"The proper use of imagination is to give beauty to the world..." Lin Yu-T'ang

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Being a Care-Giver Taught Me About Self-Care, Part 2

Many times we tend to categorize self-care into physical things such as eating right, drinking enough water, getting some exercise and getting proper rest. When my daughter became ill, I came to understand that self-care is way more than just taking care of my physical body, it's taking care of the whole me. It is not only keeping your body healthy but it is also re-filling your energy stores, which is totally unique to each individual. So, self-care can include things that others may not think of as self-care, such as, doing absolutely nothing, lying on your back in the grass and watching the clouds waft across the sky, sketching or painting, working puzzles, playing with your dog or petting your cat, taking a leisurely, slow walk or going for a quick run, watching a favorite TV show or movie, playing a game. Whatever it is that re-juices you.

Years ago, I was talking with a woman once about how we get ready in the mornings and she told me that she "wastes time". "I make a cup of coffee and then I just wander around my house and eventually end up looking out the window," she told me. I was fascinated with the calmness with which she approached her day. Although, I did take some time to journal, my mornings at the time were filled with getting ready for work and trying to get myself out the door in time not to be late or forget anything that I needed that day. I eventually made time for "wasting time" in my mornings and have felt calmer and more put together since. It has became my favorite part of the day. I would get up,  make a cup of tea, sit at my dining room table, look out the window and watch the hawks soar in the sky overhead. They were so beautiful and I am still enthralled with hawks when I see them so gracefully riding the air currents. What I learned was this: What my friend called "wasting time", was anything but. It was, in fact, slowing down enough to notice what is right there and be able to appreciate it. It was focusing my attention rather than just mindlessly diving into the day and being carried away with it. In my morning times, I learned gratitude first for what was around me, and secondly for what I was experiencing within me. I inevitably developed a practice around my morning times that strengthened me, brought me peace and helped me to accept life on its own terms.

When my daughter became ill, I kept up my practice. I realized that everything I had learned and become aware of over the years had become something I could rely on, like a lifeboat. I had a few little tips and dips, some whitewater thrills and chills and I certainly got soaked a few times, but my boat was sturdy and my tools reliable. I was safe and could navigate through the whitewater utilizing all the skills I had acquired over years and years of practicing noticing and allowing myself to become enthralled with my experience. It can be challenging to say the least to notice the beauty around you when someone you love is ill and needs you to take care of them. The anxiety, fear, exhaustion, grief and endless doctor appointments can really get the best of you if you let them. But when I practiced noticing the beauty and kindness around me, I could calm down and find the peace inside me. The tumultuousness of our situation seemed less so because I wasn't panicking.

I noticed something else. What I needed changed, from day to day, with the seasons, with my cycles, and even moment to moment. I could go from just wanting to take some time out to read a book to needing to go for a vigorous walk in the span of 30 minutes. I was becoming more aware of my energy and how it waxed and waned. The stress of what I was carrying and all of the emotion that goes along with it, required even more of my attention if I was going to navigate through it all and have some semblance of me at the end. In other words, the white water got rougher and the rocks got sharper. I needed to be on my game. I needed to focus my time and attention in order to do what needed to be done. I took it as an opportunity to practice all that I had learned and allow the situation to point out my blind spots so I could fine tune my skills. {Big fear here! Who wants their blind spots pointed out? But if the situation is going to do that anyway, why not go willingly rather than kicking and screaming. I'd rather not have the extra pain and embarrassment!} The first thing I did was accept the situation, commit to doing whatever needed to be done for my daughter's recovery. Then I realized was that I couldn't do it alone. I needed a team and I needed to know who was on my team as well as who wasn't. I decided to accept any and all help that was available. We were fortunate to have a great medical team and that really put my worries at ease.

I continue to practice and learn about self care. There is no arriving because of the moment to moment change. It is learning to constantly adjust and try new things. It is learning to know thyself. It is learning to stay open to life's experiences no matter what they bring. It is learning to express and release the full spectrum of emotion. It is knowing that there are no "bad" or "negative" emotions and that we as human beings are made to feel and experience the full range of emotion and learn how to handle them. It is saying YES to life and all that it has to offer in the face of fear. It is embracing love and kindness when they cross your path. It is learning to see. It is ultimately accepting and truly loving yourself.


  1. What a lovely post, and such wise words! I agree it's so helpful & important to tune in to what you need at any given moment -- you've inspired me to make time this afternoon to brew a cup of my favorite tea, do a few yoga poses, and read a new book I've been meaning to pick up. Thank you!

    1. You're welcome, Laura. Your time sounds wonderful!

  2. Such a great post Kari. Focussing on my breathing also helps me at difficult moments. But noticing the beauty in small things is such a great practice.

  3. I enjoyed reading this post, Kari. It is my first visit here. Look forward to reading more . I also try to notice the "Simple Things" ... Makes each day so much brighter! ~Kristine

  4. Thanks for visiting, Kristine. I agree the simple things do make each day brighter!

  5. Beautiful post Kari - I love the image of you sitting at the kitchen table watching the hawks soar in the sky. Fay

  6. Beautiful process, very inspiring Kari!


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