The Cost of Self-Care

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.



The Mornings I’m a Person For

Today is Labor Day. No work. No school. Freedom to sleep in as one sees fit and is able. What did I do? I rolled out of bed at eight o’clock and headed to the gym. One of my sacred spaces. There I can do for me and just for me. I can work for my good and what I do is for no one else but me.  I can leave feeling accomplished and stronger. I love starting mornings like that.

I often declare that I am not a morning person, but the truth is that, within the right parameters, I am. Work mornings are all about doing, going, getting there (wherever there is) on time. They are rushed and clinical and I am focused on almost everything but myself. There are days that I have been so rushed that I have left my coffee on top of the washing machine and even forgotten to comb my hair or brush my teeth once or twice had to sneak into the bathroom at work to do so before I met anyone or my students. No, most days I am not a morning person.

Now, give me a morning when I can sleep until I wake up on my own (meaning, I’m not summoned by our four-year-old or an alarm). A morning where the light in the sky is tinged with newborn white and gold. A morning still so new that I haven’t even planned it out yet and anything could happen or be done, where I can choose to do something just for me without the guilt of all that “needs to be done”. A morning where I can drink in silence and cool breezes. Give me a morning with all of these magical ingredients and I’m absolutely a morning person and completely in love.

I love going out for breakfast. I love early morning matinees at the movies. I love morning walks and talks and deep thoughts, sitting on stairs, sofas, the foot of beds, and coffee shops. I love cuddling up in a cozy blanket and watching movie trailers. I love holding my TARDIS mug full of coffee in my hands and breathing in the morning mists that roll off the fields, basking in the silence of our little town in the early of the day. I love the dusky color of the morning sky, like the fragile, lovely shell of a robin’s egg. I love the feeling that the day is waking to greet me, rolling over in its arched bed like my loved one to start my day with a tender kiss. It’s in these beautiful moments that I am most definitely a morning person.


Holding Time Gently

Here is how I usually feel that I am dealing with my time: My days/hours are laid out in specifically shaped or metered boxes, like a weekly pill container. Each box is colored differently and I have roughly 18 “pills” of time in my hand with which to fill them (because I honestly need at least 5-6 hours to sleep or I’m just not functional). And so I count out my hours into the boxes – Work, Family, Home Care, Errands, Cooking, Listening, Driving, etc. I try, try, TRY to hold back a few bits of time just for me: things like reading, writing, taking a long hot bath, exercising, devotional time, and naps. But there’s usually something “more important” that requires doing. I am rubbish at asking for help of any kind, and so my self-care ends up getting shoved into a really short amount of time and not feeling like self-care really at all. Usually it’s me sitting on the couch after the almost nightly battle to get my daughter to bed, too tired to think, much less read or write.

I feel as though I am grasping at time, holding onto it for dear life, lamenting that there is not more of it as it slips through my fingers. Like sand, it leaves behind only tiny grains, minuscule bits of itself that don’t seem to amount to much of anything. But that is not true of sand, is it? Though its individual grains are minute, all together they create vast deserts and snow-white beaches and ocean floors that stretch on for uncountable miles. All of that is those tiny bits and pieces, not on their own but together. Perhaps I have been holding my time so tightly that I am looking at it wrongly. While my introverted soul yearns for extended blocks of retreat and refreshment, I should not–must not— discount the small pockets of time with which I am gifted, even if they are very small.

A few nights ago, I gifted myself the time involved to take a hot shower with all the lavender amenities. It boosted my spirit and refilled some of my dwindling spoon drawer to feel fresh, clean, soft, and have such a soothing scent wafting around me. It was only half an hour but there was intention behind it. The intention of care and refreshment for myself, of aloneness and quiet, even if just for a little while. It was not a week-long isolated retreat but it did help, that one half-hour.

Last year, I wrote about (and even gave a commencement speech on) not discounting the value of smallness. How fitting that here I am, a year later, reminding myself of this very oh-so-important lesson, when my own well-being and all-around health hang in the balance.

Fifteen minutes of exercise may not be the hour-long gym workouts that I was used to doing when I was a SAHM but it is something.

Ten minutes to read before bed isn’t finishing a book in a day as I did of old but it is something.

“Tea-Time Quite-Time” with my daughter isn’t an afternoon alone in a coffee shop but those quiet moments together of both of us watching the lovely “Sarah & Duck” with our tea before bedtime are something.

