“Self-care is not about self-indulgence; it is about self-preservation.”
Two weekends ago, I spent some time at Kripalu Center in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts. It was a rare chance for me to move at my own pace, and with the freedom of total independence; I was bound only by the retreat schedule and my own hunger pangs. You, my fellow parents, know all too well how infrequently you feel like an independent human being, wholly your own. I practiced yoga at sunrise, enjoyed fresh, clean meals in a silent dining room, hiked in the woods and bathed in the quiet smell of fallen leaves, and passed multiple hours without speaking to a soul. Silence. There was zero expectation that I attempt to be social, or make small talk. This beautiful, golden silence was encouraged and celebrated. Just heavenly.
I try very hard to slip self-care into our normal days, but there are times when an hour here and there just is not enough. A total immersion was precisely what I needed. The retreat focused on self-renewal, and it included some difficult, emotional work – I wasn’t quite prepared for that kind of depth – and while I anticipated it being wonderful, I was certainly surprised at just how renewed I felt when I arrived home.
The power went out a few hours later. And it stayed out for a couple of days, long enough to make me fear for the contents of our freezer. Breathe, and relax around the tension. We were lucky. Our lines were reconnected quite quickly in comparison to others we know, and I felt some guilt at even admitting we were back on.
It was inconvenient, yes. Because the storm and subsequent outage was so unexpected, we hadn’t prepared. We had very little drinking water on hand, and certainly hadn’t filled the bathtub. In great good fortune, I’d been too lazy to tip the wheelbarrow up against the shed when I was finished with it the week before, and the storm had left us with plenty of rainwater to flush the toilets. No power means no wifi, and we are in a hollow with no cell service, so we were effectively disconnected from everything. Really though, it was encouraging to see how well we managed. We re-heated leftovers on our gas range (lit with a match) to keep them from going bad, and colored with the girls by candlelight after dinner. We played outside with friends, and soaked in the quiet of our home – so very quiet without the background hum of appliances. We pulled out extra blankets and fired up the woodstove in the evenings. Can you receive? We checked on friends and neighbors, and felt cared for by the same as they looked in on us. And we were warmed through and through as the entire community came together to celebrate Halloween for the kids, moving the party to the fire station where their generator gave light and heat in the middle of a chilly, dark village.
I made a commitment to myself during that weekend in the mountains. Clearly I can’t pick up and run off to the Berkshires any time I feel overwhelmed by life, and so I have to develop a practice to reconnect with my wise self, my true self. I have to get up and move. I have to drink in the silence and maintain that space for myself. I’ve chosen to gift myself time alone in meditation each morning. A blanket and a candle, a short reading and introspection. Inspiration without practice is not sustainable. It’s not been easy to maintain, particularly with the time change, and I’ve slipped already. But then my accountability partner texted me yesterday to keep me on track, and so I’ll be ducking out to the car to retrieve my mat before bed, for 6 o’clock comes early.