Tales From The Groundskeeper: Real Self-Care

This month, self-care has been on my mind.

It has been on my mind, because I have been both deeply needing and deeply providing.

Needing a soft place to land. 
Needing food that fills me up, instead of breaking me down. 
Needing as much sleep as I can get. 
Needing space to move about freely and wide blank days in my calendar. 
Needing the close proximity of love, without the overwhelm of touch. 
Needing the words that re-affirm, as many times as I am able to reach out and ask for them. 

I have been needing so deeply, that the terminology of stereotypical self-care barely seems to suffice.

The way that I have been tending to myself feels as though I am stacking action on top of action, rebuilding my reserves.

My hands have been moving steadily, as if knitting with small needles, re-enforcing the bare spots in my energy field and sewing on robust patches.

I will use the term self-care here, as long as you and I can expand upon it’s meaning together. For, when I say self-care or self-love, I mean:

The multitude of ways that I have learned over time to care for myself. These are my quiet rituals – not to placate myself or prove to myself that I am deserving, but action I take because I have been gifted with the care of this magnificent body and this magnificent life. 

This care reflects the knowledge that I have accumulated as I have paid close attention to myself, turning my focus inward to notice my needs on a miniscule level.

This knowledge is the gift in return for the permission to experiment, to get curious, and to wonder about the complexity and manipulation of variables in my life.

That, over time, I have gotten to know myself better.

real self care I have grown to think of myself as both sprawling landscape and trusted groundskeeper. I care for myself now, not because I have to, but because I find myself so heart-achingly beautiful and intriguing, I cannot help myself.

We are deserving because we exist.

Our bodies have stood by us, resilient and humble, and they deserve our very best efforts on their behalf.

If I am to be honored as the groundskeeper of this body, this spirit, this life – I should realize, first, how lucky I am. 

This post is about real self-care, the gentle way that I tend to myself on a daily basis. I wanted to share this with you, not because I believe that it is the right way to do things by any means, but because it is my way.

It is my hope that you are inspired to find your way.

This care includes: 

Sleeping at least 8 hours, with a dark t-shirt thrown over my face, so that my sleep is deep and undisturbed by light. Trying not to fall asleep to TV episodes or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook, whenever possible.

Tongue scraping. Coconut oil pulling. Face washing and moisturizing with products that include ingredients that I can pronounce and understand.

Reading for fun. Reading books filled to the brim with fantasy and ridiculousness.

Drinking 16 oz. of water pre-coffee. Before I take a sip, I look out the window and focus on my intentions for the day. I imagine those intentions pouring into the glass with the water, and drink them down reverently.

Food that makes my body feel really good – which, for me, means eating whole foods and a delicious decision to avoid grains, dairy, and sugar. Lots of greens.

Moving and stretching, as often as possible, with a particular preference for getting extremely sweaty and group classes where I am supported and paid attention to.

My days include  many cups of tea, honoring my desire for hot beverages but noting my inclination towards caffeine consumption to the point of anxiety.

Close attention to my desire for an intimate connection with my partner, and very gentle words with myself when thoughts of grief or judgment come up around this topic. A reminder that intimacy can be found in many ways, and that sex is not meant to be something that I use against myself or as a manipulator or a primary source of validation.

Dinner that is well thought out and planned for.

Connection with the people around me and a frequent, quiet reminder that I am not a burden, I am not too much for my loved ones, I am in the right place at the right time – the things that are the hardest to remember.

Before I go to sleep, I often spend fifteen minutes looking at myself in the mirror while I wash my face, and floss and brush my teeth. My sweetheart sometimes refers to this as the twilight zone, wherein I go into the bathroom and never come back out. During this time, I allow myself the simple pleasure of not rushing. I move slowly. I get ideas while I brush my teeth. I think about my life. I pluck my eyebrows. I notice the simple evidence of my aging. I cut my nails. This is often my favorite time of day, when I know that I am about to curl up in bed and I’m saying good night to myself.

real self care

If you’re reading this list, and noticing, as I just did, that it seems like my care of myself is a full-time job – you’d be right.  Staying in my body, loving myself for exactly who I am, is my highest priority. I believe that my doing so enables me to truly enjoy my life in a way that I had never known how to before. I give myself the ultimate permission to be myself, and to need whatever I need.

I pray to know myself better, so that I can care for myself better. Caring for myself in this way is my primary vehicle for strengthening my relationship with myself. I believe that our relationship with ourselves is the single most important relationship that we have, and, like our other relationships, it requires upkeep and frequent communication.

I also manage to do many other things over the course of my day, and feel very grateful to have my ambitions supported by my body and energy. I am better when I care for myself – the quality of my life is better. 

I am curious, how do you tend to yourself? Where might your body be quietly asking for your support?

This post is the final post for The Perfectly Imperfect Project, a month-long series on real self-care. I highly recommend that you head on over to this page to read the posts written by other phenomenal women from around the globe. 

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9 thoughts on “Tales From The Groundskeeper: Real Self-Care”

  1. Excercise is huge for me, too! Especially goal-oriented exercise. It gives me something to work toward, something to accomplish, something to be so, so proud of. Right now I’m training for my first marathon. After that is Ragnar Relay, after that is Tough Mudder. I keep my goals stacked so I don’t accomplish one and then lose focus. But yeah, getting SO sweaty and then eating a big stack of pancakes afterward is like the ultimate self-love.

    Also I volunteer at an animal shelter. If I skip that, I notice. Getting out of my head and loving someone who needs love makes me so happy and fulfilled.

    Finally: glad I’m not the only one who treats flossing like a meditative practice! 🙂

  2. Mara I just loved this post! So in-depth and a great “skeleton” for people who have no idea where to start/what self-care even looks like. What is coconut oil pulling??

    I love the idea of this “twilight zone” and just laughed picturing Cookie talking about it, so cute.

    My most recent self-care thing – skipping my 9 AM class (!) for sleeping instead (went to bed at 2 AM working). Woke up with a headache anyways, but I can’t imagine having woken up at 7 AM, only to take notes half-awake and not really absorb the material anyways. Now I can be more productive today and catch up on the material. Felt a little guilty skipping class, to be honest, but I think it was thé thing I needed to do to honor my body.

    • Well, I’m pretty new to it, but so far I love it. Have you ever checked out Wellness Mama? She has some good stuff about tongue scraping and oil pulling.

  3. You do oil pulling! I’m fascinated by this. I’ve done it a couple of times and haven’t noticed any immediate benefits, though I know I need to be more consistent. What are your thoughts on making it a part of a self care routine?

    For me, yoga has become a huge part of self care. Shutting down the electronics as often as possible and reading a book instead. Preparing, sitting with, and SAVORING a meal is a huge one and something I am constantly challenging myself to do more because it is such a beautiful thing.

    • Yes… and I have to say, I love it. I didn’t notice any immediate benefits, but over time, my teeth are whiter and my mouth just feels so much cleaner. I do it at the same time everyday – first thing, while reading something yummy. I have to admit, it’s not “fun” for me necessarily, but I’ve decided that the pros certainly outweigh the cons.

      And absolutely – yoga, shutting down electronics, and savoring meals are such wonderful self-care practices. xo

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