The surprising generosity of self-care
As we emerge into this brave, new, mildly apocalyptic world, I’m acutely aware of the tension, the way my skin feels pulled too tightly over my bones, and how our collective defaults have become more defensive and fearful, less curious and soft. I can’t help but be affected by the raging upheaval and grief, but also know somehow that these are a necessary part of the wrenching transformation that is surviving a global pandemic. It can all feel so pressurized, this expanding and contracting and stretching into our new selves, our shifting communities, our redesigned relationships, and re-imagined workplaces.
Because really, there’s no escape from this seismic cultural shifting, no playbook for navigating such a time as this. We’re charting a course through unfamiliar territory and sometimes, the best I can do is stumble around and figure out how to take care of myself, how to get my footing in such an unsteady time. It’s not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Where To Start
One thing I’ve learned for sure is that in order for me to have the energy to care for others or live my life in the way I prefer, I need to start by taking care of myself. And this is no abstraction. I know now more than ever that it is only by caring for myself that I can create the world I’m so desperately longing for. For those of us conditioned as women to prioritize the needs of others above ourselves, it can feel quite counter-cultural, uncomfortable, even revolutionary to honor our own needs and prioritize our own wellbeing. And yet, it’s only in choosing to invest in myself that I am able to fully show up authentically and sustainably in my home, job, and community.
In this way, budgeting for my self-care becomes not a luxury, but absolutely essential to showing up wholehearted in a world desperate to be healed. And for me, this starts with the cumulative effect of everyday choices, and this starts with the power of generosity.
The Power of Generosity
In working towards replacing our culture of fear and scarcity with a culture of abundance and love, I believe generosity is the most powerful, transformational currency we have.
Instead of overbooking my already packed calendar and berating myself or feeling guilty when I’m burned out, I will choose generosity of rest. I will order takeout, extend to myself grace, tenderness, and empathy like I do to my little niece when she’s cranky, and tuck myself into warm, clean sheets for a nice and early bedtime. I will snuggle my cat, silence my phone, and treat myself to sleeping in as late as I like, without apology.
Instead of feeling pressured to perform socially or to say yes to events when I’m out of steam, I will choose the generosity of authenticity, and allow my “No” to be a full sentence. I will practice speaking my honest truth in love, and trust that my integrity is worth the cost no matter how it’s received.
Instead of over-saturating myself with the doom and gloom of the 24-hour news cycle, I will choose the generosity of pause. I will unplug and head outside sans phone to immerse myself in the blooming, buzzing, and chirping world around me. I will offer thanks for the little delights of the kids’ giggling echoing in my neighborhood and the fresh bouquet left on my porch by a generous neighbor. I will plan a date with a friend, and find reasons to laugh. I will honor the limits of my nervous system and human capacity, and remember for better or worse, the news will be there when I return, but only when I’m ready.
Instead of mindless online spending and shopping, instead of clicking on the latest Instagram ad (they know me well), I will choose instead the generosity of curiosity. I will get honest with myself about my spending habits and get curious about the needs I’m trying to meet with the tik-tok-trending bathing suit or the latest exorbitantly-priced face cream. Am I avoiding something or trying to create something? Am I meeting a need, or trying to fill a hole? Do my purchases feel like an investment in the life I’m trying to create, or a distraction?
If money could talk, what would she say? Would she sound judgmental and harsh, or generous and forgiving? Do I chat her up like an old pal, or do I try to avoid making eye contact with her? From a 30,000 foot view, what would Madame Money think of how I allocate my resources? Could I convince her that my latest purchases are an investment in my future, or would she see right through me?
Perhaps she’d be far more generous than I’ve ever imagined her. Maybe she’d help me see it’s not an equipment update I need to record a podcast, but a time of retreat and restoration to reconnect to my vision. Maybe she’d point out how isolated I’ve been as a solopreneur through a global pandemic, and how worthy an investment it would be to reconnect to people I love and respect. Maybe she’d want to teach me the art of saving, or remind me that I am worthy of big-ticket purchases and of creating a lifestyle more comfortable than I’ve ever experienced or imagined.
When the idea of self-care feels overwhelming or even selfish, I make a practice of choosing generosity and suddenly my budget for self-care no longer feels impossible but hopeful, like a boundless treasure chest of everyday choices to invest in myself and the world I’m creating. My capacity to choose the generosity of time and rest, of play and pause, of spending and saving are no longer staggering concepts, but completely possible- and accessible!- everyday choices that will add up to an abundant life rich in resources, rest, and relationships.
“Giving is the secret of abundance”
And maybe, just maybe, that giving starts with me.