How to Give Without Giving Yourself Away

Keep good company, read good books, love good things and cultivate soul and body as faithfully as you can. – Louisa May Alcott

Yesterday evening, I walked with a friend as our daughters ran at their cross-country practice. Last night, I chose reading and an earlier bedtime over all the usual nighttime rituals. I’m sure I made the right choice by not watching the Vice-Presidential Debate.

Every night I read a chapter in a devotional and one from a personal development book before continuing on with my current novel. This year, I’ve been reading Judith Orloff’s Thriving as an Empath. I came across this nugget of wisdom in her October 7th excerpt:

Stay aware of the empathic, caring people whom you admire, especially those who are dedicated to self-care. … See how they find satisfaction and joy. Observe how they give to others without giving themselves away.

The last few weeks haven’t gone as planned. That’s all I’m going to say about it. And I’m realizing I’ve been feeling out of balance. All my life, I’ve struggled with pouring out all my energy into supporting those around me to the detriment of my own needs. After years of practice, helpful therapy, and age-gained wisdom, I notice I catch myself quicker each time I throw myself toward other-care before complete burn-out occurs. Part of the learning process has been living intentionally, simplifying, seeking joy every day, and focusing on gratitude. Learning to let go and how to prioritize me over my to-do lists and everyone else’s wants has been liberating.

Although I still struggle with obligation to others and feeling self-indulgent, nothing terrible has ever happened because I chose to do something meaningful for myself once in awhile. When I stop and take the time to check in with myself, I’m always better for it and so are the ones I love. In the choosing of self, I’m reacquainted with my spirit and peace is restored.

My list of self-care practice is quite easy, minimal, unadorned. Yes, I’ve enjoyed spa days and the like, but for the day-to-day implementation of self-care, I choose practical over planned. Walks invigorate me. Nature heals me. Hot tea comforts me. Writing restores me. Checking in with a friend cheers me. Frequent massage improves me. Cooking enlivens me. Detox baths soothe me. Reading relaxes me.

On Tuesday, I was graced by a late morning walk with a childhood friend around a lake at a nearby park. This meet-up was more than just a three-mile trek with masks on and catching up. It was a commitment to being in the company of a dear friend on a beautiful fall day and a positive choice for feeding my soul. Another mid-week blessing came about in the spur of the moment. When I realized my neck and shoulders couldn’t tense up any more than they already had, I called my chiropractor’s office. Lo and behold, they had an hour-long massage available at the perfect hour of the day. I didn’t hesitate to take the open spot and it was the antidote I needed to the stress I’ve been carrying for awhile now.

On the schedule for today was a trip to the BMV. I don’t know exactly what I need today, but I know it doesn’t involve standing in line and waiting for an average of four hours to renew my driver’s license. I don’t know exactly what I need today, but it doesn’t involve scrolling through social media and upsetting the apple cart of my emotions on things out of my control. Grateful I have the freedom to push my BMV visit to next week and I can enact measures to take a break from the news and noise of the world, I’m looking forward to a long walk in the glorious autumnal sunshine as my reward, my reprieve. I’m choosing to listen to my needs. I’m choosing to indulge in a day off. I’m choosing nature. I’m choosing me.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order. – John Burroughs

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