Putting my earbuds in of a Sunday afternoon and turning on my rain app isn’t spending a whole sleepy, rainy day in bed but dozing amidst those soothing sounds for a little while is something.

Friends, I am learning to hold my time more gently, to remember and admit that the small bits I can get, that stick here and there can indeed be helpful, refreshing, and sustaining. And, bit by bit, those fragments add up, just as grains of sand, together, can create a vast, beautiful landscape. If you are walking this path of learning and viewpoint shifting, I want to encourage you. We can be gentler with ourselves, gentler with our time and the realities of our lives. Sometimes our realities do not have space for week-long retreats for our soul. We can still find rest in the small moments, brief though they may be. A shut bedroom door (or closet door even). A second cup of coffee. Ten minutes with a book or video game or podcast. We can find those little grains of time that will add up to refreshment for us. Trust me, I wish us all extended time to rest and relax but, until then, I’ll be gently collecting grains alongside you.


Fragile. Handle with Care: Being Gentle With Myself

I have been sick, quite sick, for the past month. Actually, I haven’t been able to shake this cold/sinus stuff since September (yay for teaching and a toddler starting preschool). Nevertheless, the New Year came and with it the time to start on my goals, one of the chiefest being to get back into a healthy routine of activity and exercise. This past semester has just shattered my momentum and I have lost a good deal of what I worked for two years to gain. So I start again. But, because of being sick (and because, you know, breathing is a thing), I am having to start back slowly. Too much activity will leave me wheezing and coughing, my throat sore and dry. So I am having to be extra gentle with myself, not something I am used to doing. I am used to pushing myself. I want to push, pull, work, strive, and mold myself back into that shape and tone that I was so proud of back in July. So, right now, it is proving hard to handle myself gently, but I have to or else I will hurt myself and ruin any chance of continuing towards my goal for the foreseeable future. I have to listen to when my body cries “Enough!” and believe that, for the nonce, it really is (and has to be) enough.

This year’s word of intention is gentleness and, ironically, here I am: at the beginning of the year, having to apply that gentleness to my own self. I am having to sit down when I come home from work. Perhaps the dishes go undone or the laundry unfolded of a night as I choose to lie on the couch instead, after Daughter has been put to bed, and I’m having to remind myself that doing just that is okay.  I have never been good at being gentle with myself, so I have found that I need reminders. The graphic below from Alia Joy – Writer‘s likewise-title article is now the lock screen graphic on my phone. I have a chalkboard that hangs in my kitchen and on it is the quote: “Be easier on yourself. If being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now.” These are reminders that I have to keep on repeat in my mind and in my heart. I find it ever so much easier to say them to others, admonish gentleness with themselves, and believe their truth than I do when I am the one in need of the reminder. But I do need it. I need gentleness, too! Particularly from myself.

So, while it is frustrating and a bit galling to have to slow down and just concentrate on the small things in my goals for now, it is what I need. I need to hold myself softly and gently for, right now, no matter how I may feel mentally, I am physically a bit fragile, so I have to let my ability catch up to my determination.

It is okay for you to be gentle with yourself, too. If you think you need permission, you have it. There are times when we all are fragile and need handling with care. So, as we continue on into the second week of this new year, let’s check in on how we are handling ourselves, how we are treating ourselves. Could you use a little gentleness, a little lightening of the goals, of the have-to’s? If so, do it. Be gentle with yourself. I know it’s hard and I know the fear of falling behind/failing/losing our place/etc. is always there, but know that you aren’t alone. We all could a little gentleness from ourselves now and then and it’s worth it to learn to give it. And I’m learning to believe that.



Graphic from and belonging to Alia Joy’s post on


Reflections on Thirty-Three

Author’s Note: Today, I turn 33 years old. It has definitely been an interesting three and a half years since my daughter was born and life changed in a big way. I think that I have learned more about myself in these few short years than in many others combined throughout my lifetime. I see myself differently, am taking better care of myself, am learning to love others better, and live my faith and purpose more honestly and, I hope, effectively. I do more than like myself at 33. I truly believe that I have finally learned to love myself.

= = = =

My form is a thing of beauty.

Take all your definitions of allure

And weigh them in your hands,

As I make mine my own.

Breasts, waist, hips, legs,

Arms, stomach, shoulders, back.

All I work to make strong.

This I do for myself,

For the good of my body as well as my soul.

To be strong enough in body to hold the skies on my shoulders

But soft enough in soul to hold joy in the sway of my hips

And grace in the reach of my hands.

My mind is a work of art.

