So how's it going? Can a recovering perfectionist raised with an overabundance of the Calvinist work ethic find contentment in self-care? Or does she wind up wracked by guilt at not being productive 24/7 and go around in a constant state of apology?
Let us draw back the curtain and take a peek . . .
The whole adventure started around the end of June. For years, I'd heard about the "French paradox" and read accounts of the generous attitudes toward family time in French society. Well, that's fine, I thought. Wouldn't work here. Now, let me get back to replying to e-mails at 7 am. But this year, I was pulled up short - I had a diagnosis of Junior Auxiliary Cancer and my dad needed heart surgery. (Both of us are now doing fine, by the way.) That will change your perspective on things in a hurry. Just why exactly was I working so hard? Personal satisfaction? A paycheck? So I could say, "Working real hard, boss!" and hope for a paternal pat of approval as if I were a beagle? Hmm. This needed to be examined. (Besides, it's worth noting that French workers are more productive than Americans.)
Over the last two months, I've been trying some things that - to be candid - I never thought would work. The problem as I saw it was that I just didn't have time for that sort of thing. (I just realized - wow! I was Shere Khan!)
I can be so stubborn that it seems my spirit animal should be a mule.
I started small, convinced that (a) it was frivolous, (b) even if it wasn't frivolous, it wouldn't work and (c) even if it did work, it wouldn't matter. But, fine. I'd try and then you'd see it was useless. I started with a little thing that took me less than ten minutes to set up - I organized my cosmetics, tossing the old, cakey stuff and moving the "good stuff" (samples I'd gotten and was "saving") front and center so I'd use them every single day. A funny thing happened. Taking better care of myself through small things made me feel better about myself. I was worth using the fancy eye cream and moisturizer that had just been sitting there unopened! Imagine that!
Then the universe conspired to help me and I started finding amazing things at incredible prices. The "hunt" was often more fun than the finding, but I couldn't help it - I started to find! I've pared down my wardrobe (still have a ways to go on that) and added a few high-quality pieces that I've found at good consignment shops (on sale! ON SALE!). I have quality skincare products that practically fell into my lap. I'm discovering my "signature scent" and taking the time to wear clothes that make me feel good. I'm drinking water by the tumbler and I'm not stuffing myself with sub-par food. I'm taking the time to read and going to sleep at a respectable hour. I also stop working at a decent hour and focus time and attention on my family. (By the way, I've also lost eight pounds of the weight I put on during my illness and treatment, so there's that.)
Two quick stories to try to convince you to give this a try. First - since 2011, my hometown has been the host city for the American Legion World Series. My dad went to college on a baseball/football scholarship and played catcher for the only ACC team to win the College World Series,* so baseball is pretty important to us. My parents almost always come down for at least part of the Series, which falls just as my college is starting the fall semester. Therefore, I've always been "too busy" to go see a game with my parents, which resulted in them watching the games and probably wondering why their youngest daughter insisted on behaving like a headless chicken.
Sometimes, my intelligence can be measured deeply on the idiot scale.
So this year, I said, "Come on down!" and I worked hard to wrap up things so I'd have the free time to visit and play with my folks. No, I didn't have everything ready to go and neatly squared off before they arrived. But I saw game after game with my parents, I had a marvelous time, and I wouldn't trade those days in the hot sunshine for a gold monkey. And the first day of class went just fine!
Second - from the time she was a young woman, my mother has had an oval gold bangle bracelet that she wears so often it's a "signature piece" of hers. Now, this bangle is a solid piece - there's no hinge or latch - so you touch your pinkie and your thumb together and scrunch your hand a bit to slide it on. We call it her "gypsy bracelet" and we've never found another one. Round bangles, sure. Ovals with latches, no problem. But not a solid oval.
Yesterday, I got back to take a second look at a local consignment shop - there was a costume jewelry brooch I wanted to get another look at. And what gleams at me from the jewelry case but a silver bangle bracelet. Oval. No latch. Solid. Excited, I barely remembered to haggle. (But I did. They knocked off a few dollars and gave me the brooch for half off.)
This is what I mean. Once you decide to make changes - I mean, REALLY DECIDE - I've noticed that things mysteriously line up to help you; you just have to pay attention.
Also yesterday, I went to work to tie up some loose ends from the first week, then left to keep a massage appointment I'd made. (I've gone to the same masseuse for about a dozen years now and I really can't recommend it enough. In town, try her [tell her Mockingbird sent you!] - out of town, find one!) I then ran a couple of errands (dropped off bills, found the bracelet!, that sort of thing) and realized it was a gorgeous day and I hadn't really played with the Spooky-dog in ages. So I went home, changed clothes, left a message for FryDaddy (who has been wonderful about supporting my French attitudes as a "moveable feast" experiment), and my Dixie Dingo and I went to our favorite coffee shop. She had a bowl of water and got petted by many passers-by and I had a lovingly-made cortadito while I sat in the sunshine with my getting-longish hair held back with a scarf and hand-wrote a note to my parents. FryDaddy got my message and joined us, so we had an unexpected stroll through uptown and checked out a couple of shops we'd been meaning to explore in sort of an impromptu date night.
Now, not every day is like that, but why not open yourself to the idea of setting things up so it could be? Life doesn't have to be an unending trial and you (yes, you!) can decide to change it! Don't tell me it can't happen - you deserve to take care of yourself. Start today!
* Sorry, UVA won the Series in 2015. So the record stood for 60 years.