After running nonstop the past few weeks in preparation for an upcoming move, I stepped away from the boxes and packing tape today for a leisurely morning to myself.
Choosing to disregard the voices in my head about how “self-indulgent” I was being and all the time I was “wasting,” I started by walking our dog around a scenic pond near home and continued on to a morning yoga class followed by an hour-long massage that my husband had given me for my birthday last year. (Yes, last year.)
Coming from a background colored by codependency, it’s often challenging for me to devote time to care for myself without the shame and guilt demons popping up to remind me of how extravagant and selfish I’m being. These critical voices appear during time I spend alone, whether it’s on practicing yoga, taking a bath, getting a massage or going to therapy. (The fact that I postponed redeeming the massage gift certificate for a year-and-a-half in the first place is an issue I’m sure my therapist and I could discuss at much greater length.)
Particularly for someone who has experienced some degree of trauma, it can feel extremely vulnerable and risky to permit ourselves to be cared for, to drop our guards and allow our bodies to soften and our minds to be at ease. Ironically, in many ways, it begins to feel safer and more comfortable for us to continue operating in the fast-paced, high-tension and high-stakes crisis mode to which we have grown accustomed.
Just as we decide what and how we practice physically with our bodies, we can choose which thought patterns, mental habits and actions we reinforce throughout the rest of our lives. Especially for those of us who have spent much of life functioning in fight-or-flight mode, it’s absolutely vital that we make time to practice the opposite way of being and state of mind by nurturing ourselves.
There’s no question in my mind that I’m at my best when I am caring for myself and (equally challenging) allowing people to care for me just as much as I care for others. But since that doesn’t come naturally to me yet, it requires practice and mindfulness.
Beyond my yoga asana practice, this morning’s broader self-care regimen was for me a practice in worthiness. Today, my practice is one of knowing I am worthy of relaxing, feeling good, having fun, taking care of myself and even having others take care of me.
That practice made for a lovely morning.