Growing and challenged still,

Deeply considering and intense.

My intelligence has not been silenced by time,

But continues to grow and refine with new challenges.

My art is a meeting of thought and feeling,

Pulled together, chiseled, and shaped.

I share my art with a desire for hope,

Encouragement, uplifting, and joy.

I write to challenge to love, to kindness, to compassion.

I write to create refuge, worlds in which to escape,

To send out words that my own voice might find difficult to speak.

I sing to birth joy. I dance to proclaim free. I dress to cry beauty.

I write and post and mail to connect and pull threads together.

In life. In community. In love. In friendship. In chosen family.

I am a being made unqiue and becoming uniquer still.

The older I get, the finer I am becoming.

You should rejoice. I’d love for you to rejoice.

If you don’t, though, that’s your choice.

But, most of all, I just want you to smile with me.

The Adult You Are Looking For Has Left the Building.

Adulting is hard! Allow me to repeat that: ADULTING IS HARD! And, yes, like so many other words in the 21st century we have verbed the noun. Our predecessors would most likely remark that there is no such thing as “adulting” when you are one; it’s just living life and doing what’s necessary. Perhaps so but, sometimes, it can feel downright oppressive.

Here was my adulting today:

  1. I got this week’s bills written up and ready to mail.
  2. I wrote letters to friends and loved ones.
  3. I sussed out our budget for the next week and a half.
  4. I went to the post office.
  5. I went to the bank.
  6. I helped my in-laws get their tax forms printed off since their printer is being a jerk.
  7. I went to the credit union to make sure all was in order for some important payments.
  8. I dropped four bags of stuff off at Goodwill.
  9. I found a prop my husband needed for a project in under three minutes of entering the store.
  10. I ordered and picked up dinner for my family and my in-laws.
  11. I chatted with my husband about something I felt God had led me to do today that he needed to know about.
  12. I washed and dried a load of laundry.
  13. I fed my daughter.
  14. I baked cookies at her request.
  15. I made the beds, tidied the bedrooms, and aired the house.

In my opinion, that’s some respectable adulting for one day. As I speak, however, there are some things I am leaving undone. The dishes in the sink have not been washed, the laundry in the basket is still waiting to be folded, and the living room is a mess from my girl’s afternoon play. And you know what? With the exception of the living room, which needs to be tidied up a bit so I can do my barre workout, I am just fine with it staying that way for the rest of the night. There’s reading and working out and relaxing to be done!

Self-care is still a learning process for me. I was excellent at it for about a week while visiting my parents; I read more that week than I have in any space of time in recent memory. I went for walks, I got myself ice cream, it was a good time. But now that I am home in the same old same old, I am having to relearn how to do self-care every day. And this is part of it.

The dishes and laundry can wait. It’s Tuesday. Things that I enjoy are waiting for me.


A Long Way from Home – Day 6: What Am I Waiting For?

Highlights from my morning reading: 

Simply Tuesday, Chapter 5: “Success and Envy”, by Emily P. Freeman:

“True smallness is an invitation to live as I was meant to live, to accept my humanity, and to offer my ability and my inability, my sin and my success, my messes and my masterpieces into the hands of God.” – pg 94

“What is good for my inner health is often frustrating for my work [as a hard worker who is also a slow processor].” – pg 95

“The soul and the schedule don’t follow the same rules.” – pg 95

“I cannot wait for the world to stop to embrace my permission for slow.” – pg 96

“And here’s to not letting our slowness boss us. Embrace it and learn it, but don’t force perfection. Let slow do what slow does best: nourish, strengthen, and hold.” – pg 97

= = = =

When  I read the bolded statement above, I gave a little mental wince, as if I had been caught out. And I was in a way. This is what I have been doing, is it? Waiting for the world to stop, or to at least pause a little, so I can embrace slow for my soul and take some rest. Something this week is teaching me is that I cannot wait around for someone to offer to slow my world down for me, to give me a chance to rest and care for myself. I have to take the initiative, ask for the help, and slow down when I need to slow down.

My weariness is catching up with me. I can truly feel it today, the tiredness sitting heavily on me, urging me to just stay in bed and sleep, sleep, sleep. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely possible with a three-year-old child and grandparents with their own schedules and engagements to keep. So I have done my best today to occupy my daughter with her own self-activities in between play time and meals so that I can rest as much as I can. It’s been a good day.

The days are winding down and soon I will be home but I will do my best to make the best of these days, to slow and rest and to listen and come away when my heart and soul feel called.