Posted by: Kate | December 31, 2020

Self

Such a small four letter word. Self. But so big in meaning and so hard to capture.

I mulled over many words for 2021, but most of them I realized were things I already did, and was already pretty good at prioritizing. They were safe words. So I thought more and reflected on the year I’ve just gone through.

It’s been a year, my friends. Aside from the whole global pandemic angst (like that’s not enough, right?) there was losing my beloved cat in February, which hit me hard. I still miss Hubert every day, and I especially missed him this holiday season. My back pain and sciatic discomfort has been much worse this year, and having that be my daily reality is physically and emotionally draining, plus it almost completely kept me from working in my garden. And over-riding all of this has been becoming the head of household for an aging parent who lives alone (her partner couldn’t cope with her memory loss and health issues and had to separate which meant leaving the province to be closer to his children). I have become advocate, parent, bill payer, decision maker and yet still daughter for my mum. I am an only child, and her siblings live several provinces away, so that’s just the way it is. Then for two months late spring she was in and out of hospital with heart problems, to the point where none of us (including her and her doctor) thought she was coming out again. And we all know this can happen again, at any time (although right now medication and home help has her doing well, better than anyone predicted).

So, self. Self-care; self-respect; self-love; self-preservation. I was told many times throughout this year “remember to look after yourself. What are you doing for yourself?” and I realized I’m not so good at that. I’ve always been an even-keel person, a take-it-as-it-comes and get-it-done person, it’s the way I was raised and how I’m built. But this year, that was hard. And it took me a long time to start sharing the anxiety and fears I felt out loud.

I struggle with choosing this word (which tells me it’s a good word). I am so fortunate – I have an incredibly supportive husband and a loving son (with a lovely girlfriend) who have been amazing this year. I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth where I can get outside often, that has also been a fairly safe zone (relatively speaking) in this pandemic. I like the work I do, and I am respected and valued there. My whole family is financially secure at the moment. Who am I to say I need to focus on self? Isn’t that self-indulgent? Self-serving?

But. In the end, I had to go with what felt true. I need to learn to take care of myself better, to ask for help, to say when I need a break, to advocate not only for others, but for me. I need to listen when people tell me to take time for myself – that it is not me being selfish but me protecting my body and spirit so I can continue to support and help those around me who need it, me included.

This year will be learning how to help myself. We all know my big three outlets – knitting, reading and being outside, and those continue to anchor me. But when those aren’t enough, what can help me destress otherwise? How can I feel less shame about vocalizing my anxieties and finding ways to ease them? 2021 isn’t going to miraculously get easier, so I need to find ways to “look after myself”. Here’s to the journey.


Responses

  1. Goodness – I haven’t been to a blog site in at least two years unless it is to grab a recipe from a cooking site. But I miss them so much. I continue to struggle with Instagram and what my place is (or isn’t) in it (and I hate Facebook with every fiber of my being!). I love the inspiration and how easy it is to scroll through Instagram, but it can be so impersonal (when you get in the habit of just liking and scrolling, liking and scrolling) and restrictive. I loved sharing a stream of pictures with several paragraphs of text (like you have done here!) when I wrote on my blog. I am glad that you have returned here…wondering if I will do the same but I kind of doubt it.

    Your word for 2021 is a good word Kate. I was one of those people who wanted to know if you were taking care of yourself as well as others and I am glad that you are seriously thinking about this. Have you read anything by Gretchin Rubin? I have some issues with her generally, but probably the most important thing that I have learned about myself the past few years of self-introspection is that I am an ‘Obliger’ (that and it is okay, and sometimes critical, to ask for help). This means that I will kill myself to meet external expectations but break promise after promise to myself (internal expectations). This tendency, plus years and years of (falsely) equating rest to being lazy (how in the actual f*** did that get embedded in my mind?), has had some fairly serious physical and mental consequences that I am working hard to deal with and turn around now. I hope that you come to embrace self-care and knowing that you can ask for help as you focus on this word during 2021 a little easier than I have.

    • Hi Rachel! I’m excited to be writing here again, I have missed it.

      So to jump right into it… did you grow up in a high achiever family? I did, and not moving, doing, being productive was absolutely being lazy. Colouring just because? No. Hobbies were good as long as you were always trying to improve and get better. It was exhausting.

      I think in general I’m good at finding the balance but last year kind of kicked me in the teeth and I’m trying to find my way with these issues that aren’t going to go away. Thus… self.

      I have not read Gretchin Rubin… will take a look perhaps.

      I agree about Instagram, I like it as a photo app for sure but didn’t feel it was the place for my writing. And Facebook is for the few family and friends I share with but again, not a blog.

      We’ll see how it goes ;)

      • Did I grow up in a high achiever family? Ha. Hahahahahaha. Sorry, yes, yes I did. Not only that but under a perfectionist mother! But honestly, I would go out often and sit in the field or just read all day etc. and I don’t ever remember my family considering those things unproductive or lazy as long as I got my chores done. I suspect this stems more from my marriage. John equates self-worth to how many hours he works and he also literally cannot sit still unless he is watching a movie. He cannot just sit on the porch with a cold drink and be quiet or not move. Mind you the self worth thing is NOT how productive he is in those hours, but just how many hours he is working. He’ll even write out emails that he waits to send until midnight just so the receiver thinks he was working that late. I took 11 straight days off over the holidays…first time in 2 decades at least. And it was a daily battle with John. But for the first time, whenever he tried to get me to work, I just told him no and ignored his looks of…disgust? exasperation? whatever…if he saw me just sitting and reading or sitting and not doing anything else. It was hard as an obliger, but I did it.

        Rather than reading Gretchin Rubin, I’d look up ‘The Four Tendencies’ and take the online test just to see where you fall. I found it super enlightening not only for myself but for my relationships (professional and personal). She has a book by the same title that I never finished that talks about the latter (like if your spouse or boss or employee is a different tendency than you).

        It always seemed from the outside that you were able to achieve a pretty good balance AND that you had a good self-care routine down (particularly with your walks and trips and creations). But I also know that something like last year (particularly with your situation) can just throw a wrench into everything. Glad you recognized it…that’s the first step!


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