Why does self-care always come at a cost? Or, rather, why do I always require/attach a cost to it?
Real life case-in-point. this past week, I was diagnosed with strep throat for the first time in my almost thirty-five years and was ordered by my doctor to stay home from work on Friday. I did, and, over the course of the weekend, I did what I could to rest from Thursday evening until roughly 3pm on Saturday. I laid in bed when I could, slept as late as I could, took hot baths, took my meds, drank fluids, and made sure I fed myself. At around 3pm Saturday, however, I saw the overflowing sink, the cluttered stove and kitchen table, and decided that I needed to make up for the time I had taken off, to make up the day and a half that I had spent being a laze-about. I actually said the words “I need to make up for lost time” to myself. My kitchen needed cleaning; clothes needed washing; I had already bathed my child, but she still needed attention, few spoons though I had to offer in that particular area. I felt like I had to make up for taking care of my own sick self.
Now, let’s look at the facts again. I wasn’t being lazy. I had strep. I was legitimately ill. And, yet, I felt like I had to make up for the time taken to help my body begin to heal. So I washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, sanitized the house, and did three loads of laundry, not to mention helping my daughter tidy up her daylong mess in the living room and look for the TV remote that she had lost. I pushed my body that is still working to fight off an infection and heal (and will continue to push—I still have grading to do and midterm grades are this week, along with preparation for our school’s accreditation visit) because self-care has a cost, and that cost is time.
Time cannot be held onto. Time cannot be gained back. Time can only be spent. Time can only be lost. So we are told. And, honestly, self-care often takes time that I just do not have.
I have a family.
I have a job.
I have a home to take care of.
I have responsibilities.
Extra time—or what feels as though it would require extra time—is something I often do not have.
But why? Why do I insist on having to make up for taking time out of all-important life, time that something inside tells me “could have been better used” than lying in bed and trying to get extra rest? Truthfully, I don’t know. Rationally, my brain knows that self-care and taking time for healing is important. However, we human beings are often anything but rational, me included. For example, I am sitting here writing this in my living room when, with my child already asleep, I could go to bed early.
Not to mention that this week, I lost a grandparent. The diagnosis, progression, and succumbing were immensely quick and unexpected. I live very far away from that side of the family, so I am somewhat at a loss as to what to do or even how to grieve in this moment. And I feel like that I don’t even really have time to figure that out. Time and the world keep marching on and so I must with it. Processing time is something I need but I almost feel as though it is a luxury in this moment.
The cost of self-care is time, time that I don’t have–or, rather, don’t think I have–and that makes me feel…less. I feel weak for “giving in” and “letting things slide”. I feel like I am less able to order my life than others. I feel as though I am not fulfilling my responsibilities to my family and our home. So, in my mind, I must make up for that. I must fulfill my role. I must make up for lost (read: wasted) time. This is a headspace out of which I am still struggling to break at almost thirty-five years of age. My progress in this area is imperfect and often feels minuscule to nonexistent, but that is why I am writing about it today. Acknowledging and exploring the reality of the dichotomy is at least one step forward I can take.
Through all this mental/emotional struggle this week, I have been gifted with and blessed by dear ones who have done their best to remind me that I need to take care of myself. They have showered me with grace, gentleness, and kindness in their reminders and sharing of this truth (yes, again, my logic and common sense acknowledge that this is true), filling in the spots where I have failed to grant them to myself. So, thank you, friends. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your kindness, gentleness, and grace. I will try to follow your example and extend them to myself, too. I doubt I’ll be very good at it (at first, at least), but I will try. Everything that is said below has been said to me more than once over the past week. Thank you again, dear ones. I will try harder to remember this.