After all these years and all my preaching, it’s still hard for me to follow my own advice on one thing. Asking for help.
Last week I hurt my back and have been unable to bend, crouch, or twist my torso. I have to lift my left leg with my hands to just get into the car. It’s a super pretty picture.
With a Memorial Day party on the horizon, I didn’t know how I would get the house clean in time. Keith suggested we ask our friends for the name of their cleaning lady. I hemmed and hawed and tried to say I could do it, but in the end I admitted it would be nice to have help.
Here’s the thing. We’ve previously discussed hiring someone a couple times a year just to do the things we hate, like scrubbing baseboards and dusting crown molding, door frames, and blinds. (I don’t know how often you do yours, but I promise you don’t want to know the last time I did mine.)
Every time, I changed my mind with an inner monologue something like this: Meredith, your body is able and you can do it for free. This is ridiculous. What you may not hear hidden underneath the self-talk is pride-fueled shame. Shame says I don’t need help.
Now slightly injured, all those reasons flew out the window when we welcomed N and her crew into our house. As I showed them the cleaning supplies I whined, “I normally do this myself, but I hurt my back,” afraid they were judging me.
They cleaned it top to bottom (probably better than I ever have) as I sat on my back porch. I sat there drinking my sparkling water, online shopping, and thinking this was pretty awesome but also uncomfortable. I sent my mother a text: I feel like a slavedriver. Truth be told, I felt a bit like I’d time traveled to the Antebellum South, like I should be drinking sweet tea while someone fanned me. This is just wrong, right? I wondered.
I snuck a few peeks. She’s cleaning my AC vents! Oh my gosh, is she standing on my counter to clean my light fixtures? After the wonderful cleaning goddess and her team left, I opened the fridge. “KEITH! She cleaned our refrigerator shelves!” This morning I walked into my closet. They lined up my shoes. They folded the jeans I had thrown on a chair. Then I went in the laundry room. It’s organized! In 3 hours, 4 ladies did even more than we expected.
Shame turned to gratitude as I realized it would have taken me a solid week to do all of this on my own. With an injury, it would probably take even longer. (It took me an hour just to pick up Henry’s train creations so they could vacuum.) These ladies performed an invaluable service for us. Allowing them to care for my house was uncomfortable but necessary self-care.
I’ve gotten pretty good at taking care of myself in the last few years. Asking for help shouldn’t be so unsettling. But here’s the dirty secret: I still carry prejudice against activities that feel “rich.” I push back against materialistic lifestyles and spoiled attitudes. Taking a walk everyday doesn’t sound as indulgent as hiring a housekeeper.
Let’s put it on the table: This is a weed in my own soul that needs pulling. Prejudice is prejudice. Pride is pride.
This simple thing, this act of allowing someone to clean my home, has me considering what might feel uncomfortable to others. If self-care sounds like a dirty word to you, why is that so?
What sorts of pride might you have?
What sorts of shame?
What sorts of excuses?
“I just don’t have time.” Is that true? Or do you feel busyness is a badge of honor?
“I don’t like manicures.” (That was my first excuse too.) No problem. What do you like to do?
“I have too many children at home.” Oh, boy. I bet that’s tough. Can you and a friend, spouse, or partner get creative with how to make this happen?
“That’s for people like Oprah.” True, she has more resources, but self-care doesn’t have to be expensive.
“My mother and grandmother never took a moment for themselves.” I hear you, but maybe they should have. How would their lives and their souls have been different?
Like me, my friend Amy Hoogervorst gets all the reasons you (particularly you nurturing, busy mamas!) resist taking care of yourself. She created 31 Acts of Self Care for the Nooks and Crannies of Your Life just for folks like us. I hope you’ll check it out. In the meantime, here a few suggestions from me:
- Turn off and tune out whatever noises are keeping you from hearing your own heart.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Jot down what other people do to fill your cup. Then do that for yourself.
No two people are identical, not even identical twins, so your self-care routine doesn’t have to look like mine. But if you’ve been resistant to the idea, I hope you’ll consider how you can tend to your own mind, body, and soul.