Many times over the last few years, I have been reminded to be kind to myself. I always nod as if I know exactly how to do this, but I think women generally have no idea, especially mothers who instinctively put themselves at the end of every line. For us, the children come first, no matter how tired we are. It’s easy for us to forget that we need to be at our best to be able to care for them better. It doesn’t help that the minute we set boundaries, especially emotional ones that we know will help us care for ourselves better, we are immediately looked upon as selfish and evil, thus the vicious cycle.
The good news is that we have our women friends to remind us that we need to take care of ourselves. They know that we have to take our healing into our own hands. Husbands expect to be taken care of. Filipino husbands, especially, put a premium on women who are “grabe magsilbi at ang galing mag-alaga”. (Advise to the young and gullible: if you hear a man talking like that, run like hell. They don’t want a partner. They really want a trophy yaya) Yes, it is a woman’s place to serve, but not the way most men today think. She serves the family spiritually and, for this, needs a renaissance man for a husband who will know exactly how to support her on this important task. Well, in a future world, maybe.
For now, we must insist on personal boundaries that will help preserve our sanity and humanity. If you need time alone during the week away from the kids, insist on it. Take it. Enjoy it. It’s easier said than done, I know, because mothers so need this and look forward to it, but clutch at their hearts each time their children walk out the door. But we need it to recharge and make ourselves better again.
It’s incredible how vital a woman’s role is in the family, and yet she is the one who gets the least care. She is there for everybody when they are sick, but knows she has to care for herself when she’s down. I have a friend who was so ill once and asked her husband to please massage her feet. Because he had hired nurses for her, he delegated the task to them. The marriage didn’t last much longer after that. For her, the illness was a lifting of a very muddy veil. It was a very powerful turning point. Women want to be physically cared for, too, and not just by professional caregivers, but the people they love most. It would be nice not to have to ask for it. Nicer still, not to be turned down when we do. If this is not possible, then we must take this task to heart and be faithful to it.
This year I have taken steps to do just that. I have a weekly painting group in my children’s school. It was not easy getting into the rhythm of putting this day aside for myself, but now the children know that painting day is also sandwich day for them, because I can’t organize the full meal and get everyone out the door on time. I also have weekly guitar lessons. Yes, I have decided to be that brave this year. Try learning a new instrument at age 41 and you will know what I mean. It is a challenge and a true exercise in humility and who doesn’t need that?
Expanding our artistic horizons is a great way of caring for ourselves. My painting classmate shared that every brush stroke can heal trauma and I believe it. Art is a great healer and as we get older, I think it important that we bring it back into our lives and be active in it. For me, it is hardly about learning to be a painter, though that would be a nice bonus. It’s more about setting aside time for myself, working with color and making sure I give myself artistic space. I have reached a point in my biography where I feel I create too much out of words; it is time to express myself in other ways.
The very practice of learning something new is a way of letting light in as well. You expand in ways you can’t even begin to measure. New skills are born, fresh perspectives arise and the ability to see things and people differently are made possible again. Art seeps into every area of one’s life and that’s why I feel it is a wonderful, holistic way of caring and healing oneself.
The sudden sprouting of spas all over the country is a response to this need, but this is self-care on a different level. Personally, I can only take so much physical pampering. I’ve found that engaging in artistic endeavors has a more lasting impact on my health and well-being.
If you’re not ready to pick up a brush, go see someone else’s art and get inspired! Take the time to take care of yourself and see how much better you can serve the world.