I always thought that taking care of your self was paramount. You cannot take care of anyone else if you are sick or too tired to do so. Imagine my disappointment with myself, when after 12 years of teaching I quit because I had nothing left to give. I simply ran out of steam. This was in large part because I did not take my own advice. I did not take care of me. Now, in my defense I am not sure I knew how to take care of myself, and I am absolutely sure it is not simply taking regular trips to the hair salon or the spa down the street.
I do think that self care is something quite different from the commercialized version that is out on the air ways right now. I think it goes as far and as deep as standing up for what you believe to be true, when you are in groups of peers. Sometimes it is vague and includes walking the tight rope of knowing when you should give in, to avoid an unnecessary conflict and when to stand strong, in the face of conflict. Sometimes it is finishing the job you are doing without interrupting it to please someone else, or simply not overbooking yourself. I am notorious for being overly optimistic with my time.
Self care requires a certain amount of playtime. The minute timer, the true north timer and all the other day timers out there not always your friend. Penciling in time doesn’t exactly work. You cannot stuff play into a 10 minute slot at the end of the day. You cannot decide to count your exercise time as play and falling asleep on the couch is not playtime. You have to recognize the playtime may not result in any measurable productivity. My definition of play is undemanding time spend doing something you enjoy for absolutely no logical reason.
I know that playtime is important for the development of healthy kids, but somewhere in the growing up process I allowed myself to grow out of playtime. I did not realize that during play time my imagination soars on the winds of creativity, sails past difficulty, and dreams with the builders and the problem solvers. Digging deeply into the depths of possibility, my imagination starts replenishing, refreshing, and renewing my spirit so I can soar once again into the world with a fresh new outlook on life.
I play piano. I also practice my piano. They are not equal in their ability to refresh my outlook on life. During practice, I acquire some skill for example, I figure out a particularly difficult fingering situation. There is productivity that happens during practice. Play, on the other hand, uses all the skills I have acquired but it is a free form of play. Play is fun. Play is non-demanding! Play is refreshing…it takes effort but at the end, I can truthfully say out loud, “That was fun!”
Like a child jumping from rock to rock in a shallow moving river. His imagination swirls around the pirates that are chasing him, it settles on strategies to slay the dragon in the mountain up ahead, and it swims around his feet with dreams of catching a fish. This my friends is why play is so important. We all need to find that playful, imagination that children display so effortlessly. Let the children lead you into the most creative time of your life.
(Here is another blog on self-care that I found interesting.)