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  • Writer's pictureLindsey Garner

Fine. I'll put my own mask on first, dammit!

I’ve been on an airplane a lot lately, and listened to countless flight attendants say “please don your own mask before helping others”. Seriously...I almost have their little spiel memorized by now. I know all of the exit row rules and the flotation device locations. I’m aware of the timing of the fasten seat belts signs, and the safety protocols. But this little phrase about self care sits with me deeply as I fly back and forth from Florida to Boston. I also have had about 745 (that’s a rough might be more than that actually) people tell me to make sure I’m “taking care of myself too” while caring for Zack and Scout. I truly know in my bones that everyone is doing their best. They are saying what they feel might help. This makes them feel comfortable, and like they’re helping, because we all feel helpless here. So, to make them comfortable and give them the feeling that they’re helping, I nod my head knowingly and say “thank you for that reminder, I absolutely will”. Deep down, I am screaming. I am shaking my fists and pulling at my hair, yelling “HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT????”.

Sometimes I just need to have that temper tantrum and then move along. So I have it. I get mad at these people and their idealized words that come from a place so far from where I am. Then, my inner five year old quiets down and the tantrum moves along so I'm able to see the love behind the words, and how true they really are.

There are so many cliche statements that people say around this topic. Shit that gets crocheted on pillows and made into decals that people hang on their bedroom walls. They get made into cheesy tattoos designed to remind us of things that are more important than the petty shit we get stressed about. Not making fun of anyone here...I have one. Legit. I have “be grateful” tattooed on my wrist and it reminds me when I”m freaking out about something stupid to chill the F out and get right with the Universe. Like, calm down Karen, it's not that serious. You got cut off in traffic. Chill. Whatever ya need, pal. I have several tattoos that some might view as regrettable that I stand by, so there’s never any judgement here friends. When you have half a cupcake and your husband’s name on your butt cheek, you cannot throw stones. It was a good story. That’s really what the meaning of life is for me, ya know? A good story.

Since June, I have been given this opportunity to learn what taking care of myself actually means, and how important it really is. I mean it when I say I view this as an opportunity, that’s not just a thing I say to sound like some modern day Buddha. Zack’s hospitalization put a screeching halt to life as I knew it, and gave me a big old punch in the face with self-care lessons. Prior to this all, I was working too much, having not enough fun and choosing not to do the things I loved more often than not. I was driven by the feeling of not being enough. I wasn’t enough for my daughter, I wasn’t working enough, or pushing my business enough, I wasn’t enough for Zack...and the list goes on and on. This huge obstacle forced me to take a look at myself and make some huge changes, fast. So here I am writing about what I’ve learned to maybe try and help one of ya’ll. Maybe. I say this because sometimes it takes something way more dramatic than some random chick's blog to have it click for you...I don’t have any illusions of enlightenment here that you’ll read this post and be all “OMG...I get it...I’m going to take care of myself now”, but maybe it’s a seed. You never know, right?? It's kinda like the crystal in my bra. Maybe it won't work....but maaaayyyyybe it will. You just don't know.

Self-care isn’t a spa day every damn day, ya’ll. It’s not. Despite what TV commercials and Instagram influencers might have you believe, self-care doesn’t require you to purchase a box of expensive beauty products (I mean, twist my arm...I still will, but turns out that doesn’t help a ton) or a relaxing vacation to do so. Self-care means knowing yourself, deeply. It means slowing down enough to start to recognize when you’re feeling certain things and why. Tired? Frustrated? Blissful? Well, pause and ask yourself why. Maybe you need more sleep, or time to yourself, or to hire someone to drive your kid to practice (I do that...driving my kid around doesn’t always value my time, ok??). You can’t figure out how to fix it if you don’t pause to understand it first.

For me, self-care means saying yes. It means sometimes saying I will do something even if I don’t know how it could possibly happen. In the past, when Zack came up with some crazy ass idea (that's about once a week in our house), I would often immediately jump into why it couldn't happen because of child care, or work or dogs as an excuse. In doing so, I fell further and deeper into this hole of caring for others' needs over my own. I secretly fell apart and grew so distant from myself I wouldn’t have recognized me in a lineup.

“Yes” means I get to go on these adventures too. It means fun. Sometimes it means a little hangover, but it was probably worth it in the end. Self care means going for a walk with a friend even when that’s scary to leave the hospital. My highest form of self care is a walk with my best bud, Bojangles in the woods by my house listening to an audiobook. I choose to make this happen every damn day.

So find your things. Light yourself up. Not because you can be anything for anyone else, but because this means you actually get to show up big for YOU. And that matters.

To all of you that have told me to care for myself; thank you. Although at the moment I might’ve wanted to punch you in the mouth, I heard you. I’m learning. You planted a seed. I’m grateful to each of you annoying humans. :) I mean that.

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