Back on Track: Self Care, Not Self Indulgence

August 27, 2018

Sometimes, you just need to talk things out with a friend over cocktails to make you see things in your own life more clearly, right?  That's what happened while I was out with Betsy on Saturday.  1 coffee, 1 museum, 1 lunch, 2 rooftops, 2 cocktails, 2 train rides, 3 water taxis, and 7 miles walked later, it occurred to me that I haven't been doing exactly what I intended when this year started.  In fact, I got pretty far off track.  (If you don't remember, my word of the year was 'healthy,' I'm supposed to not be shopping, and I was planning on blogging way more often.)  It wasn't that I planned to chat about any of this in particular, and we definitely didn't sit around talking about all the ways we had failed our goals (she's struggling on some fronts too, but that's her own post to share.)  But I started thinking about it when I got home, based on things I had said throughout the day.  And things I did.

Putting aside the 7 miles we walked, let me tell you about the other things I did: paid for coffee outside of my house, ate fried rice, drank cocktails with boatloads of sugar, ate leftover pizza when I got home for dinner, spent like $20 on each of those cocktails (when you factor in tax and tip), and generally discussed with Betsy the whole day about how I haven't been meal planning during the weeks, or eating healthy, or sticking to a workout of any kind.  I haven't paid much attention to my spending either.  We did make some plans to work on blog things together and check in once a week about each other's meal planning, which is good because I work better when I have an accountability person - I have no internal motivation whatsoever (truly) and I'll only get things done if I have someone else counting on me to do it.  Or at least checking in and making me feel guilty if I'm not doing it.  So that's some progress being made towards getting back on track, which is what I really want to be doing.  Something about September 1st always kicks my butt back into gear the same way January 1st does.  But I think it's really important for me to look at why and when I got so far off track in the first place.

First of all, let me say that I do think life is all about balance.  Sometimes I do just need a day out with one of my best friends, spending the money and the calories to do things we love to do, like having popsicles in champagne on rooftops.  As long as it's not a weekly occurrence, I'm okay with indulging in these kinds of things.  The rarity is what makes them special.

But they haven't been rare, and that's the problem.  That particular set of circumstances has been, sure, but the general indulgences of spending too much money and eating pure crap food and watching too much Netflix?  I've been doing at least one of those things daily, for months.  Bad habits are just so much easier to keep up with than good ones, and so much more fun too, aren't they?  I don't want to keep them up anymore though.  I do actually want to get back to the good habits I started setting up for myself at the beginning of the year, because they were working well in terms of feeling good and healthy.  And sure, I could cancel Netflix, cut up all debit/credit cards so I can't spend and can't order last minute pizza at 6 p.m. 3 times a week, and unfollow YouTubers that make me want to buy skincare at Sephora, but I don't believe that avoidance is the answer in this case.  It is during something like a one month spending freeze, but I don't think it's a long term solution when you're trying to change your habits.  Because I will always see advertising.  And I like Orange is the New Black.

So like I mentioned at the beginning of August, I need to start addressing issues and not just symptoms.  Ordering in food 3 times a week is not the reason why I abandoned my healthy goals, it's simply a symptom of that decision.  Banning pizza from my life isn't going to address the reasons why I'm eating that crap in the first place.  (I'm putting a lot of blame on pizza in this post because it tastes delicious but always makes me feel awful.)  So those quick fixes aren't going to help me in the long run, not until I define a new goal and figure out why I didn't stick to the first one.  I don't always know exactly why or when I abandon a good habit, but in this case, I can pinpoint it down to the exact date.  I was perfectly healthy and frugal and on track in every way during January, February and March.  And then my uncle died.

Died.  I feel like that's still such a euphemism.  I don't like to use that word, except for the reason that it makes other people uncomfortable when I say it as it really happen - he killed himself.  But that is exactly what happened.  There is still a lot of resentment and anger there, clearly, and sadness on some level.  It's not a wound that's going to close up easily.  It won't ever fully heal.  But it's not as raw as it was in April.

When it first happened, I needed to abandon my goals.  Actually needed.  I needed to take time away from working out to spend time with my family.  I needed to take time away from meal planning and cooking healthy things (or cooking at all) in order to spend time on the couch crying with John and Hawkeye.  I needed to stop eating so many raw vegetables, because there's serious comfort for me in mint chocolate chip ice cream and Kraft macaroni and cheese.  I needed to not track my spending so I could take last minute cabs to my parents' house when we needed each other.  And to buy a lot of black clothes.  And to rent a lot of movies on iTunes because escaping reality for 2 hours was a welcome respite.  And to buy Xanax because dear god I just want to get to sleep.

But it's been 5 months.  And while there's no time limit on this sort of grief and recovery, the fact is that, for me, I recognized after talking to Betsy that I've moved from self care into self comfort and now into pure self indulgence.  That is not a place I want to be.

Self care and self comfort are two totally different things.  Self care is getting enough sleep and eating natural foods because those things actually nurture your mind and body.  Self comfort is chocolate and Netflix binges.  There's a time and place for both of these, because caring for yourself emotionally is important too, and sometimes that's simply a job for ice cream.  I was in this realm of both care and comfort in April and May, and I was okay with that.  But in June, July, and August, I definitely moved more and more into that realm of pure self indulgence.

I think I started out by still telling myself that I needed it or deserved it (whatever 'it' was, be it food or spending or laziness) because I was still sad and healing but deep down, I knew that wasn't true.  I now had the time and mental clarity to get back into the swing of the good and healthy habits I had outlined.  But the petulant child in me took that list of healthy goals and tore it to shreds and danced in the confetti, and I let her.  And that is self indulgence.  That is what the root issue is in terms of my total goal abandonment.  Self indulgent excuses.

Being honest about that and recognizing it as the main problem is my first step towards my 'back on track' plans.  Knowing that it's not simply a lack of motivation or a wrong/not specific enough goal is helpful, and now I've been able to figure out the path I want to take from here - dialing it way back to actual self care.  I was going to talk more about that path but this post is long enough as it is, so that part will be coming next month.  Which is mere days away (!), and I'm excited again to get started.

So here's to getting back on track and using that totally arbitrary but somehow still magical September 1 date as the extra push of motivation I need to finish out 2018 how I want to.  Way less self indulgently.


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