Gentle readers, I must confess something to you. Try as I might to live the Diva lifestyle and to preach its gospel, I do not always practice what I so loudly preach, despite believing strongly in the necessity of self-care. Case in point —
Over the last two years or so, I was eyebrow-deep in an exceptionally high-stress life. I was stewing in a toxic work environment that required careful choreography to exit and, while I managed to do that with grace and (I think) style, I made the common mistake of thinking that once that door was closed that all would be sweetness and light.
I didn’t give myself the time and space to properly process the end results of tiptoeing through a workplace minefield and I also fell into my old, horrible habit of not wanting to ask for help, for fear of being seen as weak. So, in order to prove my strength and worth, I took on too much, ignored sensible boundaries, made unreasonable demands on myself, never said “no,” wasn’t honest with those who love me, and was essentially attempting to be a human-sized perpetual motion machine. (Those don’t exist, remember. They violate Newtonian laws, but I didn’t let that stop me! I am, occasionally, an idiot.)
This, my dears, is a recipe for disaster – even more so than a 1950s recipe for Spam ‘n’ Limas. (Number 15 on this list!)
Now, you’d think I’d know better – I regularly write about the need for compassionate self-care so that we can care for others, but let me tell you – I can be a stubborn cuss and I preferred going nearly crazy to admitting that the scorched smell wafting through the air was me. I was beyond overwhelmed – I was at the “honey, we’re worried about you” stage with friends and family and I couldn’t see the problem. But I wasn’t sleeping, was eating terribly, not exercising, castigating myself for not doing more (including updating this site!), and was constantly angry. I had very little sense of proportion and often wanted to whip coffee mugs – heavy ceramic ones – at people. I don’t like admitting any of this, much less all of it, but I’m reading Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber and something she wrote jumped out at me – “Never think that all you have to offer are your gifts.” I’m a mess, people. A bit less of one that I was a few days ago, but still a mess. That’s not a gift, but it is honest. This Diva needed some quiet time away from all the hustle and bustle of life. Despite being at a Very Good Place work-wise, enjoying excellent health, having a loving family and being married to a man who is incredibly funny, passionate, and can cook like a boss, I felt scraped to the bone.
I’ve spent the last few days away from home. I very nearly didn’t go – there was so much work remaining to be done that I almost talked myself out of my retreat time. Fortunately, my aforementioned husband, who loves me very much and has been quite bewildered by the banshee I’ve been over the last month or so, said firmly, “No. I will help you pack.” He saw things more clearly than I did – it was time for this Diva to hit the brakes, come to a full stop, and consult the road map.
I packed heavily – there was no benefit is bragging about how little luggage I needed on this trip – and I packed for comfort. I have samples upon samples of spa-type products that I decided to finally use instead of hoard for a rainy day. (Metaphorically, my life was in a downpour; I just was too stressed out to notice.) I threw my favorite pillow on the backseat, put my bike on the trunk of the car, picked some new music to listen to, tucked my “wild hare” money in my purse, and left for the beach.
Over the last four days, I’ve logged more than 25 miles on my bike (it’s flat at the beach), gone to visit my French fairy godmother, eaten better (not perfectly, but better), read good books (including Beth Macy’s Dopesick, which had *better* get a Pulitzer – it’s an important book that you should consider reading), gotten a dramatic new haircut to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month, gone to see Bad Times at the El Royale (truly an amazing thriller), shopped a little, gotten back into regular meditation (much, much harder than many people think – I think I’ve shown here how the interior of my head can be a squirrel cage, but apps like Headspace and Insight Timer help), beachwalked a little, and yes – worked a little.
A few days away isn’t enough to totally recover from my level of burnout, but at least I can now see how bad it had gotten and I’ve admitted the depth of my problem. It’s ugly how bad we can let ourselves get – if we treated other people the way we abuse ourselves . . . well. We wouldn’t put up with it for an afternoon, much less weeks and months.
Listen to me, Divas, and learn from my errors. There is no glory in working ourselves to death. Repeat that. Again. Yes, we have important work to do in this world and while we’re taking care of ourselves, emails may take an extra day to get a response and laundry might pile up in the hamper. But there is no benefit in running until we drop. Further, denying ourselves time to rest, recover, and rejoice is simply self-abuse. Be willing to treat yourself with the care and sympathy you’d offer a sick friend, for we are meant for more than constant practicality. To wit:
A long, long time ago, I saw a sheet metal mobile in a store. The top was in the shape of a winged cat and the lower pieces were winged mice. It was whimsical, lovely, and probably about $40. I didn’t buy it, because it wasn’t practical, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind. When I went back for it, it was gone and I’ve never, ever, ever found it again. I’ve never even come close to finding that design again, despite multiple online searches over more than two decades.
At a store here on this trip, I found a candle holder made with multicolored sea glass. I passed it by, although it didn’t just talk to me; it sang. Fortunately, my sane and wise husband reminded me of the winged cat mobile – and the candle holder was still there when I went back.
Life is short, Divas.
Live it. Out loud. With joy and love.
And buy the mobile when you see it.