Sipping tea on the back doorstep is a wake up call for Louise.
The women in designer furniture ads have the self-care thing down pat. They swan about their homes in neutral-toned, silk jersey loungewear, with no worries to furrow their pretty brows. Their kids don’t get sick. The laundry is always done. Cooking is a joy. It’s so easy! They caress bench tops and drape across sofas, with all the time in the world to pamper themselves. Guilt? What’s that?
While I happily accept that all the botoxing, derma-filling and photoshopping in the world could not make my life look like this:
I still want a bit of what they are having. Even though I have been rudely interrupted by family events of late, dragged cruelly from writing this post, I am soldiering on. I am still on my mission to find more balance, harmony and satisfaction by practicing better self- care.
It seems that letting go of guilt is the first step to inner peace. “Cultivating a self is not selfish,” says Jennifer Boire, author of The Tao of Turning Fifty: What Every Woman Turning Forty Needs to Know. I was pretty sure I had this piece covered. I’ve been reading, thinking and writing about it. I know my needs are important. (Almost) nothing gets between me and my Friday dance class. I have no qualms about going to yoga. It’s my new BFF, and I am unashamedly addicted to it. It is an hour of pure self-care. Afterwards I feel woozy with peace. To top it off, William, my nearly two-year-old son, plays happily at the gym creche. Totally guilt-free!
Guilt was far from mind when I set out to recreate that lovely peaceful feeling at home. Boire suggests creating a mini- retreat by lighting a candle, playing relaxing music and breathing exercises to get into the swing of it. It’s a really lovely concept, and you can make it as simple or as intricate as you like. With William finally napping, I opted for a glass of cool iced green tea, prepared especially the night before, as my only self-care prop. Quick and easy. No candles or music to locate. No pen or paper for now. No phone, no iPad. Just me and my tea. I let myself be guided quickly and directly to the back doorstep. Out of view of chores and distractions, with a refreshing afternoon breeze offering relief from Sydney’s late summer humidity. It’s not the prettiest view at my house; there is chicken poo on the patio from our very free-range chickens and a birds-eye view of the rubbish bins. For me though, it was a natural choice. From a young age, back doorsteps of many abodes around Australia and Europe have provided a brief refuge from the world, to collect my thoughts about boyfriends or uni assignments, musing on the meaning of life and my role in it. And although the very earliest of these pre-family time-out sessions were tarred by ciggies (I stopped that stinky habit a long time ago), I was on the right track taking time to self-reflect.
Sipping tea, I now reveled in the freedom of leaving chores undone. Warning: Stepford Wives and my mother-in-law, look away! The sink was full of dirty dishes – let those wicked Sydney ants attack the bread, cheese, egg and strawberry scraps. Dirty clothes stayed wherever thrown. Toys galore. Bills unpaid. Phone calls not made. They could all wait for Queen Me. To give the session some structure, I asked myself how I was doing in three key areas: mind, body and spirit. My answers were many and jumbled. I see many more back doorstep sessions to sort through them. “Be calm,” I reminded myself, before I had a chance to dwell upon how overwhelming that could become. No rush, no pressure. This is self-care! One answer, however, did stand out loud and clear. I was struck by how divine it felt to sit down and sip my tea. Not dragging it from room to room, drinking on the run, lucky to finish it. Do you ever stop and sit down, at home or work, just you, your thoughts and your beverage? It sounds obvious, but to me it was a revelation in simple and achievable self-care, and I’ll be doing it some more.
Except that next time I might keep a closer eye on the clock. I got a bit lost in the lovely moment, and all of a sudden it was a mad rush, tearing a sleeping William from his bed, to get to school pick-up on time. The undone chores put me behind the eight-ball, and the evening was chaos. At the peak of cooking dinner, supervising homework, chairing debates over toys, killing ants, emptying dishwasher, cajoling tired toddler, I was bowled over by a tsunami of guilt. The kids will get to bed late (as always) because I am still doing chores. They should eat more vegetables. Less sugar. I should create more enticing meals. I should be more organised. I shouldn’t feel tired and want more sleep, there are people far worse off than me. I’m a wimp. STOP! At least I was aware and caught myself thinking these thoughts. I recalled the back doorstep feeling, breathed, and calmed a little. It helped. A lot.
Carving out time for self-care is well worth the effort, but is much easier blogged than done. It is more of an excavation, with heavy duty digging machinery and solid steel support beams to underpin the presently sandy foundations of my mind. I dig a little under the surface, and guilt keeps falling in, blocking my view and filling the space where I want to create a deeper connection with myself. But I will continue, with more tea and renewed awareness to nip that guilt in the bud. Have you had similar guilty thoughts? Have you managed to stop them before they overwhelm? I’d love to hear your experiences. I have a feeling I’m not alone here …