Sometimes, self-care requires us to make some effort. An expense of energy on ourselves rather than those around us, to change or improve a part of our individual self, or at least to do what we must to maintain ourselves. Tonight, I need to care for myself by doing absolutely none of those things. For half an hour, I just need to stop.
The words “go” and “do” have filled my planner of late. More so than ever, as I try to balance the life of being a work-from-home dad and full time primary caregiver. That means my typical week has meetings with board members and bored toddlers, surrounded by swivel chairs and high chairs alike. It’s a mixed and sometimes chaotic place to be, and a lot of effort is spent trying to work out exactly what is going on half the time.
I’m trying to use my bullet journal more now that my wife has returned to work. While I cannot do much to organise the majority of the demands an 8-month-old puts upon me, I can at least plan for what I can do in those fleeting moments where she will nap without me holding her. The pages are filled with “do filing” or “go to sensory class”, and “do the shopping” as well as “go to client pitch”. Some of these are regular pillars of our weekly routine, others are occasional monoliths that I can’t avoid or reschedule, but most are the littered tasks that seem to be unending.
I try to fit in what I can for myself, in terms of exercise, meditation, or reading – but what little free time I have is either interrupted by my daughter’s unpredictable needs or instead spent with my exhausted wife before she falls asleep. As a result, the only time I seem to find to take care of myself is long after dark, when the family is asleep and I can apply myself for a significant uninterrupted block of a couple of hours. In these spaces, I must force the productivity – and inevitably the enthusiasm too.
But not tonight…
Tonight, after a week of snotty noses and invoices and coffee and playdates and filing… I need to “do” only one thing – stop.
I don’t stop often, which I suppose makes it all the more important that I stop today. And so, instead of writing it down on my to do list, I just take a deep breath and breathe it out slowly. Already things are buzzing less, but there’s still a distant hum.
In the cabinet beside the hearth is a shelf of wine bottles, all full. I don’t need them all, nor do I need one of them, just a glass from one will do. It’s not medicine or healing that I need from it, but just something to put into a glass to stop my hands from doing anything else other than raising it to my lips, where it will keep those lips occupied for a few moments so that they stop talking.
There’s a few bottles in there from our wedding a few years ago, saved for a special occasion. This is not one of those occasions, but the sight of them alone is enough to make the moment more special. Tucked away behind is a bottle of Shiraz. I don’t know where this one is from, but I know where some of it is going.
The fire is already starting to die down, but I need a few more minutes. My last act, now that a glass of wine is waiting for me, is to lay another log onto the embers to keep me company while I sip. As it starts to spark I recline into the soft leather of the sofa, lift my feet onto the footstool, and breathe deeply once more. The wine has been breathing too, and so I lift the glass and finally – with a sigh to display the great effort – stop.
30 minutes or so later, with a quieter mind and a satisfied palate, I feel as though I had forgotten what it was to actually rest. It feels good. In fact, it feels like I should have done this more often. Not the wine, just the stopping. And that’s the exquisite irony of it all – perhaps if I stopped more, I could “go” and “do” more too. Maybe I ought to write it in my planner after all…