I've been reading articles on how higher ed is getting it wrong, on how homeschoolers need to cover their bases, on nanotechnology in the Roman empire. And then I read more at the NieNie Dialogues , which I've found so inspiring over the years.
With all that in my head, now I'm thinking. I have a little painting that needs to be done, some as maintenance, and some to take things up a notch. We have First Week projects to do, including our goals for the coming year (personal, spiritual, academic), and some tidying before we fling ourselves into things. It's time to put up the wall of Post-its to figure out how to make all the parts work for four kids with four different school schedules to consider.
Life is funny and has been for a long, looong time. It's full, rich, and regularly unpredictable. Despite that, patterns do emerge: we find that we need to feed ourselves in order to continue to feed those around us. Whatever we're doing, hopefully with deep intention and a whole heart, whether we're paid for our work or not, spiritual refreshers are non-negotiable. The more years I have on this sometimes silly planet, the more connected I find the physical to the spiritual to the intellectual. Sweaty endeavors make me a better human in every way. Bible reading and meditating on higher things, reading French philosophers (must stay a step ahead of children!), study abstracts, and neurological developmental theories - these make me a better human because they require things of me that the rest of my life does not.
I've been sometimes impatient with terms such as "radical self-care" and other pop-psych notions. We are a busy people, dagnabit! We are too easily taken in by soothing notions when what we need is a good slipping off of several layers of skin in order to become who we actually are. Harumph. Well, yes. Yes, we are busy and too easily taken in. And also, sometimes, we've actually had just about all we can take. We cannot run our bodies forever without hydrating, resting, and stretching. We can't spout sweet little truisms without continuing to develop the basis for an expanding understanding of actual truth. We can't understand random doctoral abstracts without a pre-existing curiosity and decent vocabulary (At the moment, I'm a little fixated on nystagmus in relationship to eye gaze AAC. Sorry.).
It's pretty important to start out with a plan that allows the stretching, the development of knowledge, of vocab, and yes, curiosity. It's important to keep the plan flexible, so it bends when the perpetually unpredictable bits predictably push the limits of its tensile strength. It's important to plan for brushing your own teeth when you have a newborn, for maintaining muscle when even sleep is barely manageable, and to create new ways to enrich and elevate your closest relationships, even when the plan gets turned inside out, despite your best efforts.
There's an awful lot that I keep trying to control in this new normal, but can't. I do not adore this feature. Part of my weekend has involved a complicated conversation with the pharmacy, followed by a chat with the neurologist, refills called in for two meds, and a new one to consider. My squirrel brain wants me to find better ways to do this, and so I do. There's always a better way to organize, manage, or see the challenges in front of us. And also? Sometimes there isn't. Sometimes the best we can do is acknowledge the truth: we're only human, and so we suffer the effects of gravity and limited internal resources.
There are only so many hours in a day, so many ways to work what needs working, and so many ways to recreate new resources. Beginning a new day refreshed requires, um, radical self-care. Go ahead, cringe. I am.
And then try reconsidering your horizons This much we can all do, at stoplights, if there's literally no other time. Imagine yourself as someone else, inhabiting a wholly different experience. Pick up the bits of that alter ego and return to your regularly scheduled life with them, using small shifts to make changes that allow you (and kids, spouse, etc.) to re-design your family, career, finances, homekeeping, toothbrushing, and yes, the more radical kinds of self-care. Perhaps you've been someone who's said for decades that she'd only run when chased by a bear. Really? What an interesting hill to die on. Or you've said that you just can't manage money, an unruly child, your own snarky mouth, or your mom's medical needs. So who will? And better still - your kids are watching you, collecting details for their own adulthoods. If you're not practicing radical self-care, radical self-accountability, radical reinvention, why not?
Guilt isn't useful unless we let it spur us on to better choices, so we can bypass the self-flagellation. That's a dead-end. While we may need to put this on the To Do list in order to make it actually happen, beating ourselves about the head for dropping this ball defeats the purpose of the exercise. Nobody gets Life right all the time. Big deal. The real question becomes: How do we move on from here, right now? How do we build ourselves into the people we need to be? Are called to be?
There's a checklist, of sorts: Do you need Vitamin D? Iron? A hand to hold? Heart-pounding exercise? Bloodwork? A better diet? Someone to talk to? Get there. Get it, whatever it is, and then think again about where you're headed, how you're getting there, and what you desire for your legacy - for your kids, and maybe grandkids.
After those starting issues are tweaked, the thing that consistently works best for me when I'm at my wits' end is to execute an end run for whatever stressor has me wigging out. Some kind of creative pursuit that results in a real payoff is best. A painting project, on canvas or walls, has worked well. Sewing curtains, reorganizing closets or kitchen cabinets, moving furniture, scrubbing something down - each of these has a place in helping to create a clearer head. There's always something about a paint brush for me, though.
Look. I don't know your story. But I do know some stories, including my own. Things can be so tough. Sometimes they're brutal, man, and they will suck away every breath, all focus and energy, and leave you a panting, prostrate husk. It's horrendous.
There's just one thing, though: We're tougher. We really, truly are. At least today. And tomorrow? Tomorrow comes after another sleep, and with fresh opportunity.
And I have more pep talks, stuffed in my pockets. Seriously. Call me.