But is that really “taking care” of me?

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? I’ve been sitting here thinking, of course, I take care of myself. I brush my teeth every day. Take a shower, apply makeup, get dressed and go to work, support my family, clean my house, do laundry, occasionally go to dinner with friends, etc. But under further investigation, I realize that’s just the basic hygiene of life, isn’t it?  

It’s not really caring for myself. When I took care of my three children or my three husbands (now all ex-husbands), yes, you heard that right (more on that later), I did amazing things for them all. Very advanced caring, if you ask me. Like making sure they went to school and got an education. Made sure they went to college and paid for it. 

Helped them start businesses and financed those businesses. Inspired and nurtured their passions and hobbies; sponsored those too. Supported them financially to the point of having everything they desired and longed for delivered to them. Helped them make their dreams into reality. Helped my third husband with the US immigration process. And then I paid for all three divorces; myself.   

And for me …I brushed my teeth??? What? Wait a minute… WTF… is wrong with this picture? A lot!!! 

OK, I have run my own real estate business for the past seventeen years, but was that really for them or me? It’s hard to say. I love my career and business, but it’s not “MY DREAM.” It was an excellent means to an end.   

When you google “How to care for oneself,” 90% of the first page is all related to hygiene and cleaning… I’m doing that, so am I taking care of myself? I’m not sure. Are you?  

For example: 

Under Google “search more results,” they have a link for “13 ways to Take Care of Yourself Every Day, and clicking the link takes you to the success webpage, which lists 13 ways as follows: 

  1. Set specific time slots when you don’t work – And then do what? Do cleaning and hygiene count as work? 
  2. Start your day with mediation – I do this mostly
  3. Work out – I do this sometimes.
  4. Get enough sleep – I sleep, doesn’t everyone? 
  5. Write a poem – I do this sometimes too.
  6. Keep a journal – I’m doing this.
  7. Talk to friends and family – Don’t we all do this? 
  8. Wake up slowly – I hit snooze a lot. Does that count? 
  9. Read something fictional – I do this.
  10. Do yoga – on occasion, I do this. 
  11. Listen to podcasts – I do this.
  12. Put yourself on a schedule – I try 
  13. Make time for play – I’m an expert at this one! haha

But is this really our idea of “taking care of oneself?” I do all these things, and I don’t feel like I know how to care for myself at this moment.

These are all action-related things, right? Whenever I do the above-noted activities, I don’t think about myself. I’m thinking about everyone else. I’m going through the motions but worried about my family or close friends.    

In sharing this information with my friend Kelly, we talked about ‘mothering our husbands’ to the point I asked Kelly, “When you cook dinner do you cook what you want? or do you ask your husband what he wants for dinner and then cook that?” Of course, we all know her answer; she asked her husband and cooked what he wanted. 

Then I asked Kelly, have you ever asked yourself what you want for dinner?  

“Wow, Emily,” she said in reflection. “No, I don’t think I’ve ever asked myself.”

“If you did ask yourself, what would you want? Because I know if I asked myself, the whole family would eat BBQ chips and cottage cheese for dinner. Because I don’t like eating dinner anyway, I’d be happy eating just that every night for dinner.” We both laughed.

“No, I never ask myself what I want for dinner either, but if I did, I would just make tacos and call it a night,” she replied.

“Then, why don’t we just make what we want?” I asked, and we both sat pounding. We didn’t have an answer.

I’ve asked myself other questions lately, like Emily – you say you like to fish and you’re good at it. You can bait your own hook and put your own line together. You know about fish and tackle. You love to fish with your latest ex-husband, but if you had the choice to go fishing by yourself, would you go? And my honest answer was NO! Why not? I ask myself. 

Because even though I enjoy it, I don’t like it that much. If I had a choice of doing other things on the water, I would choose those. OK, I ask myself, like what? I would buy another Kayak and just go kayaking on the water. I would enjoy the calm, peaceful exercise and gliding on the water. I would just watch the fish jump and the birds fly above. I would appreciate my life and time on the lake. Fishing feels like work to me. So why don’t I just go do that activity by myself? I don’t know… 

I’ve never had to just take care of just me until recently. As a teenager, I helped my mom care for my little sister because she had to work a lot to raise four kids as a single mom. I took care of all my siblings at one point or another in my life. I met my first husband when I was thirteen, so I helped raise him, too (weird, but true).   

I got pregnant at nineteen and birthed my first son at twenty. Had my second son by twenty-two. I cared for them their whole lives. Married my second husband and took care of him. And then had my third son at thirty-six and added him to the list. A third husband at forty-three, and so on… I’ve never had to just take care of Emily.  

The concept seems easy enough, considering I cared for many others for years. But at the same time, I’ve conditioned myself to sacrifice for the sake of others. It’s a foreign concept to care for myself first and only. 

It’s easy and challenging at the same time. The hard part is I don’t know what I want. I never took the time to ask myself questions like “What do I want for dinner. What do I want to watch on TV., What do I want to do with my life.” Now that I’m asking myself these questions, I find it odd; I never thought to ask myself. How Interesting, huh? Have you asked yourself lately? What does taking care of you beyond general maintenance and hygiene look like?   

I’m beginning to understand that this is a mind, soul, and body working together in alignment. For example, I can’t really be taking care of Emily if I’m obsessing in my head the whole time with the thoughts of others. Realizing I spend most of my mental attention (thoughts) on other people. Mostly love relationships, but also family and friends. Rarely do I think about myself or what I want. Sure, I say what I want and make many promises that I always break. Which I also find fascinating now. 

Everyone who knows me knows that a promise from Emily is as good as a guarantee. It’s worth its weight in gold. I will never break a promise I’ve given to another person. But the gripping part is I NEVER keep a promise I make to myself? I have a million reasons and excuses as to why that’s OK. I’ve believed that commitments to others are more critical than my promises to myself. 

Well, that is no longer true for me. And I hope it’s no longer valid for you. I’m the most important person in my life today. I am the star of the show. The show will not go on without me. Therefore, my dreams, desires, passions, and loves are more important than the others. This is not selfish. This is part of self-care. I need to care for myself to teach others how to care for me. And so I can take better care of others. 

Self-care for me now is more than brushing my teeth and exercising. It’s about keeping the promises I make to myself. It’s about honoring and being authentic, no matter who’s around. It’s about being the same person, even when no one’s looking. It’s about eating BBQ chips and cottage cheese for dinner and not apologizing. It’s about respecting myself and my own boundaries. It’s about accepting who I am and all my pieces, even the dark ones. It’s about allowing myself space to be emotional. Be kind to me when I have bad days; if I get rowdy occasionally, that’s also OK. It’s about having my own voice and letting it be heard. It’s understanding that NO is a complete sentence and being OK with using it. 

Discovering what really makes me; me. What hobbies do I want for myself and not taking on the dreams, aspirations, and pursuits of others just because I can. 

Always Choose Love,