I am having to learn how to be a person all over again.
Or maybe I’ve never really known how to be a healthy adult. Either way, normal and simple things like showering and cleaning a house, having any kind of normalcy and routine (like when do I wash my face? when do I go to bed? when and what do I eat?), finding out what I like and taking time to myself…all these things feel brand new.
The other day I wearily climbed the stairs after Matthew and the kids sat down to dinner. I needed to shower. It had been five days. In college I happily skipped showers, but my lack of showering as a mother (and therefore an adult) has been different. I don’t know how to fit it into my week. I don’t know how much I want to shower. I only do when it simply can’t be ignored any longer, and I react. As I climbed, I thought about the looming task of putting the kids to bed, and felt like I weighed a million pounds. I saw the years and years full of bedtimes left to go before my kids grow up, and felt like lying down and not ever getting up. But I could shower, first. I knew, somewhere deep down, that I would feel better afterward.
And I did. I literally felt like a different person.
I used to scoff at the idea of self-care making any difference. Little things can’t really help that much! They don’t for me, anyway. When I showered that night, though, I realized that I can’t actually say that, because I’ve never really made a practice of taking care of myself. And the simple act of standing in hot water, washing my face and hair, scrubbing my body, reminded me that I have a body. That caring for myself doesn’t make me a weak person, it actually helps me to be a person.
My entire adult life has been comprised of days, weeks and years in which I do nothing but react. I get up when the kids wake me. I make us all breakfast with whatever we have, washing dishes that I need to put the food in. I leave the house when I am scheduled to. I turn on the tv because I can’t handle the noise or the need, I snuggle with the desperately clingy child to try to stave off a meltdown, I shop for food because we’re out of everything, I wash my face when it feels disgusting, I go to bed when I feel sickeningly tired, I spend time alone once I have actually fallen apart and Matthew takes the kids to his parents. None of this happens in the moment because I have chosen it.
I am now thinking of small ways to be proactive, instead of reactive. They will not be easy for me, but they will be simple things, like choosing when I will wake up, when I will wash my face, when I will go grocery shopping, when it is time for me to be alone.
They will remind me of what I need, and in that way, they will remind me that I am a person.