Caring for Yourself First

As I work toward better care of myself and tending to my own needs before tending to others I am learning so much about what I like and what pleases me. A big challenge for me is giving away that which I want most to others. If it’s a party or a gift or even a small treat, I refuse to take it for myself. I do however hold on to it and save it for someone else. I could justify the expense or the investment if it was for someone else – but never for me. 

As I do more deep dive self-work I am finding how that cycle has continued to hurt me throughout my life. It has worn me down and worn down that still small inner voice I have that calls to me to tell me what I need, what I value, what I want. And over time and after repeated years of giving that which my heart longs for most to others that inner voice has grown steadily more quiet. However, one of the great healings of this work has been the generosity of giving myself that which I want. And by giving small gifts, little indulgences here and there – maybe it’s a cookie after mediation or some quiet time out in the yard by myself – my inner voice is getting stronger, louder, and it is guiding me to exactly where I want to be and what I want to be doing. 

For years I have kept this monogramed lumbar pillow on my etsy wishlist. It is expensive and luxurious and really, it’s a decorative pillow, it serves no useful purpose. But to me it looks lovely. I think it is beautiful and elegant. Tasteful and classic, it just seemed like something I would like to have, for whatever reason. For years I have looked at this pillow and thought – in a nicer house, in someone else’s room, perhaps the next wedding invitation I will send it to someone else. And instead, today I bought it. I pulled the trigger and ordered that pillow. And I am excited for it to come. I am eager to see how it looks on my bed. I have wanted this pillow for years and instead of punishing myself for one more day by looking at it and thinking it’s beautiful but too beautiful for me, I thought I love it and I want it and now it’s mine. 

I will be one of those elegant southern ladies with a monogrammed pillow sham. I will be the owner of something classic, tasteful and refined. And deep in my heart there is this sweet singing. A gentle hum that tells me I am doing the right thing and I am nourishing something deep inside me. A need that has longed to be filled and is finally getting what it wants from me – the only person who can give me exactly what I want and need. And that is the beauty of this learning, it is the realization that I don’t have to wait for someone else to guess or get it just right on a whim. 

When I listen to my inner voice I know, deep down I know, what I want and need and I don’t need anyone else’s permission or approval to give myself those things. I can give those things to myself, be they small or large, and they will fill me up. I will satiate a deep thirst and when my cup is full to overflowing there is enough to share with others. When I feel ready I can give to other people – I do not need to steal the bread from my own mouth to give to someone else first. 

I cannot pour from an empty cup and so when I have enough then I have more than enough to give. But taking what I want and giving it to others keeps me rooted in resentment because I am giving more than I have. I am giving beyond my own boundaries and my own comfort level and that is not a gift given willingly. That is a gift given with strings attached. And I don’t want to give with strings attached any longer. I want to give from the fullness of my abundance. I want to share because I want to and I am so full, my joy so rich and large that giving or sharing with someone else will not deplete my resources. And I want to surround myself with friends who appreciate, respect, and value the reciprocity of these gifts. People who realize what it takes to share and want to share not only their gifts with me but also accept with an open heart those gifts I have available to share freely and do not want or expect that I should give to them what I have not yet offered myself and satiated my own need for first. It is that awareness, that honesty, and mutual appreciation that feeds us both that draws to us those who wish to share not to take and those that wish to give as much as they receive. And that is the zenith of this work – to love myself so dearly and deeply that I only draw towards me those that can and want to do the same. 

How do you care deeply for yourself? How do you find your circle of friends and build reciprocal relationships? Who is your best reciprocal friend?

Five Phrases to Keep Us Grounded

Today I am thinking about the things I learned as a child that have stuck with me all through my life. The little gems of wisdom that we sprinkle on children and hope they stick. These are cliches but they are also accurate and cuttingly quick – why waste your time trying to say it another way? Here’s a few of my favorites and I hope you’ll share some of your own – I’m always game to learn something new

Keep hands, feet, and all other objects to yourself. This was a great one from the wall of rules that our sixth grade class would have to write repeatedly until we learned them. I’ll say they stuck, it has been a long time since sixth grade. I remember Mrs. Richards and I have managed to follow this rule throughout my life. What a powerful and wonderful lesson to remind us to be respectful of ourselves and of other people.

You can always stoop over to pick up nothing. This one I learned in college from a friend’s mother. At first I did not understand it and I mulled it over long and hard before suddenly one day it made sense. What a wise woman, you can waste your time or you can learn from what I’m teaching you that is all your decision. What an elegant way to call someone on their bullshit. 

If you can’t say something nice come sit here by me. Steel Magnolias remains one of my favorite movies and the wisdom of southern women never ceases to impress or delight me. The homespun wisdom of Dolly Parton, the sharp wit of Julia Shugarbaker, and the countless friends I have accumulated over a lifetime of devotion to the cult of southern womanhood. I could write a whole post about the brilliant one-liners of southern women but I’ll hold off with one more.

It’s hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world. Dolly Parton, the visionary, musician, and living breathing angel among us is full of timeless wisdom that soothes the soul and warms the heart. It is challenging to be authentic in a world that expects perfection but rarely explains what that looks like – for women it often resembles a centerfold, who is also a devoted mother, partner, and void of any challenging opinions like her own intrinsic value or desire for respect and bodily autonomy. None of us fits that mold because we are all complex, unique, and divinely flawed people. Dolly’s words apply on so many levels, don’t they?

Actions speak louder than words. Now wasn’t this embroidered on a pillow in all our houses at one time? This classic is wonderful and holds weight. We can say all the kind things in the world but if we fail to show up for our friends or support our families at times of need what are we doing? You have to back up that lip service with a little hustle and some action. Send a casserole, call a friend, shoot a text. Let people know you’re thinking about them. It’s the only way they’ll know!

What are some other wonderful words of wisdom that you carry with you to help keep you honest and grounded? I am aching to know!