The three best things that happened to me yesterday happened before 6:30am: 1) a line in a poem that wouldn’t come right seemed like it would; 2) I thought of a way to return to a writing project that I keep abandoning; and 3) my 4-year old son walked into the kitchen in his penguin pajamas with his armload of sleeping paraphenalia and said, “Hello there, my friend.”
Last night I was on a panel about self-care, talking about therapeutic writing. Luckily two other smart, insightful people with useful things to say were on the panel too, because the idea of self-care seems like a big load of nonsense to me. I like the idea of being kind to ourselves, but take a good look around folks, and ask yourselves if what we could all stand is a tad more self-regulation.
What I am against in particular about the marketing of “self-care” is that it always seems to involve flowers and bathing in candlelight. The message is that, done properly, “self-care” is supposed to magically make you happier, calmer, more comfortable, and most importantly, a better person.
Apologies for not being here yesterday, but I have dreaded “technical difficulties” with my laptop and I know I’ll be spending a long time on the phone with Dell this afternoon. Now, this is actually something that someone else could do for me. Someone could buy me a new computer, too. Someone else could clean up my living room, make my meals, my bed, my kitchen floor visible under all the grime.
I believe that my husband would argue that no one can garden for you, take care of your home for you, mow your lawn, fold your laundry. I believe that he would argue that no one can do anything for you because it is your life, that you are not interchangeable, despite how small or trivial the tasks. And I get that, but it’s only one way to consider this philosophical question.
During the conversation with my colleague about things no one else can do for you, I said, “You coud just say that no one else can live your life for you.” His reply: “That’s what you say when you want the conversation to be over, when you want to stop thinking about the topic.”
So here’s my first attempt at a list of things no one else can do for you (me). I hope you’ll add to it, comment on it, and share, as Cynthia did in her comment about her father-in-law’s death, the perfect example of the truth of this belief that there are things that only you can do.
- No one else can learn for you
- No one can suffer for you
- No one can grieve for you
- No one can love for you
- No one can be faithful for you
- No one can tell you truth for you
- No one can tell your story for you
- No one can die for you, be born for you, give birth for you, be present exactly as you can be present
David Whyte says that human beings are the only corner of creation that can choose not to show up, not to be themselves. A crow must always be a crow, but a human being can choose not to be him or herself. Viewed through this lens of there being things that no one else can do for us, how sad and wasteful it is when we choose not to show up, fully, as ourselves. We forfeit the truth that everything we do matters.
What have I left out? What would you like to add to this list? Let me know! And have a great weekend!
And I’ll add with a quotation that Ann left as a comment a few day ago: “To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world” (Brandi Snyder).
Some time ago, one of my colleagues told me that he kept a list of things that “no one else can do for you.” The example he gave me was “no one else can kiss your kids goodnight for you.” I’ve thought of this many, many times when Gabe is already in bed, one of us has done the elaborate bedtime routine, I am so ready for my day to be over, and he comes out of his room for “one more hug.” Or he sends a message downstairs to where I am already snuggled up, pillows perfectly arranged, book at the ready, that he wants me to come back upstairs to say goodnight. Again.
And I always go, because every time, I remember what my colleague said. No one else can kiss your kids goodnight for you.
Some things make me embarrassed to be human: pet clothes boutiques, deep fried Twinkies on a stick, and having spent my spring break at a place where there was a Beef Jerky Outlet. I don’t like to be confronted with things that shamelessly celebrate our most basic (basest?) desires and our insistence on indulging them. I at least like to think of myself as restrained, tasteful. But I’ve learned that when things outside me are irritating, I should probably look inside at whatever is getting its feathers ruffled. And though beef jerky, even deep fried and on sale, wouldn’t tempt me, many other insta-indulgences would.
Sadly, I am currently without a car, which is a profound inconvenience. Not really because of the obvious loss of something that makes my life easier and more workable, but because I am not in good standing with the State of Illinois with regard to my driving record. No tickets or accidents for 10 years, then, wham! A whole lot in a short period of time. Gabe has become quite familiar with Mama having to talk to the police. So the inconvenience is that a Bad Thing with regard to my license is hanging over my head, and it won’t be resolved until January. Not the worst of Bad Things by any stretch, but something that makes my stomach clench from time to time.
The two small, connected cities where I live have what is supposed to be a very good public bus system, and if you are going from one well-populated place that is very close to another well-populated place, this holds true. And they have nice, friendly drivers, and positive, happy slogans on the sides of the buses. Slogans like, “It’s a great day to ride the MTD!” and “Smile! It’s sunny!” But if you actually need to get places with the bus, it can be a bit of a problem.
As I was browsing through a variety of internet sites this morning to see what else I could learn about Advent, this weirdly-named site caught my eye: Advent Conspiracy. At first I thought, “Oh good Lord, is this going to be one of those psycho sites where people insist that things that obviously did happen (e.g. the Holocaust, 9/11) didn’t happen? And Advent? Really? But when I clicked on it, I was filled with joy and delight! It’s the perfect 3rd Sunday of Advent post and you HAVE to know about it!
My mother used to tell me that, for several years, when I got home from school, I headed straight for the couch and took a nap. And recently, one of my relatives who is retired told me that he had the perfect daily routine: he woke up, had breakfast, read, listened to the radio or podcasts on his computer, then took his bike out for a 20 mile ride, came home, drank two glasses of wine and took a nap. Then he ate a meal, wrote in his journal, maybe worked in the yard. I cannot tell you what I would give for this life. So I’ve been sick for about a week now and aside from the sick part, (and believe me, if I were sick from something really bad, this would be a radically different post) it’s actually quite lovely, because you see many things that you don’t get to see when you’re out in the world.
Sheldon Kopp’s Eternal Truth #6 is this: “There is no way of getting all you want.” To which I want to respond with a resounding, “Duh.” It seems so very obvious that it hardly needs to be said, except of course that it does need to be said, because we worry about getting or having all we want all the time.
If you suffered through my sorry apology post, you may recall that #4 of the “43 Eternal Truths” is: “We are all already dying and we are going to be dead for a long time.” If I had been considering abandoning ship on this project before I got to that one, well, there’s no “considering” about it anymore. I mean, yes, I will write about depression and other difficult things, and I am not, in general, a naturally happy person, but for God’s SAKE.
The thing is, though, I have this friend…