There are concepts that filter out into larger use and can take on a different meaning than originally intended. Sometimes they're parroted so much that they begin to sound ridiculous. 'Self-care' is one of those for me. It popped onto my radar through social media and I reacted pretty negatively when I first saw it. It sounded indulgent and excessive, like a real-world version of "Treat yo' self!". Something people say, but no one really does.
Then I started grad school. It turns out that this is a term I hear regularly as a social worker in training. Our professors talk about it, texts refer to it. We're told that it's a fundamental part of our job as mental health professionals. And the grand joke is that while we are taught to emphasize self-care to our future clients, we all know that very few of us are engaging in it for ourselves. We're so busy with our caseloads, documentation, families, and school. And on top of that, these days we all have some aspect of branding in ensuring our professional success.
In fact, tonight I sat down to write about Malka Leifer. This is a case that has been dragging on for too long and ties together different communal issues I want to address. It was going to be a long evening of delving into this story and thinking deeply about what the implicit messages are within it.
And then it started. My teenager needed help with something. My 11-year old had some questions for me. My 9-year old wanted to talk about school. My 4-year old wanted my attention - literally, just for me to see him and focus on him. Dinner, bedtime, looming schoolwork. And of course, I want to keep up with regular content here.
I couldn't get the time to get my head in the game and write a piece with the impact I wanted. I was awash in people's needs and unable to find any quiet, and I was growing short-tempered. Then I saw a post from The Layers Project about Rachael Frankel and I took a moment to think about what I wanted to put into the world tonight. Did I want to sit down and produce something meaningful but ultimately painful to write and read? The answer was no. Not tonight. I wanted to feel the positivity of a mother who has lost so much and won't let it break her. I put the other post on hold and realized that this is exactly what they're trying to teach us in school - notice when we need to stop.
I will address the cruelty and flaunting of morals happening with this case, but another time. Tonight I'm simply here to say thank you to everyone who's been reading along for the last few days, and to remind you that it's okay to take some downtime. Whether you need to connect with friends, go for a walk, read something joyous - the odds are that if you put aside your work for a few moments, it will be okay. Nourish yourself as lovingly as you nourish your most cherished people. It's self-care, and I'm totally on board.