You know that feeling when your ass gets CALLED OUT and then you feel like you have to question everything? And then the embarrassment creeps in, like “how could I have gotten it so wrong?”
Oh, honey. Pull up a chair.
So, for the last year I’ve been teaching occasional workshops on Reiki for Self-Care. I’ve even lectured at a university on this topic. I should be an expert, right? I mean…. right?
I prided myself on knowing that self-care doesn’t always mean buying myself expense soaps and coffees and stuff. I prided myself on knowing that I don’t have to brand it on Instagram, like “pics or it didn’t happen.” I do Reiki on myself throughout the day, a few seconds here and there, checking in to make sure I’m not holding tension in my stomach or shoulders or whatever. When I feel myself getting sick I park myself right in bed, place those hands and let Reiki flow through me, pumping up that good old immune system. SELF-CARE LEVEL: EXPERT.
I had the pleasure of receiving a surprise Reiki session from a gifted practitioner the other day and she was like, “You’re closed off. What’s up with you not taking care of yourself?” I’m thinking, “Uhh, I do take care of myself. I work out. And I spend lots of time reading. And doing Reiki on myself. And, like, going into nature and thinking and stuff. Yeah.”
And then she’s like, “Why is the energy of your ego so big? What are you trying to prove?” And I’m like:
But she was right. She was so very right.
See, I’m a mom and wife. Like everyone, I’ve got laundry and dishes and floors to clean. I’m also SELF-employed. And all that time that felt so indulgent because I was ignoring the chores and reading instead, I was reading books on how to be a better healer. All that time I was spending in nature, I was putting pressure on myself to pay attention to signs, look for animals, look for interesting shapes in the trees, FORCING myself to MAKE SPIRITUAL MEANING and magic out of everything I did, to prove I was a healer. All that time spend doing self-Reiki was time measuring my skills as a healer. All that time I was sitting quietly and thinking, I was thinking about work. How can I help more people? What should my next blog be about? Should I start a YouTube Channel? Am I even good at this?
It all felt like self-care, because I was ignoring household responsibilities and spending time thinking about myself and my business and my bottom line. In our culture, that’s considered indulgent!
But I was conflating self-care — doing something nice for myself “just because” I deserve it, without being attached to a goal or outcome — with personal growth work. There was always a goal, a hidden agenda of betterment. Self-care time had to result in some growth or outcome I could point to, in order to justify it. Otherwise, there was a subconscious belief that I didn’t deserve it. I had forgotten that I deserve time and space to just “be”, to do something fun without attaching meaning or pressure to it.
SO WRONG, you guys.
So the next day, I took her advice. (Well, after reconciling my mortification about being THAT WRONG about self-care as a teacher of self-care, JEEEEZ.) I set aside an hour to read a book that wasn’t about work. I made fresh coffee instead of heating up yesterday’s dregs, and carried it over to the comfy chair instead of sitting at the kitchen table. I even turned on the electric blanket.
And guess what I accomplished? Guess what I could point to at the end of that hour as “justification”? Nothing. Sweet, sweet nothing.
Well, actually, that’s not true. I could point to a feeling of peace and well-being and physical comfort that I hadn’t felt in a really long time. It was nice to treat myself the way I wish people would treat each other all the time. My heart and my core felt open and relaxed. And that’s enough.
Funny story, the next day I took a short walk in the woods, determined not to think about work. Determined to enjoy the view and the weather without forcing myself to make meaning of it or force myself to feel deeply, magically connected to the world around me.
And I failed. I thought about work. I actually, despite my best intentions, wrote this blog post in my head, the one you’re reading right now. But….. that’s okay. It’s really okay. Just like I gave myself time and space to read a book the day before, this time I gave myself time and space to forgive myself for thinking about work. I treated myself with compassion and respect instead of pressure. And THAT is a huge part of self-care too.