“There is nobody that’s going to take care of you but you.”
I heard Kay Warren speak these words to a roomful of pastors’ wives a few years ago, and they’ve never been as true for me as they are now. I’m in a season of my life where I find myself constantly taking care of people. I care for my husband, our children, my clients, my co-workers, our friends, and our home. It’s a lot for me to keep up with.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’ll happily get out of bed to snuggle my terrified children in the middle of the night, shift into wife-mode after 8 hours of back-to-back clients, bake brownies for our beloved small group, match the tiny socks until none of them are left alone for the night, and empathize with those fighting the battle of their lives. Happily, and even passionately. I will, and I do, to the best of my ability, of course. I am grateful to be so rich with people. My people. They are worthy of my care.
Even so, I’ve been feeling so weary. Exhausted. Disillusioned. Tapped out.
I really, really dislike that this is true. After all, I’m not a martyr. I’m a mother. I’m not a victim. I’m a wife. I’m not a savior. I’m a counselor. I’m not a superhero. I’m only human. If I’m feeling tired and worn down, I need to actively pursue rest and restoration. As much as I fantasize about it showing up on my pillow like a blue Tiffany’s box tied with a white satin bow, I know that’s a pipedream. No one is going to just hand it to me. I have to be intentional about it and responsible for it.
For me, and maybe for you too, this is easier said than done. I have never been particularly good at taking care of myself, nor could I confidently say that I was worthy of care like the people around me. As a child, I preferred immersing myself in caring for my younger brother with special needs. Throughout school, I prided myself as the friend that others could rely on as opposed to vice versa. In college, I had a “friend” named Anorexia that pretty much demanded that I deny my needs and practice a form of self-asceticism rather than self-care. When my husband and I got married, I was so intoxicated with the idea of being a helper to him that my own needs remained in the distance. And when I became a mom (Man alive!) I spent most of the time convincing myself I didn’t even have needs because in some twisted way that was easier. Sleep, nah. I can go without that.
I’ll be the first to admit that, time and time again, I have put my own needs last: not just on the back burner, but off the stove completely. I wish I could say it was for some holy, sacrificial reason, like, “I’m loving God and loving others,” or “The first will be last and the last will be first.” But I know that is far from the truth! I’m not doing God or others any good if I’m a burned out, empty, and cold shell of a person with a root of bitterness growing from the inside. And if I continue to put myself last while denying that I even have needs, then I am basically practicing a form of self-righteousness and pridefully passing on a Gift that’s been given to me. “Thanks for that blue Tiffany’s box tied with a white satin bow that you left me on my pillow, but I think I’ll pass,” said no woman ever.
Recently, I shared my self-care deficit with a dear friend of mine and expressed wanting to get out of the red. She responded with overwhelming support and enthusiasm by tossing ideas in my direction.
Why don’t you sign up for Stitch Fix?
Schedule that business trip to San Francisco you’ve been planning on taking, and take an extra day for yourself to explore the city.
How about you come over for a cup of tea before you go to work?
Make plans for a girl’s night out.
Paint your nails a color you love.
Sign up for a free week of meals through Blue Apron.
Take a bath.
Go to Starbucks and read.
All great ideas! And then there was my personal favorite:
“Katie, the European Wax Center across from The Container Store is offering a free wax for first time guests. Get online, book yourself a bikini wax, ask for Kim, and get it done. Your eyes will only water a little.”
Oh my! Seriously, it felt like that scene out of The Break Up when Brooke’s eccentric artist boss Marilyn Dean tells her to go to a spa in the Dominican Republic and ask for the Telly Savalas. Yikes!
This is what my self-care endeavor has come to? Well, al-righty, then. I said I was going to commit to self-care, so a bikini wax it is! With a titbit of personal information about myself, a few scrolls of the mouse, and a couple clicks, I had it on the schedule. I figured the wax itself would pretty much work the same way. Titbit. Scroll. Click. Scroll. Click. Done.
After a few days of letting the curiosity and anxiety build, I went yesterday to get my “treatment.” The European Wax Center was everything I had hoped for: clean, sleek, and minimalistic, in more ways than one. The front desk staff was friendly, and they made this newbie feel comfortable, at least as much as possible.
After a few minutes of sitting there nervously bobbing my leg, the time had come. Kim greeted me in the waiting area, led me through the entrance to the spa, and showed me to room six. The renaissance-inspired brick archways and dimmed lighting suggested that I was actually entering a torture chamber. With my warped mom-brain ever in tow, I half-expected minions to be waiting in the room for me shouting, “King Bob!” Thankfully, Kim’s smile and calm presence was reassuring, and her voice was not quite as mischievously soothing as Scarlett Overkill’s.
The procedure was done in a mere 10 minutes. Purple wax. A few yoga poses. Goosebumps. Titbit. Scroll. Click. Scroll. Click. And a good Tweeze/Powder combo for the knock-out punch. Although I had walked in, as promised by the lovely European Wax Center, I strutted out. Easy as that. Self-care challenge: completed. And I might even go back in my recommended 4 weeks. We shall see.
After such a positive experience, I group-texted a few of my girlfriends about the opportunity. I lured them in with, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving, it’s free, and it’s perfect right before Valentine’s Day.” While a few of them scoffed and stiff-armed (or stiff-legged, rather) the idea, others sent me screen shots of their confirmation emails, bubbling with excitement about getting some “self-care” too.
“Boom. Katie, you’re such a leader,” one said.
“Well, you know I’ve always taken on the role of pastor’s wife in my own way,” I responded, satisfied with what I had initiated. “Love God and take care of your lady bits.”
This got me a few emojis, followed by:
And as the group-texting continued, let’s just say my friends did my heart some good. It was frisky, borderline inappropriate, and dramatic. I was dying! But it also was loving, honest, and intimate. I was alive!
It might sound silly, but if “love God and take care of your lady bits” is my message for women, then I’m okay with that. Because women that love God and take care of their bits– the relational bits, the brain bits, the chunky bits, the messy bits, and even the naughty bits– are women that can change the world. In other (more sophisticated) words, women who restore themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually are women that can love others fully. And isn’t that what this life is all about? Titbit. Scroll. Click. Scroll. Click. Done.