3.29.2013

self-care

Kate Potter's Namaste Yoga DVD series, Season 1

With a week off, I've had more time to face myself. But self-reflection isn't always pretty.

I'm long overdue at the dentist, for one. Doctors in general terrify me—I'm always afraid they'll find something terminally wrong or else terribly expensive to fix. Plus, I have no dental insurance. But avoiding the pain of a dentist, both physical and financial—as well as how technicians tend to condescend as if I'm some child who has eaten too many lollipops—is like playing ostrich, and grown-ups aren't supposed to stick their heads in sand.

Before I started my current job last September and pre-bus pass, I also used to walk a lot, heading out for a few hours at a time, two or three times a week, striding to and from downtown by the river and across the Hawthorne bridge on errands, or, during my first year in Portland, walking for an hour a day, exploring northeast neighborhoods (and feeling house envy). For a couple years, I also did a half hour of flow yoga every day and loved how the stretches and deep breathing felt in my body, my cells, muscles, tissues, and bones. But personal and financial circumstances changed, stress mounted, commute hours multiplied, fatigue set in, and my regular, low-impact exercise habits died out.

While self-care can mean easy, fun additions like taking more bubble baths, buying or cutting flowers from the yard to enliven a room, going for a sunny walk, cooking a special meal just for oneself, treating oneself to a massage or sexy new outfit, or meeting a good friend for coffee, the harder part of self-care can mean facing down fears and procrastinations by eliminating underlying stressors—like seeing a doctor for a nagging health issue, organizing an overstuffed closet, filing taxes early, cleaning a dirty house, or having a hard interpersonal conversation with a coworker, friend, or loved one to be more assertive and express one's truth. Self-care at its core means treating not just surface needs—which of course can feel good and be equally important—but also doing things to earn self-respect, like being kinder to others (especially when they aren't acting kind themselves), taking the initiative on a project, or tackling the first small steps towards larger life goals, such as going back to school, learning a new skill, or losing excess weight—in sum, focusing on fixing one's own problems (rather than other people's), meeting challenges, and working to achieve one's own dreams and longings.


Suzanne Deason yoga and pilates DVDs

Taking a good, long look in the mirror right now means admitting how I've been living the last six months isn't healthy, simple, or sustainable. Something needs to change, whether it means getting up an extra half hour early every weekday at 4:30 a.m. (gulp) to exercise (or else fitting it in before bed); moving close to work to a less desirable, less central part of town to eliminate the long commute and free up almost three more hours each workday; or finding a different job altogether. Such decisions we all make, often unsure if a big decision is "right" or "best" or if those concepts even mean anything. But healthy choices matter. Living more simply, more sustainably, more peacefully and energetically matters—because merely existing, treading water, never finding enough time for creativity or travel or exercise or new experiences, is not making a life worth living. And that, my friends, is scarier than any dentist.

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