When Self-Care is Uncomfortable

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. 

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 8-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

2 Comments

  1. SO SIMILAR STORY
    TIME TO EMPTY HILTON HEAD FOR A FEW REASONS…GETTING READY TO SELL, BOOMER COULD USE SOME FURNITURE FOR HIS NEW PLACE AND POTENTIAL OWNERS NEED SPACE. YOU KNOW WHO WAS DRIVING TO HH, WITH BOOMER, RENTING A U HAUL LOADING DRIVING UNPACKING…….HER EVER THOUGHTFUL HUSBAND INITIALLY FORBADE THIS….THAT WAS ALTERED TO…HER HUSBAND
    DEMANDED…THAT WAS ALTERED TO HER HUSBAND REQUESTED THAT SHE SPEND ONE HOUR RESEARCHING OTHERS DOING ALL OF THE WORK. SO BOTTOM LINE…FOR EXACTLY $315 MORE, THE ENTIRE MOVE WAS MADE BY PROFESSIONALS ALLOWING OUR CARS NOT TO BE USED, AND A PEACEFUL WEEKEND AT THE LAKE. ALL HER HUSBAND KEPT SAYING WAS, YOU ARE 64 YEARS OLD AND THIS IS UNNECESSARY. RATHER THAN FEELING ENTITLED, FEEL GOOD THAT YOU SUPPORTED PEOPLE WHO NEED THE WORK AND THE MONEY AND YOU HELPED PEOPLE WHO POSSIBLY (?) ARE MORE EFFICIENT THAN ARE YOU AT THAT TASK. MY POINT ON THIS WAS IT WAS A 19 HOUR BACK BREAKING TASK, AND BY PAYING AN ADDITIONAL $315 IT WAS APPROXIMATELY $16.50 AN HOUR MORE THAT WAS SPENT. NOTHING DAMAGED…NOTHING LOST. IT IS NOT FEELING RICH, NOR ENTITLED AS BOTH OF YOU WORK HARD FOR YOUR MONEY…IT IS USING YOUR TIME MORE EFFICIENTLY AND BEING SMART ABOUT THINGS. THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FEELING RICH AND SPOILED ATTITUDES. I HAVE NO PROBLEM WITH PEOPLE WHO WORK HARD, INVEST WISELY, AND ENJOY THE FRUITS OF THEIR LABOR VERSUS ENTITLED, INHERITED, LAZY SPOILED.
    I HAVE FOUND AS I HAVE GOTTEN OLD, THAT PEOPLE WITH BIG MONEY ,I MEAN BIG MONEY, RESENT ANYTHING YOU DO WHERE YOU SPEND MONEY BECAUSE THEY FEEL THEY SHOULD HAVE IT ALL. AND YOU NONE. THE PEOPLE I KNOW WITH 15 MILLION, WANT 25 MILLION AND ARE NOT HAPPY WITH WHAT THEY HAVE, THAT IS THE ATTITUDE I DO NOT LIKE. LIFE HAS BECOME WAY TOO JUDGMENTAL AND EVERYONE WANTS TO TELL YOU HOW TO LIVE YOUR LIFE …HOW TO SPEND YOUR MONEY….HOW TO VOTE…HOW TO THINK …WITHOUT WALKING IN YOUR SHOES.
    GOLLY, I FEEL BETTER.

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