Be Careful

My 86 year old father always says those words to me when we say goodbye – whether it’s a phone conversation or a personal visit, it always ends with those words, spoken now in his somewhat querulous voice.

“You be careful, alright?”

“I will,” I always answer. “Don’t worry.”

Truth is, though, I’m not always careful. I usually drive too fast (although since I’m definitely driving an old lady car these days my lead foot is not as much of an issue as it used to be), I don’t always eat three meals a day, I stay up too late and get up too early, I say “yes” to more things than I shouId, I exceed my one-glass-of-wine-per day allowance, I let the world stress me out.

I worry a lot.

And most often, the last person I worry about is myself.


Deb Smouse, my friend (and editor at ATG magazine) writes a lot about taking care of yourself. In fact, she and my Dad would probably get along just great, because she knows just how important it is for each one of us to care for ourselves. Not just the “looking both ways when you cross the street” kind of careful, but the kind that shows you’re aware of your needs and you make time and space in your life to honor them.

In fact, her blog post today reminded me just how often I fail at taking care of the most important person in my life.

Me.

And I cringe a little bit when I write those words, because I was brought up to think of myself last, to put the needs of others first – others being my family, friends, dogs, boss, neighbors, the mailman, the plumber…

You get the picture. “Good girls” always sacrifice their needs and desire for the greater good and comfort of others.

But after reading Deb’s post today, I’m about ready to say balderdash to that philosophy.

“Denying yourself necessary time for self-care is detrimental not only to your body, but also to your mind and soul.”   

Why should I feel guilty for taking an afternoon to get a facial or a mani/pedi? Or spend a couple of hours at the movies all alone? Or sit quietly on the deck for watching the sunset? Or even blow off a meeting to meet a friend for coffee?

I never do things like that. Instead, you’ll find me rearranging my personal schedule to accomodate some one else’s needs or to cross something else off my ever lengthening to-do list. I can barely allow myself the “luxury” of sitting down with a book for 30 minutes in the afternoon without feeling that all-too-familiar itch to get up and accomplish something worthwhile.

Why? Because I think I have to do all those things in order to please the people that are important to me.

To make sure they love me.

What I’m beginning to realize is that if I don’t love myself, then nobody else will love me either, because I’m not a very lovable person under those circumstances. I get cranky and miserable. I start running in those vicious circles where I don’t feel good so I don’t look good so I feel worse…ad infinitum.

“FORSAKING YOUR OWN SELF-CARE IS NO WAY TO BE OF SERVICE TO – OR TAKE CARE OF – OTHERS.”

While I don’t think this is exactly what my father means in his ritual exhortation, “being careful” to take care of myself has to move higher on my priority list than it usually is. My one precious self is all I have, so I do need to be careful to keep it safe, both body and soul.

Or else everyone in my life loses – me, most of all.

How about you? Are you careful with your one precious self? How do you make self-care a priority?

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