Like many people, I struggle with a very critical inner voice, one who never hesitates to point out all of the ways I fail to meet my own goals. I meant to take some time off of my internship this week in order to relax and give myself a little time to do some pre-job search tasks before jumping back into the fray–but I ended up going each day. I had my reasons, and I think I made the right decision (and in any case, it was the decision I made), but my inner critic made sure to remind me that I really fall short at work-life balance.
While I appreciate that I have this voice–she is wise in many ways and reminds me of my values–I am also trying to work on cultivating a more moderate, kind, nonjudgmental voice. That voice will validate some of my impulses–like, it’s okay that I chose to take advantage of learning opportunities that presented themselves last week. This is the time that I have for that. It is possible to both work hard and take care of myself. That voice will also point out ways that I actually was successful at self-care as well.
And I did take my time for self care! Let me tell you about it.
I drew many mandalas (at least once a day!) as a mindfulness practice. I have some work to do to make this activity more mindful (doing it away from my computer, for example), but I’ve really loved losing myself in the short moments of drawing these little designs. When I can, I will write a post that walks you through the process that I take, inasmuch as there is a prescribable process. Since I’ve been able to take the time to make a lot of these, I fashioned them into a garland to send to my sister for her birthday. She loves mandalas and colors them a lot as part of her own self-care routine, and I have enjoyed thinking about her while doing these. I’ve learned a lot about gentleness from her.
I saved one of the mandalas to send to a student of mine who I’ve been emailing with recently. She’s a special kid (but not a kid anymore) and I’m glad to be connected to her again. I wrote her a little note and included a star-shaped blossom. Being back in touch with this young person has given me the opportunity to re-articulate to myself some pretty important beliefs. Chief among them is that we deserve, fundamentally, to be fulfilled, to find joy, to live well.
I’ve also been cooking. I made this great Thai chicken soup (essentially Tom Kha, but without the lemongrass). I needed to make chicken broth because I finally ran out of the broth I made months ago and froze, so it made sense to make a chicken soup with the meat left over. I was pretty pleased with my version of “Thai seasoning,” which this recipe called for but which I could neither find nor really wanted to purchase. It included fish sauce, sesame oil, cayenne, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, coriander, red pepper flakes, and lemon pepper, along with the lime juice. I think it was a good deal spicier than the recipe called for, which meant that it was exactly how I like it. And now we have a ton of leftovers between this and the black-eyed peas and collards soup I made for New Year’s Day.
And I’ve been reading. I haven’t been reading what I’d planned to read (The Gift of Therapy by Irvin Yalom or Swamplandia by Karen Russell), but I’ve really enjoyed two books on gardening. The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener by Niki Jabbour has a wealth of information about gardening in general and especially interplanting and succession planting. Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces by Gayla Trail is incredibly accessible and inspiring and has a ton of practical advice for people like me who have limited space for food gardening. I am really excited to start seedlings and watch life happen. Between dreaming about my garden and cooking more mindfully, I’ve started to think about what it might mean to eat with an abiding respect and promotion for full and exuberant life.
So while I have continued to work hard, I have been taking my time and committing to the slower, deeper life I want to have. And in all of that was quiet presence with my partner and snuggling with my pets. Take that, inner critic.
How have you been taking your time lately? What do you do to take care of yourself?