The sun just won’t come up today. I’ve been tossing in the dark for what feels like hours, wrestling with a giant problem that I can’t solve. I keep turning over alternatives in my mind, my body mimicking the spinning in my head. Turning. Turning. Front. Side. Back. The dog sighs at my feet as he burrows into the comforter. I nuzzle in my husband’s neck. He puts his arm around me in his sleep. I turn away again. I flip. I flop. What should I do?
I am currently in a bind. I want to protect some of the people I love in my life but doing so will put others at risk. How do I choose? How do I reason with the unreasonable? I feel out of control, helpless. My hands feel bound behind my back like I’m a maiden in an old-fashioned Western movie with a train approaching. The rope feels coarse around my wrists. I can feel it burning.
I make lists in my mind. I weigh pros and cons. I turn. I toss.
Finally, I get up and wind my way to the dark kitchen where the hum of the fridge accompanies me, the steam from my coffee wafting up, the kids asleep. Two of my four kids decided to pay me a visit at 3:30 am. Do they coordinate this in their dreams? They both went right back to sleep. Me? Not so much.
A book I’m reading for my podcast, "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books," waits for me on the kitchen table. THE EXTREMELY BUSY WOMAN’S GUIDE TO SELF-CARE by Suzanne Falter, an advance copy of the December release. Ha! I flip it open and it falls to “Chapter 24: Essential #1: A Good Night’s Sleep.” Funny.
Self-care is one of those hot terms right now. Yes, I get why taking care of myself is important. I know that when I can get a lot of sleep, exercise and eat healthy food, I feel better. I’m a better mom. I have more energy. I’m more efficient with my time. Warmer. Quicker. Better. Zibby 2.0.
But I can’t always get there. Some nights, like tonight, I waste precious sleep stewing, mulling over problems I don’t have time to tackle during the day. Most days I bounce between doing work for my reading world endeavors and my #momlife duties.
Yes, I miss exercising like I did in my single days. I miss spending the mornings sweating in the dark, whirring bike wheels, candles and great music playing. I miss boot camp sessions in the grass, heavy medicine balls and weights and burpees. I miss dance cardio classes where I mess up and don’t mind. And most of all, I miss fitting into all my clothes, feeling okay about myself in a bathing suit, not having my kids pat my stomach or say things like, “Why is your belly so big?”
I just can’t seem to fit in all that self-care right now. It feels indulgent. I’m too busy. I’m trying to build a business (perhaps that is self-indulgent?!) and take care of my kids. There’s limited time in a day.
When I do have a few minutes of free time, I read. I read because I need the escape. I need to get out of my own head and into someone else’s issues. Plus I read for my podcast so I can rationalize it all as “work.”
Reading for me is an immediate release. It’s the only thing I can do - boom! - that resets my mind in an instant. I don’t need to squeeze into workout clothes or find my spinning shoes. I don’t need to drive to the gym or run a hot bath or unroll a yoga mat. I just have to open up a book. I can do it anywhere, anytime. No set-up required.
Okay, fine, I have to actually get the books but for me, that’s the easy part. A quick online order. A book from a friend. A library book. An audio book. An ARC. Something. For a moment, I stop the rest of it to read. The parenting. Organizing. Replying to emails. Buying school clothes. Adding events to the family calendar. Interviewing authors. Planning book events. I become another character. My own story gets paused.
Still no sun. Will it ever come up?! What if it doesn’t?
Yes, I’m failing in the self-care department but ironically it’s because I care so much. Not about myself, necessarily, but about the people I love. The people I want to help. Those super close to me and those other moms I don't even know who are sitting at their kitchen tables now, too, mulling over their own intractable issues. I feel a pressing need to let others to know we're all in this together.
Ah! Suddenly I see a sliver of a crack in the wall, a potential way out of my current quagmire. Perhaps this is the self-care I need, writing in the dark, thinking things through, the gift I give myself before the sun rises and I’m back on duty.
Self-care. Perhaps, just maybe, this is it.