Image by mikebaird via Flickr
What is being a friend to yourself?
Being a friend to yourself is more than getting our manicure, shopping, watching movies, being spontaneous and doing what we want. In fact, often times, being a friend to yourself is not doing what we want. Sounds great right?
Being a friend to yourself might be the hardest work you ever do. For a time, it might feel like you are turning your back on your family, being selfish, sacrilegious and unfriendly. You won’t get kudos from your support groups. You won’t be noticed or hear thank-you very often. I’m sure you can’t wait to hear the rest! “Where can I sign up?” Right?
Being a friend to yourself is taking accountability for our lives. It says, everything starts and ends with Me. It looks for accountability for our actions, our feelings, our health, our spirituality or connections in Me and not towards any external locus.
When we are a friend to ourselves, we don’t apologize and then say, “but….” We make amends for what we believe we are responsible for. We do this without clarifying and justifying our behaviors. We are not victims even though we may have been victimized, hurt, misused and forgotten.
Being a friend to yourself protects us against apperceiving that we are defined by anything we don’t choose. Public opinion, stigma or even our pain does not define us. Our pain is not special. We are special.
We believe that we are free. Free to choose self-care. Free not because of the men who died for our freedoms, not because of our behaviors or spending power, but we are free because we are human. Being our own friend is a privilege that we can choose freely to exercise or not. No one can make it happen except Me. Just like no one can make me love you or demand a gift because of the inherent freedom within them. These things happen only because we believe in them, won over by Love.
We become our own advocate, admirer and treasure of high value.
When we are a friend to ourselves, we don’t deny our history but we claim the freedom to start over any time. The history does not define us. We are more than actions good or bad. We have an essence that is timeless and unchanged by the ravages of illness or misuse.
Being a friend to yourself means caring for the specifics of your body, your simple needs that lead to complex outcomes. Your exercise, your sleep, your diet, water and air are all worth fighting for. These things you do for yourself become your currency. You find that the better friend you are to yourself, the better you become for others.
At this new place of safety for you, where you give less, you give more to those you love. You discover the mystery that no one can give what she doesn’t have. Just like any bank, we deposit and withdraw and must protect our basic assets before we are taken over and lose the freedoms because we were poor managers of this one body that God gave us.
Everyone pull out your wallets and please empty them on the desk. How much do you have? How far will that take you? Do you ever go a little crazy wondering where you will get more?
Now imagine that this is your body. You have these assets; this currency. Currency like your energy, positive emotions, interest, motivation. You have bank when you can move around, walk, and muscles to lift your child, this vision to admire her new dress. This is money, this beauty that you offer your significant other, your body, and your shape.
Now you are giving to your children. Up in the night when they wake up and you can’t sleep afterwards. You skip exercise the next day, in fact, why even talk about it. You haven’t exercised in a year or more. It’s been really hard when your body is either pregnant or recovering from pregnancy over the past seven years.
You never lost the weight and for some reason, now that you want to, your body is firmly telling you, “No.” You don’t care enough about not having had sex with your husband in four months, but it does bother you that he uses porn so much. You don’t talk about it. You’re too tired.
Your child now develops eczema. She’s nervous and complains of stomach-ache often. She cries a lot and you can’t remember the last time you enjoyed being with her or any of your kids. No doubt. You do love them. That’s what all this is about, right? You are sacrificing everything for them and would do it again. They are your life and when they move out in 15 years, you’re moving with them. Husband or no husband. What else do you have? You aren’t even interested in anything to want to do anything else besides bleed yourself for them.
You can see that this story isn’t anyone’s fantasy. But can you see that the mother-character – she’s not very nice. She is not nice to herself and not that nice to anyone else either. Even though many people are on her list of party invites, she is not connected much to any of them. You can bet that her family enjoys her about as much as she enjoys herself. She is angry with them for this but doesn’t realize that she feels ashamed by it more than angry. Betrayed.
Now enters the victim-role this mother plays. Oh boy. I know. You probably don’t want to hear about it. It hurts just to start in like this, huh? So let’s not. Let’s draw another picture.
Look at your wallets again. Now how do you get what you need to keep it full? How do you get what you want to give and splurge on the ones you love? Where does all that money come from?
Work. You said it sisters. And so this is you. You are a mother of how many? Three? Two? Who do you live with? What are your jobs at home and elsewhere? How much of that can you do if you don’t have energy? Motivation? Interest?
Oh but you do. You take care of your basic needs. You exercise even when your kids are pulling on your sweat pants all the way out the door to the gym. You don’t get up for your kids at night as quick. You let them cry it out or do what ever it takes for them to get themselves back to bed. You take medication if you must to get back to sleep after you are awoken. You practice sleep hygiene and although you miss, you desperately miss having spontaneous late night TV, you don’t. You go to bed. Recently you lost twenty pounds and you are working all your resources to keep it off. You can’t believe how hard it is to keep off even though you can barely believe how fantastic it feels every day without that weight.
You take your medication because you understand that emotions and behaviors come from the brain. When you used to not feel pleasure, it wasn’t because you didn’t want to, try to, pray to. It was because the symptoms from the condition of your brain health were emotions and behaviors in the down direction. And thank goodness! Now when you see your kids, you not only love them, you like them. Sometimes it takes your breath away. You just can’t believe that you didn’t feel this before. You like your kids.
I can go on. But I think you get it. No one can give what you don’t have. Now show me your wallets. Put whatever you took out back in. Not much? No worries. You are your own friend and will take care of yourself.
I know I’m making it sound like being a friend to yourself isn’t that fun. Having fun isn’t the agenda of friendship. The agenda is doing what is positive for your friend. It is some of the hardest work you’ve ever done. It means connecting with others because you know it is good for you – even though you are shaking, nervous or just plain don’t want to. It means going out to find love when love doesn’t find you. It is hard! It isn’t necessarily doing what is smooth and easy, although sometimes it may be.
Self-care is a discipline of action, presence or whatever is called for by you, your friend. It takes your natural genius, the things that came to you without working, and it uses those to steer your energies. It uses those to tell you where you will be working like a mad-dog at times to find the most pleasure and be the most productive, have the most service to offer, be connected in the most intimate way with those you love – God and man.
Self-care is not for the people who need it. It is for those who want it. If you don’t want it, stop listening and be on your way.
Questions: What is called for by you, your friend, to do? What has pushed you, worked you, tired you out until you were happily spent on caring for your friend, you? Please tell me your story.