Duality of Self

5 Aug

SAM_2481

You are a garden. You are the soil. You choose what to plant in your garden. When you nurture yourself with nutrients, good energy, and love your garden flourishes. You grow, you are happy.

A month or so ago I had the opportunity catch-up over lunch with a good friend. It was lighthearted and heavy at the same time. We shared the latest in our daily lives since it had been months since we had a chance to really connect. I shared with her my recent loss since I know she had been through a similar experience several years ago. She shared with me one piece of advice – don’t underestimate the importance of self-care. I didn’t fully understand what she meant by this and it lingered with me for a while. I kept coming back to it wondering and then leaving the thought when I resisted it. What is self-care? At some moment I realized that I didn’t even know what it meant or how it translated in my life. I’ve been so disconnected from caring for myself for so long that I didn’t know what self-care even looked like in my life.

Over the years I’ve grown to embrace what I thought I understood as selflessness. I’ve tried to live to my capacity guided by the ideology that it is more blessed to give than receive. All these years I had been interpreting that literally, and thinking that giving is only relevant when giving to others. I never thought for one second that giving to oneself is part of the whole equation. This has been one of my greatest challenges thus far. How on Earth could I justify giving to myself physically or spiritually? When there are is so much suffering in the world? It has been incomprehensible to me for far too long. I’ve always projected my giving energy out into the world, be it in my work, volunteering, or in giving to friends and family in different ways. I fully believe that giving to others is essential in building a better world. But what I have perilously neglected to understand is that giving to oneself is fundamentally essential. What I’ve learned is that you cannot sustain a life of giving to others in an effort to build a better world, without routinely, and I mean daily, giving to oneself.

Only recently did I start to take self-care seriously, and accept it. I am not talking about the type of self-care where you get your hair done, get a message, or things like that. Yes, that type of self-care is important too and I neglected it as well. I am talking about a far more basic and essential form of self-care. Simply taking the time to check-in with yourself, time for introspection, time to meditate and connect with yourself. Over the past several years, and in particular the past year, I’ve increasingly neglected setting aside time and space to connect with myself. The past year and a half, I allowed myself to become so consumed and obligated with other people’s needs that I neglected my own. As if being a Mom, wife, boss, and having an aspiring full-time career is not enough. Add on top of that a myriad of other people’s’ lives and needs – and no wonder I found myself completely depleted. My garden was scorched. The soil had no nutrients. It was close to dead.

I have a tendency to lead with my head, 80% of the time. I look first and foremost at patterns and logic. I look for numbers and evidence. I develop and execute logical and clever strategies in all aspects of my life. That is how my brain is wired. At the same time, I am highly creative. I used to paint, draw, and do sculpture. When I was in my 3rd year of undergraduate college I abandoned my niche in creative arts to focus my pursuit in science and math. I found it extremely difficult to switch on and off the two sides of my brain on a daily basis, although I still attribute a great deal of my success in science and math to my creative powers. Why is this relevant to self-care? The logical side of me had asserted that happiness is attained by giving to others. The heart side of me feels deep empathy for the suffering of others. The end result is a person focused almost entirely on the care and feeding of others, with nothing left over to keep them going.

When I look back on the last year of my life alone, I realize now that I nearly starved myself spiritually. I was so focused on caring for others, some that asked for my help and others that didn’t. Sure, I took an hour or so a week to do something for myself like go for a run or take a walk. But those rare moments merely helped me to figure out my next strategy. They were not moments of self-reflection and spiritual connection. I also felt guilty taking those moments, that thing called Mom guilt kicked-in every time. I was constantly running out of time. I found myself physically and spiritually exhausted on a daily basis, to the extent that I was frequently sick with one cold or stomach bug after another. Here I was in paradise, drained and exhausted day-in and day-out.

So there you have it, the duality of self-care and selflessness. The two are so deeply interdependent, true sustainable selflessness cannot exist without the right amount of self-care. So here I am today, bringing my garden back to life day by day.

SAM_2520

 

One Response to “Duality of Self”

  1. William Harned August 6, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Yes, you are your own garden. Also tending a garden is a wonderful experience, and a good place to meditate

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