Let’s talk about… Self Care

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Self care is about feeling better and this is a story about getting better at feeling better. Let’s just get this out there. I am terrible at self care. I could say that I don’t have enough time between work and kids and everything else. I could say it’s because I was never taught the importance of self care. Regardless, the fact that I am writing this means that I am about 100 times better that where I started (nowhere).

I don’t at all know all there is to know. But here’s what I’ve learned so far…

  • There are some prerequisites. First of all. you have to want to feel better and be well. If you don’t, it won’t work. Also, you need to have some self-awareness. You just do. You need to be able to recognize that you aren’t well or that you are feeling stressed or whatever else you may feel…
  • Self care is different for everyone. What regulates or recharges one person may be completely different than another. I am the kind of person that has a hard time sitting still, relaxing, being chill. I also have a lot of anxiety surrounding my environment. There is no way that I can recharge in a messy room. It just won’t happen. Just knowing there are things that need to be done even will prevent me from relaxing. So, for me a huge self care activity is making a list of to-dos (i.e. straightening the house, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash) and then identifying an activity I want to do (i.e. writing, reading, etc.) and completing my to-do list so I can enjoy the activity.
  • You have to put yourself above everything else. In the world of family, kids, work, and more, it is easy put yourself aside due to (lack of) time, others’ needs, or whatever else. For me, I have to remind myself that without (the well version of) myself, those other things will start to fall apart, I won’t do my best work, I’ll get snippy with the kids, my relationships will suffer.
  • Self care takes time and practice. At least for me, you don’t just decide in your head one day that you are going to practice good self care and poof, it happens. It can take time to figure out what activities will help. For me, it depends on the moment, the mood, the level of stress, anxiety, depression.
  • People don’t talk about self care. Well, too bad. I’m talking about it.

So, here’s what it really looks like for me. I’m chugging along in life. Slowly, almost unnoticed, I start to develop a tiny bit of worry. It’s not even there really. But, it is. My every interaction is framed by it. Maybe a petty argument occurs. My mood is affected by these little negative things that are happening. I start to get preoccupied. It doesn’t matter what the tiny bit of worry was that started this whole thing. It’s now a different and much bigger bit of worry. It may even be full on anxiety. Maybe my wife asks me, “What’s wrong?” I say, “Nothing.” A couple of days pass and this is usually where I start to realize that I need to do something for myself (I aspire to realize this about eight sentences back). So, I make time. I tell my wife I need it (she’s painfully supportive every time, mostly because she knew two days ago). Alas, I take a walk. I read a book or paint a picture. Sometimes I put together puzzles or read comic books. I do whatever it is that I need to do to feel better.

What do you do to help yourself? Do you experience a similar cycle? How do you take care of your mental health?

Birthday Weekend (the untold story)

Every six, eight, or eleven years (leap years make this calculation complicated), my birthday (5/12) and Mother’s Day are one in the same. I am used to sharing some of the birthday glory with the just before or soon to come holiday. As a child, this was slightly annoying in the way that it is often annoying for kids born near Christmas or another holiday. This annoyance was complicated by being told as a child that I was born on Mother’s Day, a lie that I was not aware of until I found out as a young adult that I was actually born on a Saturday. Something isn’t adding up here… I didn’t know it at the time, but that little lie was one of many devices that my mother used in creating the perpetual guilt that lives inside me. It was an element of control. It was unhealthy.

I’m skipping ahead, and believe me, I’m skipping a lot. Last Thursday night (5/11), I searched the internet for the best call and message blocking systems for my phone. Despite many conversations, messages, and emails, I still get calls and messages from my mother lined with guilt inducing comments or questions and I’m done with it.

I’ve spent (many) years ‘dealing with’ my own emotions surrounding my relationship with my mother and have recently achieved my greatest (thus far) level of acceptance and peace with it. Some of this peace has come from my own journey through motherhood and firm belief that my kids owe me nothing. I (well, my wife and I) brought them into this world. It is our responsibility to nurture them, teach them, raise them to be independent beings. Our hopes for our children are for them to be who they are and be happy. Simple as that.

My mother once told me, in defense of her anti-LGBT statements, “you’ll understand when you have kids of your own.” What I understand now is how wrong she was.

No one should feel like they have to maintain unhealthy relationships with people, related by blood or not. Not out of politeness, not out of guilt, not out of a sense of obligation.

For many years, my birthdays have been enjoyed (and sometimes not) with varying amounts of anxiety and guilt with Mother’s Day looming. I’m done with that, too. This year, mine was great.

Birthday Weekend

Sometimes when you are very fortunate and you have a birthday, it is amazing.

I woke up on Friday morning to each of my kids giving me a card and gift. They were both so excited and so cute. Earrings and chocolate, in case you were wondering.

Then, while I took a shower, my wife and the kids went downstairs and made me breakfast. My favorite thing: breakfast that I didn’t have to make. Nom.

Skip to eight-ish hours later, Ashley picked me up from work sans kids and we went shopping on Church Street in Burlington. We went into many stores without any child related interruptions. (We did however get a call from Andy to tell us that he lost his first tooth! More on how fast kids grow up later).

We took this adorable photo on the steps of the court house (where we were legally married in 2009).

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I got two awesome comic books (stay tuned, pregnant Spiderwoman may turn into a post of it’s own).

We had dinner at Butch and Babe’s, where I had a birthday beer (Life in Technicolor, Northfield, VT), and Green Bowties (not pictured).

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Saturday we spent the day getting getting stuff done around the house (one of my favorite things to do is cross things off a list). We had lunch and dinner care of the Hunger Mountain Co-op in Montpelier (lunch dine-in, dinner take out).

We took the Statehouse trail in Hubbard Park, an uphill walk to the the Tower (but downhill on the way back).

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All of these instances of ‘we’ are me-and-wife we, not our-family-of-four we, because the kids had a weekend at Grandma and Papa-U’s house (Thanks, Grandma!)

Birthdays happen. Sometimes they are good, sometimes terrible. This year, mine was great.