My other sister furnished the idea for today’s post, the one who belongs solidly in my audience. Kathy has struggled with fibromyalgia for decades. She agreed with last week’s post about how our self-care is not a luxury, but noted that it’s not just a matter of justifying it, it’s often a matter of making time for it when other demands compete for your time and attention. I don’t have children, so if you do and would like to discuss the way their demands affect your self-care, please start a discussion in the comments below. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be responsible for children in this body; my cats are work enough and they practically care for themselves.
I’m lucky in that I work from home and make my own schedule. It often gets disrupted by urgent matters of all kinds, including poorly planned projects from clients that require putting in extra hours. Most people don’t even have that much flexibility, being bound to scheduled jobs.
Yesterday my friend and neighbor, Kathleen, invited me to a late afternoon showing of The Notorious RBG at our local art film theater. I would have loved to go, but I had enough work that it would have meant giving up my day’s exercise, and I really needed to work my knee yesterday. I chose the exercise and felt bad about missing the movie. That’s a first-world problem next to Kathy’s schedule.
Kathy goes to work full-time and has to do her self-care in the evening when she’s already exhausted. She goes to her gym and swims, does exercises and uses the hot tub. When she gets home, she has to ice her sore parts. That’s when she gets to catch up on her TV shows, during ice time. There isn’t a lot of time in that schedule for simply living life. Even weekends become all about recovering from the week. Forget about housekeeping, forget hobbies.
Some employers think they are accommodating you when in fact they’re just being clueless. Like the boss who tells you, by all means, take your breaks and any extra time you need, while piling a bunch of new projects on your desk.
Special nightmares horrify those with scheduled jobs, too. The Extended Meeting, where they bring in food so everyone can stay sitting in the same room for hours, sometimes all day. Many people, even without specific physical issues, can’t do this without serious pain. Of course if you tend to yourself and get up and leave to stretch, or try to do it subtly in the back of the room, everyone notices. If your issue includes dietary restrictions, odds are the pepperoni pizza they bring in is not going to do it for you. Again, you stand out when you open up your brown-bag lunch, or if you didn’t get enough warning, subsist on candy or Costco trail mix in a coffee filter bowl.
I remember my old company had an annual weekend retreat full of prescribed activities. Attendance was not mandatory, but I discovered it was a bad career move not to participate fully when I took my introverted self out to sit on a dock at sunset rather than participate in a noisy casino night, and came in to work on Monday to a disciplinary form (which I refused to sign). That was before I got hit; I could never consider doing a retreat now. I remember in my youngish, fully abled body, feeling exhausted by not getting a weekend away from work and my coworkers. It did not build team spirit, it reinforced my desire to be a stay-at-home mom to my rescue cats. Company retreats were a craze in the 90s; I hope it has passed and others aren’t still being subjected to that.
Business travel brings a set of challenges big enough for another post. Next week we’ll do Taking Self-Care on the Road, for business and pleasure.
Without adequate time, self-care becomes just another demand on your time and another source of exhaustion. You don’t even get as much from it as you should. Are you able to do self-care right, or is it compromised by other demands?