I remember when all I had to care for was myself. Be-bopping around a college campus, eating whenever and whatever I wanted. My 20-something self was easygoing and relaxed.
I treated myself often to perks, like manicures and fresh cosmetics, after a stressful project like writing a 15-page paper or working 20 hours while studying for finals.
A fire stirred within me then as I basked in a life free of any pressing appointments, answering to no one but myself.
As the years passed, I stopped taking “extra” care of myself amid my growing responsibilities of marriage and babies. Of course I bathed (and got the occasional touch up), but these affairs were tended to like a race against the clock. My little bonuses here and there started to become few and far between.
I began to grow cold inside and forgot about myself.
Life started to become a distraction rather than a journey.
As I grew older and my to-do list grew longer, my definition of the word “care” changed.
The meaning went from being a positive notion, “to like or be willing to do or have something” to being an obligation, often stirring stress in my heart – “keep (someone or something) safe and provided for”.
Enthusiastically caring for myself shifted to tense responsibility and in all of its pressure, distracted me from having peaceful days.
I put my own self-care on the back burner. (Heck, some days, I wasn’t even on the stove, I was more like a forgotten leftover at the back of the fridge!)
Since my 3rd child was born, I have come full circle in my way of thinking. Yes, I have a job to do. Yes, I have a home to tend and a growing family. And no, my to-do list isn’t miraculously shorter. I am finding that I need to put as much care into my core and my spirit as I do my physical home.
Now more than ever, it is the “little things” that bring a smile to my day.
I’m no longer relegated to simply existing on the back burner. I’ve moved up to the middle burner.
You know, the 5th burner?
I am often just simmering there, not yet boiling but slowly heating up again with the desires of my heart. And my desire of the day could be as simple as rising to absorb a hot cup of coffee in the silence of myself before everyone else in the world wakes up.
It is important to keep a fire burning in life and it doesn’t necessarily have to be immediately life changing. Maintaining and caring for myself as a priority means that I am better able to take care of those that I love. You don’t have to abandon your daily responsibilities.
I am a firm believer in baby steps.
Instead of trying to set a speed record on showers, I spend an extra 60 seconds in the shower to really shave my legs as an act of tending to myself.
Instead of reheating the same cup of coffee 5 times, I should pour a fresh cup or even brew another pot in order to experience the vibrant flavor.
I’m going to make a bold statement: You should never feel guilty for taking care of your first “home”. You will be inhabiting it for a long time. Your spirit thrives in a place that is tended to.
Watch over yourself the way you would your home.
Style your hair like you would your beloved chotchkies. Invest in your skin the way you nurture your garden.
After a while, you will step back and look forward to caring for yourself instead of thinking of it as a chore. Nurture the fire within you, for that’s what shines out to those you love.