In the midst of toddler boot camp (and by that I mean since my baby was born four years ago), I have been in military-like training. Loving my “sleep deprived, showering when I can, and peeling a banana for the adult across the table from me” life. In the midst of teaching my now four year old Spanish, art, and community service, I forgot the most important lesson – self-care!
I don my uniform of black t-shirt and light blue jeans, ripped at the bottom (not for style, because that would mean I took time to take care of my needs). Reading an adult book? Well let’s see when was that? Um, six months ago. Six months?! Not good! What a mess I have become. I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror. The mound of caring for everyone but myself has grown so high I am overwhelmed at where to begin. And I notice I am not feeling as much joy either. My love of church, community service, and mommyhood began feeling like drudgery.
On a whim, I decide I will do one thing for myself. I decide to read five pages of a grown up book a day. 5 pages?! That’s it?! Yes, don’t judge. It’s a goal I can accomplish, check off my daily list of things to do and if I read more, then I am accomplishing even more.
It’s been four months and so far I have completed 20 books. My five pages turned into five chapters, which became me waking in the middle of the night to turn on my headlamp and read. Essays, fiction, classics, and biographies. With my slight boost in self awareness, I noticed it has been years since I applied makeup. A month into my reading for me, the makeup goes on daily. Not a ton, just eyeliner mascara and shadow. A friend kindly mentioned the world had begun wearing long colored shirts and soft patterned leggings. Did I dare attempt to put my uniform away?
I delved in to this new clothing style and found myself way out of my comfort zone. A mistake here or there but I started to wear new fresh clothing. The universe must have been pleased because I suddenly won $125 worth of new clothes and a new ebook. Most importantly when I showed my daughter my new fashion, she exclaimed, “Oh mommy, I love it so much!”
Just a step in the right direction and life seems to swing doors open magically.
So tell me, where’s your self-care at? Is the mascara you are using dried up, yet you keep applying it? Do you know where your mascara is? Can you tell me the last book you physically opened that didn’t have pictures, and comprehended the words you read? When was the last time you took a walk by yourself without a wagon, stroller, or training wheels alongside? Or bought a new piece of clothing? Do you remember the last time you held a conversation that was not interrupted by “stop that, don’t put that in your mouth, etc?”
Self-care slips away slowly, so getting yourself back in the game takes nurturing and time too. I stopped buying clothes because I just needed to get my body back in shape. What was the point in reading a book? I didn’t have time to finish it. And I am exhausted.
Can you hire a sitter for a few hours? Trade an hour or two with another mom? How about just asking the man in your life to give you a little time?
I started making a list at night of the five things I wanted to accomplish the next day. In the morning I go over the list and by the time I am in bed I have proudly checked off all the items on my list.
The trick is to mark down smaller goals. Then if you exceed them it’s an extra boost. My list usually looks something like this:
Read 5 pages
Clean one thing in the house
Paint with daughter
20 minutes physical activity
Put mascara on.
Drink two liters water.
What do you need on your list today? Is it five sit-ups? Plank for 30 seconds? Read five pages? Go through the junk mail basket? It’s amazing how much you can get done with a little bit of accomplishment under your belt. I remember reading about a man who was over 200 pounds overweight who ended up running the Marine Corp marathon. Did he go cold turkey? No. He decided to eat two cupcakes instead of three that day. Slowly it evolved into a cupcake every other day. And so on.
There is a lot of wisdom Lao Tzu’s quote, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
So let’s begin. Can you read five pages tonight? Can you stop what you are doing and drink a glass of water or do five sit-ups? How about putting a sweatshirt on and having your morning coffee outside on the porch? A little fresh air does wonders.
A first grade teacher once showed me her trick for helping her students accomplish their reading goals. I use it for everything.
10% of goal equals small reward
25% of goal and reward increases
50% of goal equals bigger reward
75% of goal even bigger
100% – you did it!
As Jeff Probst says on Survivor, I will give you a minute to strategize. Ready set go!
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