Taking care of you

I am currently on tour to mark the release of A CURIOUS BEGINNING. Regular blogging will resume in October, but please drop by the blog every Tuesday and Thursday in September for posts from the archive. In the meantime, hope to see you on tour!

This post originally ran in 2009.

Lately I’ve been talking to lots of women who are in desperate need of some self-care. I don’t know if it’s a reflection of the economy or the planetary alignments or just general busyness, but there is a great deal of putting everybody else first and it needs to stop. I’m not saying we shouldn’t care for the people and responsibilities in our lives. Far from it. I’m saying we have to care for ourselves first before we can manage caring for anybody else. (Remember your friendly flight attendant and the admonition to secure your OWN oxygen mask before you try to help someone else. If you fail to do this, you could lose consciousness before you are of use to anyone. Scary, no?)

More than once in the past few weeks I’ve talked to women who are burned out, burned down, and running on empty. They are taking themselves and all of their commitments so seriously they’ve neglected themselves and they’ve neglected FUN. And yes, I am prescribing a little frivolity, a little selfishness because I think frivolity is essential and a small amount of well-applied selfishness is an investment against depression and burn-out. If you give and give and give until the well is dry, what’s left to nourish and nurture you? And the worst part is, it’s insidious. We let our boundaries slip a little at a time–an extra e-mail here, a “yes” when we long to say “no” there–and pretty soon you are overbooked, overextended, overwhelmed. If anyone presented you a list of your commitments in toto, you’d think they were barking mad. “NO woman could possibly manage all of that,” you’d say scornfully. And you’d be right.

But things trickle into our lives piecemeal, and taken by themselves, none of these extra responsibilities seem so weighty. But when mountaineers climb Everest, they clip off everything that is not essential. Every extra label, unnecessary lengths of bootlace, blank pages from paperback novels. Why? Because it all adds up and because weight matters. We can only carry so much, so we need to make sure that what we carry is essential. It’s time to honor the wee small voice that says, “I need a rest,” and give her time to take a nap, to read a book, to sit and BE. I know women who are very busy being wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, executives, artists–but so many of them are neglecting to be SELVES.

The commitment to take care of yourself is the most important one–if you are untended, you will rebel, I promise you. You will grow crabby and impatient. You’ll eat for comfort. You’ll shop irresponsibly. You will snatch solace wherever you can find it, but it will not last. It won’t last until you make a permanent commitment to care for yourself properly.

We have all been there at some point. We have all neglected ourselves and overextended and resented it. The only cure is to withdraw, come back to ourselves, and take inventory of what is really important. And here are some resources to help; read one or two, read them all. Take what you can use and then put it to use, I beg you. Life is either far too short or far too long to be unhappy, don’t you think?
(Also, I think comments are fixed now. I’ve removed the captcha box, and we’ll see if that makes it easier for y’all to leave comments.)

Simple Abundance Sarah Ban Breathnach
Romancing the Ordinary Sarah Ban Breathnach
The Artist’s Way Julia Cameron
Vein of Gold Julia Cameron
Living Artfully Sandra Magsamen
Living a Beautiful Life Alexandra Stoddard
On Becoming Fearless Arianna Huffington
A Year by the Sea Joan Anderson
The Joy of Doing Things Badly Veronica Chambers
Hip Tranquil Chick Kimberly Wilson
Wear More Cashmere Jennifer Sander
31 Words to Create a Guilt-Free Life ed. Karen Bouris
Succulent Wild Woman SARK
Eat Mangoes Naked SARK
The Comfort Queen’s Guide to Life Jennifer Louden
The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women Gail McMeekin
Creating a Life Worth Living Carol Lloyd
Take Time for Your Life Cheryl Richardson

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