The Slippery Slope

Self care is a slippery slope when you spend years neglecting it. Just when you think you’re getting ahead, something new pops up. Truth be told, that “something new” is more realistically a long ignored issue that is now too pressing to sweep under the carpet. It’s easy to shrug and say “Well, that was pointless. Why do I bother?” and sullenly backslide the ten feet you’ve managed to ascend. I haven’t been succumbing to that attitude lately. Somewhere along the way I went from saying that success can only be reached via baby steps to actually believing it. Those of you who have been following since the beginning of 2016 might remember that I chose “faith” as my word for the year. Life had different plans. At every opportunity, the Universe has asked me to exercise patience. Ironically, patience leads to success…and success leads to faith. It’s funny how that works. You have to be careful what you ask for because you just might get it – albeit in a very strange package.

So, no, I have not been back sliding down the slope with two fingers in the air… but my baby steps are tenuous. For example, I can’t even manage to get started on my goal of daily yoga. I have everything I need: a Wii Fit, a DVD, athletic clothes… My excuse was that we had a giant air conditioner in the middle of the living room and I didn’t want to move furniture every day to practice. (Aren’t those of us with addict brains MASTERS of justification?) I guess I must not want it bad enough…which is sad. Yoga and meditation make me feel great. However, I have been to the Doctor three times in less than a month to deal with x,y, and z. For the record, x ,y, and z are not crazy issues. It’s pretty run of the mill stuff that normal people take care of long before it takes a big chunk out of their ass. I’m just the woman who shows up late to the game with one or three missing chunks. Regardless of what it took to get there, dealing with x, y, and z has given me the momentum to move forward and deal with a, b, and c. Again, funny how that works. One step is all it takes to achieve a whole lot of empowerment.

What else has changed? I guess part of it is what still hasn’t changed. (Go me!) I’m still not quitting things or jumping impulsively into them. I’m getting better at minding my temper. (A big part of that has been realizing that the world isn’t bettered by my opinion.) I haven’t quit my job. In fact, I made some self-caring changes to my contract to make the year easier and POOF! my schedule lightened up even further on its own. (Funny how that works!) I haven’t quit my blog, business, or not-for-profit social media campaign. I have to be honest, though: I am putting my business on the back burner until I can reassess what product(s) I will be offering. Why? The short answer is that the market is over saturated with portrait photographers. The era of  profitably for the shoot and burn photographer is ending. If you’re new to photography, trust me, print product is the best way to make a living. The long answer (which I won’t get into fully here), is that business has cheapened my passion. It becomes about what people can take, and take, and take. So I am shifting my focus to things that fill my spiritual bank account.

My not-for-profit social media campaign, Human Too, is the most rewarding thing I have ever done outside of my recovery and marriage. I’m glad I started my business because it gave me the confidence to start Human Too. (There is a reason for everything!) What does working on Human Too entail? Well, I team up with volunteers who sit for portraits and share their firsthand experience with addiction. We try to get at the essence of what it means to be human and to share that with others. It is symbiotic and powerful. We give with no expectation of receiving and yet, somehow, we are blessed beyond measure in return.

Making money pales in comparison to the fulfillment I get from Human Too.

I’ve always had a very hippie-dippie attitude toward money. What I never understood, until now, is that it was never about embracing a fringe mentality. It is the pure and simple fact that I am best able to contribute to society when doing something I find neurologically engaging. I’m sure everyone feels that way to a certain extent but, for me, it is a matter of functioning/thriving v.s. barely functioning/failing. I am not lazy or unmotivated. My brain does not work normally unless it is engaged in very specific ways. Unfortunately, these ways have never coincided with the path to a million dollars. I’ve learned a lot about the way my brain functions over the last 45 days. I’ve also learned that my brain needs a little help to be “normal”…and that’s okay.

Just because I understand myself with a new clarity doesn’t mean that I need to be a slave to my brain’s selective whims. Now that I understand why I am the way I am, I can take measures to function better in situations I would otherwise deem intolerable. Money is, indeed, important and my ever-improving self-care philosophy aims to honor its significance.

As serendipity would have it, I recently stumbled upon an article on the Frugalwoods blog. (Don’t just walk over there and take a gander…run.) The Frugalwoods managed to retire to a beautiful homestead in their early 30s. Now, before you roll your eyes and imagine any semblance of sanity I have left whistling away on the wind, let’s get one thing straight: I am not impulsively jumping on the frugal bandwagon. I do not plan on retiring by 33, I am not going to share a toothbrush to save money, I am not going to start obsessively clipping coupons, and I am not going to make my own toilet paper from trees in the back yard. Extremism is not my friend. All that being said, the Frugalwoods really made me think about the value of things (or lack thereof) and my priorities. My laissez-faire attitude toward spending is not a self-caring approach. I don’t just mean in the addictive sense  – and I’ve definitely used shopping to make myself “feel better” – I mean that every time I piss away money on bullshit I don’t need I am robbing my future self.

I won’t lie. I had a blast at the craft store this week. I’m not even sorry. However, if I hadn’t used a gift card to treat myself to more Halloween decorations, that money would have been better invested in the pursuit of our retirement dream (a forever home in a beach town). Lord knows I don’t need more Halloween decorations. When I am not financially thoughtful, I send a message to my wife that our mutual dreams are not important to me. Why would I buy a $6 latte when I could invest in a day spent hunting for sand dollars?  That’s the only dollar I want to waste my life chasing.

I don’t prescribe to a deprivation ideology, but I definitely think that having a daily $6 latte, a weekly roll of sushi, or a new shirt whenever, tends to rob that experience of its value. It becomes commonplace. The first time I signed a lease by myself, I remember how impactful it was that no one could take my home away from me. (Well, no one but the landlord.) It was a safe place and it was mine. I was so broke I could barely feed myself but I was so happy. I specifically remember my mom giving me a bag of coffee – a luxury I couldn’t otherwise afford – and it tasted so good. Money can’t buy that deep feeling of appreciation.

The Frugalwoods inspired me to start savoring experiences and to get off the “more is better” merry-go-round. I may not shop compulsively at this stage of my recovery, but the pursuit of “more” – which is the popular pursuit in our society – is not healthy  for me and is not beneficial to my marriage. I brought the idea of making some lifestyle changes to my wife and she was very supportive. We are embarking on a “challenge” starting in October. One of the things we agreed to do is to tone down Christmas. In the past, our attitude has been “go big or go home”. Instead of feeling sad about a simpler holiday, I feel more excited than ever. My creativity has been sparked. On Christmas Eve, we are planning to camp out in front of the tree and watch Christmas movies. Creating these traditions together is so special to me. A central part of our marriage has been molding our identity as a family from scratch. I love who we have become as a family and I can’t wait to see how we will continue to evolve.

I think that’s really the key to it all…isn’t it? At some point, self-care stops being an arduous uphill battle and becomes a really cool adventure. Sure, maybe you only make it ten feet before a boulder pops up in your path… but you can take that moment to look around and reflect on the scenery. I guarantee that things will look a little brighter from even the smallest height.