I have been taking care of others for as long as I can remember. When I first started working, I babysat. I then progressed into becoming an in home aide for special needs children. I tended to my mom and helped her with even the simplest tasks she could have handled on her own when the tectonic plates of our relationship shifted unbeknownst to me and against my will. Now I am living with an elderly woman as a caretaker and companion. I have never learned how to “take care of myself”, “make myself a priority.” That is until the recent global pandemic forced us all to “stay in place”.
“Stay in Place” was a term coined by government and medical professionals to urge individuals to stay in their place of residence to avoid spreading of the COVID-19 global pandemic inducing virus.
What if however we viewed it as “Stay in your place where you find comfort, warmth, encouragement.”
“Stay in place with the demons in your brain and the scars on your heart and give them the time to be thoroughly examined and healed.”
“Stay in place and pick back up that (paintbrush, camera, pen, book, mixing spoon, gardening tool) that brought you so much joy long ago.”
“Stay in place and call and make those amends you never got around to, call that old friend you’re often too busy to call, that sweet lady from church who extended a warm embrace just when you needed it.”
I know the unfortunate reality is that for some people, adults and children alike, where they are currently being made to stay may not be a warm, embracing and caring space. I pray for the protection of these individuals and that they get through this as unscathed as possible. I pray that they eventually find a place that is warm, embracing and caring.
This virus, quarantine, furlough, etc. has forced me to stop and examine my lack of self-care. Not the physical self-care. That waivers and Lord knows I’ve read enough diet books and watched enough reality T.V to at least have somewhat of a knowledge to fix that. I’m talking about the mental self-care. The things I need to do that for years now have hidden behind the excuses of not having time, energy or somone to coddle me through it. It has forced me to look at all of the books I’ve piled up to some day want to read, to re-read all of the writings I’ve started and let get buried in the masses of my hard drive, to explore the faith journey that I’ve weaved in and out of for years. It has forced me to examine my relationships with self, friends, mother and girlfriend. It has illuminated how that first relationship, the one with the self, is a catalyst for how all of those other relationships go.
I don’t know what clicked but something did and I am over the moon. I’ve been carving time out daily, even if it’s a few minutes here or there, for reading, writing, mental well-being, connection and finding peace. All of those. I hit each of those once a day at least. I find even if I’m setting my alarm when I don’t necessarily need to, adding myself to my “to do” list has been the best thing I’ve done.
I have found a 10 minute or less mediation to do and that helps me get mental clarity. (Anything more than that and to be truthful, I fall asleep and begin convincing myself mediation is not for me.) I read a few short pages while the woman I live with recites her rosary. I stay up late and write because I’m energized with my power of self. I used a whole book of stamps last week writing notes to friends to give them a nice surprise in their mailbox other than the ordinary bills. I feel the best overall than I have truly felt in years.
I know this virus has been so scary and unsettling for so many and I in no means, want to minimize the tireless efforts they are putting forth or the weight they are carrying on their shoulders. I am just hopeful that for some, this “stay in place” can one day be reflected back upon as a time where others were able to examine what was extinguishing the fire inside them and in turn, what helped to re-ignite it and let it burn brighter to first warm oneself up from the inside and then share that spark with others.
You alone are in control of the spark you contain. Let no-one, including yourself and the demons in your brain, the scars on your heart, snuff it out.