Today is nearing the end of Day 4 of My Selfish Christmas. If you’re just joining us, My Selfish Christmas is a journey through the gift wrap, the overspending, over-committing, over-compensating, the forced reunions, and the few added pounds- back to Self. It’s about declining invitations, bringing something store-bought to the party, saying “Fuck You!” to holiday cards, and buying those boots for yourself. It may sound selfish and that’s because it is. But the goal of this challenge is not to excuse you from participating in the holiday season, and it certainly isn’t an oppositional movement against Christmas. The purpose of My Selfish Christmas is to reconnect with self during a time of year when most of us spread ourselves dangerously thin. It’s about clearing away the distractions and expectations that overwhelm holiday festivities, and finding peace; the result being that we are able to be present and joyous amidst the line-cutters, the crowded airports, and drunk Uncle Tom.
I started this challenge in response to my own inadequate self care routine. If you know me, you know that I’m a big fan of self care, but sometimes we get so good at taking care of ourselves that our lives become very full. The real challenge for me has not been about nurturing self during periods of pain or idleness, but during times of high activity, commitments, relationships, and success.
When he or she leaves you and you are suddenly overcome with a void so massive that you accept invitations from Mom to accompany her to the dry cleaners, it’s easy to take a bath or pray or meditate. When you lose the job and you are penniless and bored, it’s easy to get to some extra meetings or make new friends. When you’ve finally graduated or you’ve got a 3-day weekend or little Susie is finally starting preschool, it’s easy to take up a hobby or meet a friend for coffee (extra whip cream please!). But how one manages to make these life-affirming, life-replenishing activities a regular part of life is proportionate to how much one cares for him or herself. Self-care is not just an emergency kit. Rather, it is the thoughtful, proactive, responsible decision to love one’s self. It is the regular medical check-ups, flossing, 8 hours of sleep, insurance, changing the batteries on the carbon monoxide detectors, and getting oil changes.
Five days ago, I collapsed into a puddle of tears because I had made myself sick- both physically and figuratively. I was juggling too many commitments, stressing about Christmas gifts for my family, resenting activities I usually enjoy such as cooking or walking my dog, pressuring myself about performance at my new job, and feeling depressed because I couldn’t find my holiday spirit. I couldn’t manage to stay still long enough to take a few deep breaths or connect with God; and worse yet, I didn’t really want to. I just kept going, racing against my sanity for the next thing- the next thing that I could finish so I could move on to the next thing and the next.
The worst part about the path to realizing you’re not taking care of self is the bread crumbs of good intentions. I love to help, volunteer, lend a hand, accept a new challenge, pursue a new goal, make a meaningful connection, and do my very best. I know that these are wonderful qualities, but even wonderful qualities can be harmful in excess.
This week, I’ve learned that I can always find a plausible reason to do just one more thing. Even if that thing is for me, I can avoid responsibility for my wellbeing by choosing to make that thing more important. Today, and throughout the last four days, I’ve chosen me over things. I’ve parted ways with a side job, I haven’t made the bed once this week, I let my husband cook dinner, and I skipped French class. More importantly, I’ve managed to give myself 10 minutes of prayer and meditation each evening. Those 10 minutes are a far cry from quiet, peaceful contemplation, but I am still reaping the rewards for creating that free space. I feel lighter, happier, and more present. I can actually feel the healing breath reaching the far ends of my body. I feel alive, grounded, and at peace.
Please share about your experience with the My Selfish Christmas challenge! What’s worked for you?