[Editor's note: The thought of starting to take better care of yourself can be daunting but it doesn't have to be. These interviews feature individuals who have successfully incorporated self-care into their daily routines. Read them, be inspired by them, and take on the challenge of self-care!]
Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
I am a freelance writer, mother, former life coach/prevention specialist, wife and mother of four children here on earth and three in Heaven (two by miscarriage and one stillborn caused by anencephaly). My youngest son has a rare genetic mutation called SPINT2. With a Masters in Clinical Psychology and a passion to make things beautiful, I share stories of hope, resources to live and love the moment however hard it may be, and promote those things in our lives that lead to healthier families, community and culture. On the other days of the week, I decorate my home and attempt tasks in domesticity while trying to maintain peace among four kids under the age of 8.
What is a typical day like for you?
My days begin at 6:30 a.m. when I either get up, get dressed and put in make-up or when I dash out my bedroom to quiet the toddlers who would rouse the whole house. Ideally, I prepare myself for the day, do a short exercise routine, pray the Liturgy of the Hours morning prayer beside my five-year-old, set out breakfast and complete medical tasks for my two-year-old. After breakfast, we clean up, complete homeschool tasks and household chores. After lunch, I read a non-fiction book while the kids “rest” (aka, don’t talk to me). My husband usually works from home in the mornings but in the afternoon, I am on my own. That time is spent on projects or an outing. By 5 or 6 we are eating dinner (either foraged from the fridge or simply cooked) and the great bedroom clean-up begins. The kids are in bed by 7:30 p.m. (asleep by 8:30 p.m. hopefully) while I read on the couch until 9 p.m. I am usually in bed by 10 p.m.
On non-ideal days, I keep the kids quiet in the morning and spend too much time reading on my computer. Those days I accomplish laundry and dishes but little else. The kids eat carrots, cheese and Dinos at dinner. Tuesdays and Thursday mornings I write. Occasionally, passion projects derail every thing else in my life.
What has your relationship to self-care been like throughout your life? Did you always make it a priority?
While I have valued self-care as a way to keep my sanity throughout my marriage (because I go from highly functioning to not at all), I learned the elements while facing my son’s complex medical issues beside his hospital crib, and during an unexpected pregnancy and a fatal prenatal diagnosis. It seemed the only option other than self-care was to curl up into a ball and die but my children needed me. Self-care was the only lifeline I had under the immense weight of grief as I carried my daughter to term, knowing she would die during or soon after birth. Following her funeral, elements of self-care helped me to find healing. Now, I know the full value, but outside crisis, I struggle to implement the tasks most challenged by tiredness: exercise and healthy eating.
What is your favorite self-care practice?
In the hospital, my favorite practice was to write and to walk. In exploring San Francisco on foot, where my son was hospitalized, I regained a sense of self and life away from crisis and medical motherhood. In writing, I found a healing outlet that helped me sort through the dangerous thoughts of despair that hunted us admission after admission. I look back at that period of life and have memories I treasure, because in choosing to care for myself, I actually made good memories during the darkest time of our life.
Now, at home, along with writing which I do professionally, my favorite task is to read. When I read (instead of enjoying an evening cocktail) I am more mentally alert during the day and able to better sustain my wellbeing in the long run with this gaggle of children surrounding me.
Is there any area that you struggle to take care of yourself? How do you want to grow in that area?
The section in It’s Ok to Start With You that discussed body image was very pointed for me. After the births of my other children, I lost weight quickly through breastfeeding. Without a baby to nurse, I have struggled to return to my pre-pregnancy weight. Struggle, and yet not struggle, because tiredness and forgetfulness is often my reason for not exercising. After finishing the book, I began to exercise daily and found that I could answer that inner critic by saying, “well, now I’m doing something about it,” and that was empowering. (A few too many road trips derailed the practice again)
What do you wish you could tell your younger self when it comes to self-care?
Enjoy it! Actually, my love for athleticism (hobby biking or jogging) and spirituality led to a great deal of balance in my single days. When stress and anxiety hit me in college, my classes in psychology and mentors were already available to help me find my way. Knowing self-care was a priority also developed out of a reaction to growing up in a house where my parents did not prioritize it for themselves, and family life suffered.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee (although, incidentally, licorice tea was a self-care ritual following my last delivery)
Current favorite TV show?
Always The Gilmore Girls – I just watch it again and again, especially when life is overwhelming.
Early bird or night owl?
Early bird – someone has to be! My husband is a musician and so has to catch up on his sleep perpetually.
Favorite quote – how about three?
1. A variation of a St. Thérèse teaching: “a full cup is a full cup” applied to suffering. It doesn’t matter if your suffering is great or small, when your cup is full, it’s full, and it’s okay to to acknowledge that.
2. “This, too, shall pass.” – said to me by my high school English teacher, Bonnie Prusack, after my mom let me drive her ’97 Mustang on her birthday and I hit the curb, popping the tire.
3. “There would come a time when God would fill what he had emptied,” read and recorded by Mother Teresa from a book of Br. Benito in Come be my Light. This thought sustained me in the hospital.
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter?
Crunchy, natural peanut butter, please.