I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
One night last month while I was lying in bed falling asleep, I asked myself a question in a spirit of curiosity.
“Do I have any really deep fears, the way some people fear abandonment, loss, death, etc.? What do I fear most?”
My subconscious immediately supplied the answer, which surprised me. “What I most fear is stress—that pushing, endless, exhausting stress I knew at Bible college.”
I lay there and reflected on the experience that still haunts my nightmares. “I didn’t know how to take care of myself back then—or even that I should take care of myself. I thought life was for self-denial and sacrifice. As a result, I was my own enemy…when I should have been my own protector.
“So what I really fear is…myself.
“Therefore, deliverance from my fear also lies within me. I need to develop a secure relationship with myself and an unshakable foundation in self-care. I need to be able to really trust myself to take care of myself as far as it lies within my power to do so.”
I’ve been trying on that new perspective ever since that night. Yesterday morning, I watched a new conversation happen in my mind that further illuminated the problem.
I checked my email after breakfast and saw that a book group I’ve sometimes attended was to meet that night. I was going to be alone that evening anyway, because my husband was out of town for work. And I’d already read the book to be discussed. “So,” I thought, “I should go.”
But as I got ready for work, I kept agonizing about the decision of whether to go to the group that evening.
I didn’t actually want to go. After the last time, I intended to never go back, because in that group there are some attitudes of negativity and cattiness that bring me down each time I go.
Plus, I knew that evening activities always wear me out significantly; I really need to just rest after a long day of work. Last week I had gone to a writing group that I do immensely enjoy and always feel built up by, but I ended up having to take a sick day from work the next day because I was so exhausted and headachy.
“So,” I said to myself, “self-care necessitates that I stay home. But maybe I should go anyway…
“Why ‘should’ I go? There is absolutely no good reason to. I guess I’ve been thinking of what someone else might think I should do, looking at the external factors. But who is in charge of my life? Me! And I say I shouldn’t go.”
But my mind stubbornly, absurdly continued to mull over the decision as I did my hair and makeup. “Why am I still thinking about this?!”
Then I realized that it was almost as if I were waiting for someone else to make a decision for me.
So I said, “Self, you’re not going to that group tonight. You just can’t go. I won’t let you.”
And then I was free—and relieved!
That was no isolated incident. Too often my body suffers from the whims of my busy, driven mind. For example, this is a common occurrence: “I’ll eat as soon as I’m done…I’m almost done…” and then an hour goes by, and I haven’t moved and I’m still staring at the screen—and when I finally stop I find I have a massive headache.
The trauma I put myself through in college was not just because I had been led to believe that God wanted me to sacrifice my life and deny myself for Him and because the school’s rigid rules allowed little freedom for rest. I think I latched onto that stripe of fundamentalism because my personality naturally gravitated toward that mindset.
This is what I’m seeing now: like a child, I need limits; like a parent, I need to set those limits. I need to be able to say ‘no’ to myself when my natural tendency is to push my body beyond its limit. I’ve got to be my own shepherd, protector, and self-care hero. I’ve got to be my own parent.
My hope is that by practicing self-parenting and cultivating it as a habitual mindset, I will become so rooted in self-care that I will trust myself as a good parent, not fear myself as an enemy.