Honor Thyself

It has been a snowy week in my neck of the woods! We had our first school snow day yesterday, followed by a two-hour delay today. I think it’s accurate to say that teachers are even more excited by snow days than students, for they are free days off that don’t require writing out detailed sub plans.

And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect because I am swamped with work and obligations this week and next. I honestly had no idea how I could accomplish everything without completely depriving myself of much needed sleep.

Needless to say, I was grateful for the gift of time. I began the day by writing poetry and playing piano because that’s what was knocking on my door. How wonderful to be able to invite them in! Eventually, I got around to tackling my to-do list. For a while in the evening, I became distracted by the beauty of the glistening snow blanket that covered the yard and trees with peaceful silence. I couldn’t resist the temptation to experience it with my camera, tripod, and all my senses.  I ended up staying up too late and still hadn’t gotten to everything – but I looked forward to the morning light that surely would reveal an amazing, grayscale winter wonderland.

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When I got the “delay call” around 5:30 this morning, my first inclination was to go back to sleep. However, I needed to finish some paperwork, and once I got started on that, I was up for the day. I did yoga and intended to make time for meditation and/or exercise – and hopefully a little landscape photography, too.

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There were so many other voices and responsibilities clamoring for my attention, and there were moments when I feared I would give up what I knew I needed to do for myself in order to satisfy them. Even if I could just make a little time for one of the self-care activities, it would be better than nothing, right? But how easy it is to chalk it up to a busy time and attend to other matters – and skip the exercise, again.

Then it occurred to me that snowshoeing fulfilled my need for exercise, meditation, and photography, all at the same time. If I could discipline myself to spend even just 20 minutes snowshoeing, it would be a wonderful way to start the day. I would arrive at work energized and wouldn’t have any of those things hanging over my head throughout the day.

And (yay for me!) I resisted the temptation to divert my time and attention and went snowshoeing for about 35 minutes on my way to work. It was fabulous.

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As my snowshoes crunched through the heavy snow, a voice arose from within me, pleased that I knew what to do to truly honor myself. There was nothing more important to do at that time. As I continued to walk – pausing every now and then to capture snowy images – I realized I’m much more of a people pleaser than I would like to admit. I thought I had worked through that a while ago, but apparently not. Or maybe it’s just different now. Instead of seeking approval and love, it’s more about wanting to take care of others and help them to feel better – beginning with loved ones and the room full of kindergartners with whom I spend most of my days. Another way to put it is that, as a Four (The Artist) on the Enneagram (with a very strong Five/The Thinker wing, fortunately), I tend to move into an unhealthy Two (The Helper) when under stress and have trouble acknowledging my own needs and setting healthy boundaries. Awareness of that is a good place to begin.

The bottom line is that when I make a choice to put another person’s desires or well-being above my own needs, I betray myself. But the satisfaction of honoring my needs by going snowshoeing was so delicious! A solitary bliss. Kayaking season is long gone, and that particular sense of stillness had been lacking from my life. I think I need it like I need oxygen – for it’s when the monkey mind quiets, and the still voice within arises more audibly than ever. It is vital, essential.

As I crunched rhythmically through the snow, Mary Oliver’s poem, The Journey, came to mind, especially the ending:

But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do—
determined to save
the only life you could save.

It’s true: I am the only one who can save me – by practicing self-love and prioritizing taking care of myself. And then I can share my energy more effectively with others. If I take the time and space to honor my needs, I will not walk around like a beggar looking to others to fulfill those needs – which ultimately are my own responsibility.

It seems so simple – perhaps even too simple to bother writing about it. But when I was alone this morning in the silent, snow-covered landscape, it felt like the most important thing of all.

And it felt really good.

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