Begin again in 10 Week 5: Self-Care and Compassion
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
I did not want to write this post. I find it hard to talk about those concepts seriously. I immediately envision that topical picture taken from behind someone’s back, as they extend their hand and lead the photographer into the unknown. Caption it YOLO and there you have it. But somewhere between fending off the onslaught of pastel yoga pants and trying to unlearn all the inspirational quotes written with the curly font, I realized it is my own guilt and shame that prevent me from having a stance on the subject.
When I was younger, there was no time for self-care. That word did not exist in my or my family’s dictionary. It was not taught in school, I did not find it in the books I was told to read, or in the TV programs that were served every night before bedtime. The idea to stop and ask myself what is it that I want/need/desire just never really occurred to me. Everyone was doing the same thing: studying, hanging out, gossiping. And so, for the longest time, I did what I knew to be acts of taking care of myself. I went on shopping sprees on the weekends, I ate in expensive restaurants, I watched the hottest shows on Netflix, you name it. I was easy to be around. I knew what was trending. My hair was different every time I left the salon. I hardly ever wore the same outfit twice. I was a symbolic figure at work, especially for those who recently got kids.
I would not necessarily say that I was on some downward spiral. It just took me a long time to start thinking for myself. It was some time around 2017/2018 that things started to shift. Alongside my civil status. I did not exactly carry over my spending habits into my new shoebox-size apartment where I was to live alone, for the first time in my life. I still had the same job, the same acquaintances and the same city to live in. What I did not have anymore though was the repeating of the patterns. The silence of my empty house spoke, and I chose to listen. I no longer had anyone immediately by my side to impress, so I channelled all that excess energy into bettering myself.
It was not easy and I sure got it wrong at the beginning. I googled “books you must read before you die” and bought around 20 titles without even going through the synopses. I took a deep dive into IT because someone from work said that that’s where the future is and I will regret not having done that when I had the chance. I would look up all those complex concepts people threw around in conversations, only to forget their meaning the next day. In other words, my intentions were right, it was my compass that was off. I wanted to learn about the world, I wanted to try new things, I was open to broaden my horizons, I just did it for the wrong reasons. One more time, I did not ask myself “what do you want”? I went with what was right in front of me instead.
What I am about to say next, I tread lightly with myself. Namely, there are people in my life who, in one way or the other, turn away from me whenever I choose to put myself first. To give voice to my opinions. To go with my gut feeling, especially when it means not doing what they would fancy. To claim space, really. By the same token, there are those who unexpectedly yet consistently come through for me when I am my own self. It just makes so much sense: I want people to know me, not an image of me. And that means turning down an invitation to go to bed early, pausing a conversation to ask about that word I did not understand, showing up to brunch wearing flats instead of fancy boots because I wanted to get my steps in too.
Before you leave this blog thinking I went from hero to zero, know that I have learned to practice self-care and compassion in other ways, too. I may not show up to your party, but I will, out of nowhere, send you a book because the title made me think of that thing you like. I may have bailed out of that coding camp, but I joined a peer support community instead, and can talk to you about it with passion and engagement (which, trust me, is way more comfortable for both of us instead of my pretending I finally understand what the while loop is for). And yes, I still cherish my hairdresser appointments and buy high-end sportswear, but that one haircut is just very easy to maintain and, dang, not having your shirt roll up when you are in your fifth downward facing dog for the day is simply worth the money.
It doesn’t have to make sense to you. And I don’t have to explain either. I have lived your life, my mom’s life, my co-worker’s lives. The life I have lived the least yet is my own. I am not being violent about it. I am not flipping you all the bird and driving off into the sunset. I am politely wiping the corners of my mouth with the white linen cloth, straightening the creases on my dress and wishing everyone a good night. It’s getting late and I need to get home. My home.