check in on everyone all the time, ask what I can do to help, run around helping in whatever ways I can, keep thinking I’m not helping enough, feel guilty because of that, and jump at every request to help some more. Need something? Ask Amanda. She’ll say yes!
I have this rule that I put myself first. I’m selfish like that. I take care of my own stuff, like exercise and sleep and homecooked meals and downtime, so that my anxiety stays under control and I have the mental, physical and emotional energy to help others in that balanced way they write articles about in lady magazines.
The problem is, I tend to be a rule breaker (it’s the activist in me.) And sometimes I break my own rules, like when I take too much on, don’t respect my own boundaries, and forget how to say the words “no” and “I can’t take that on right now” and “I have a show on Netflix I need to watch at the moment, so I’ll get back to you later.”
And you know what happens when I break my own self-care rule?
I’ll give you a hint: It involves a kitchen floor and a dinner that wasn’t ready until 7pm.
Like many people, especially women, I am guilty of taking on too much. Of saying too much “yes” when I should say more “no,” and of trudging on in the service of others until I can’t take another step. And, what’s worse? I often feel like some kind of hero for doing it.
But here’s the thing: I am not a hero for putting myself last. I am a damned fool.
It is not heroic to sacrifice my own wellbeing for others. It’s a dangerous and unspoken game I’ve been taught as part of womanhood. Do everything you can for everyone else and, if you have time, maybe you can do something for you after that.
But don’t do it the other way around. Never that way. Don’t be a selfish bitch. Who wants to be one of those?
After sitting on the kitchen floor for about 20 minutes with a serious case of blotch face, I remembered: this bitch want to be one of those.
I need – and I emphasize the need part – to put myself front and center. Selfishly, delightfully first. If I don’t, I fall apart very quickly.
Of course, there are times when I can’t easily put me first. That’s life. Family emergencies and various other crises will undoubtedly decrease the amount of time and energy I can put into taking care of myself. But what I’ve come to realize is, if I’m consistent with self-care, I can bank some of that goodness for the crazier days. I carry some extra energy and strength with me during those times, and a promise to fit whatever “me time” I can into the current reality.
But I haven’t been taking that time as much lately. So dinner was late. And my makeup was a mess. And the dog was confused. And my kid had to counsel me. All because I forgot to be a selfish bitch. Silly me. I guess I needed a little reminder.
So tomorrow morning I’m going to the gym, where I will not be able to check in with anyone for at least an hour. And, in between bouts of work-related things and kid stuff, I’m going to read a few chapters of a super trashy book that will bring me joy as it sears my brain cells. And dinner is going to be on time, but stupid easy. I’m thinking tuna melts.
And I won’t feel the least bit guilty about it. Because, while I can’t fix ALL THE THINGS, I can take care of ALL THE ME. She’s worth it, and she makes good tuna melts when she has her shit together.
Self-care: Not always easy, but always necessary.
Duly noted, kitchen floor. Duly noted.