In Pursuit of Self Care

As published in the San Francisco Bay Times, July 24, 2019
By Brett Andrews

As I was preparing to write this article, two things quickly became clear to me: I knew what I wanted to write, but did not necessarily know how to write about it—the very important and seemingly ever-elusive practice of self-care. How do I write about something in which I have read about extensively over the years, and yet have had modest success (at best) in the actual practice? Many of us have burned through various self-help books and daily practices in an effort to bring greater focus and meaning to our lives, or are seeking to lessen our stress and to be more grateful.

Don’t get me wrong; I have gotten a kernel of goodness from every book that I have read—The Artist’s Way, The Power of Now, The Four Agreements, Seven Spiritual Laws to Success, A Road Less Traveled, Conversations with God (1,2 & 3), among many others. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between an endless quest to care for oneself and the fleeting, euphoric feeling one gets as a result of a meditation or a reading that deepens our consciousness, or the yoga stretch that releases endorphins that transport us to another place in time.

Regularly, I encourage the staff of PRC to take care of themselves, recognizing how challenging nonprofit work can be at times. These words are easily said, and equally difficult to enact in one’s life. So, what are some of the barriers that could prevent us from practicing good self-care? Lack of time is certainly a factor. Also, increasing family and work responsibilities can certainly get in the way. I believe it is even deeper than that. While this is not a new concept, I propose reframing the whole idea of self-care around self-worth.

First, a little goes a long way. Our lives often have become an endless stream of emails, texts, conference calls and meetings. From the moment we wake, we are on the move, often responding to various dispatches, while hustling from place to place. If we allow ourselves the time, it only takes a minute or two to place ourselves in a mindful space of gratitude and being. In the morning, before we leave our beds, let’s take a moment: close your eyes and say, “Thank you.” Throughout the day, as often as we can, let’s look to the sky and smile—it represents a world of infinite possibilities. And, in the evening, let us slow down and enjoy our meals, appreciating the bounty of the earth.

Second, the journey itself is the real goal. From an early age, we are taught to aspire to be something great, to achieve at the highest level, to reach for the stars and grab the brass ring. Little value is placed on the journey we all must embark upon—the path is as important as our accomplishments. It is important to recognize that we learn some of our most important life lessons along the path of our noble life expedition.

Third, we are worth self-care. We often view each other and ourselves through the lens of our own self-worth. One moment we can see ourselves standing on the top of a mountain, and the next, sitting in a valley. Frankly, it’s all too arbitrary for my taste, and yet I find myself vacillating between these extremes on a regular basis. And while we may not be able to fully control the seemingly endless and increasing ways that the world imposes its projections of worth and success upon us, we can strive to be happy. And that may be the best self-care of all. With that, I leave you with an excerpt from Max Ehrmann’s life poem, “Desiderata”:

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.