Since I was 13 years old, my favorite author has been (and will forever be) Madeleine L'Engle. I was first struck by her imagination, then her lyrical prose; what has stuck with me through the years, however, has been her candid truth and deep wisdom.
I read and re-read several of her books each year, delighting in them each time anew. I have read them so many times, almost every page has underlinings and most margins have my chicken scratch somewhere to be found.
One of my favorite places to take notes is on the end pages at the front and back; those crisp, blank pages just seem to beg for someone to write on them! I enjoy going through my humble notes and observations, all inspired by the wisdom within the book itself.
This past weekend, I cracked open the next L'Engle book in line to be re-read and I flipped to the back to skim over my past reflections. One in particular caught my eye and I paused to read it. I paused longer still when it struck me what i twas about. In black in I'd written these words: "I do not take care of myself." My first thought was, "O, I wrote that years ago." (I checked the date: November 2003.) I read them again. And again. The third time was, proverbially, the charm. It stuck. I don't take care of myself.
At first I bristled, became a bit defensive as we all do when confronted with our short comings. I made excuses. "I can't," I argued. "I live in a garage. There's no place to work out. I can't relax in a bath tub or curl up in front of a fireplace with a good book and a cup of tea" or any of those other things I took for granted before I took up residence here. And any one who had ever shared an abode with another family knows there is precious little privacy to be found.
Once the excuses dissipated, I realized that maybe the issue ran a bit deeper than that. All of those things are true and they do play a starring role in the whys and why nots of the situation, but am I really so limited that my well-being must be compromised until I have room to stretch out, room to live?
Then I thought about others, those I know and those I've read about. People with homes, yards, bathtubs and kitchens, fireplaces, and real, honest to goodness beds. These people, in possession of those things for which I long, are in the same boat as I. Why is that? I pondered this for a while, and I believe i have come up with some speculations.
For the sake of argument (and the simple fact they are MY speculation), I will use myself as prime example. one reason I don't do what I know I should to encourage positive growth and care is, quite simply, I tell myself I'll binge now, be lazy here, until we are out and finally in a world of our own. That's all well and good if you're on a week's vacation and allow your diet and exercise to lapse and you decide to spend all your spare time reading Harlequin Romances and drinking red wine. You have a set time limit -Sunday through Saturday- and then it's back to the pursuit of dreams and goals. And I'll be the first to tell anyone that taking a break here and there is healthy for the soul.
The problem with that, for me, is I am unsure how much longer before my current situation changes. Confession time: I've grown lax with the excuse of "O, when I have my own space I'll take care of myself physically, emotionally, artistically, spiritually."
Forgive me Father for I have sinned.
Perhaps another reason is (again, quite simply), we are grossly limited with space. It is quite challenging to do a marital arts workout in a 4 x 6 foot space. I trip over air! Can you imagine the damage I could cause in that small a space with a kick-punch combo? There is no available space to leave unfinished art projects out, eagerly awaiting my return. Heck, there's really no where to do the projects in the first place! The floor (remember: 4x6 feet!) or coffee table must be sacrificed. Frustration of knowing I must clean up after every, single step or use tiny movements where my body (and the DVD instructor) require full motion is usually enough to persuade me to plop myself on the couch and play solitaire or Sudoku until my eyes cross.
Lastly, and I feel this is true for many others than myself, I must admit to feeling just a wee bit guilty when I take time for myself. "You should be writing, creating, washing dishes, clothes, the Jeep..." All manner of excuses barrage me. Though I'm old enough to know the wisdom in taking care of oneself, the excuses drain energy which could otherwise be used to chop up some veggies for a salad or some firewood in the woods for a bonfire. And perhaps-and here comes that pure speculation-this is just another case of being conditioned by a society which almost requires one to be busy and frowns upon those who pause to take care of themselves or, even worse, to do what they want to do to ;push themselves closer to their own, personal goals.
To that excuse (speculation, truth) I say -SLOW DOWN! I find myself rushing to work, rushing home, rushing through a work out, rushing through a chapter, a project...could it be I'm too concerned with quantity and not quality? Could it be while I'm doing one thing, I'm constantly thinking of another? To really be in the present, to fully BE in what and where and with who at the moment I am there, that is something I sadly have a problem with. Something i am committed to working on.
Could the simple act of slowing down, physically and mentally, be the key to not only taking better care of myself, but to actually get more done towards goals and dreams and enjoy them more in the process? That's definitely something to think about.