Self-Care as Serendipity

Self-care is a combination of two words that sound hokey. I don’t know why.  Maybe because it evokes an image of aging hippies that wear flowing clothes in pastel colors, that sit cross-legged on the floor in circles. I don’t know why I hate to say it out loud: It just sounds dumb.

But self-care isn’t dumb. I notice that amazing things happen to people when they make a self-care commitment. It unsticks them and opens up a different, better world.

Serendipity is defined by Webster as “the gift of finding something valuable or agreeable in things not sought for.” My experience is that when people take care of themselves, they remove the barriers that block serendipity.

Want to unstick yourself from a rut? Make a self-care commitment.

Take care of yourself better. I don’t mean get more manicures. I’m suggesting healthy changes that will nurture your soul. I’ve seen it a million times with my friends, family and clients.

Work break: change that changed …

My friend, Debra, once worked as a director of a children’s and adolescent’s psychiatric hospital. As a result of the managed care crackdown, a ton of psychiatric hospitals were forced to close their doors. After Debra’s hospital closed, she decided to take a break from stressful employment. She’d gotten several master’s degrees, worked full-time running different hospitals over the years, and she maintained a private practice.

Taking a break from it all, Debra began a new career as a cinnamon roll cutter and icer. She wore a green apron, earned minimum wage, and her sole responsibilities included turning on the lights at 5 am, starting the coffee, and cutting the rolls. If a customer wanted icing, she poured it on.  That was all they asked from her, and that was all she had to give.

Free to garden, read or nap …

Debra had her afternoons free. One day a man came in and talked to her.  He was in his 70s (Debra was in her 60s), and they fell in love. She told me she waited all her life to be in love, had pretty much given up on it until then. They married and had a good marriage. Debra later went back into a better-paying position. The profound lesson in this: Debra followed her soul when it told her it needed something else.

Relationship break: what happened here …

I had a friend call me the other day needing to take a break from the relationship with her boyfriend. Coping with the circumstances had become too difficult. Troubles weighed on her mind (she had been paying a hefty stress toll). She worried how her boyfriend would perceive her stepping back. “Doesn’t it look like I am being passive-aggressive?” she asked me? “No.” I said definitively. “If you know in your heart you have to take care of yourself, you have to do it. It is always better for everyone.”

It’s best to err on the side of self-care.

In difficult relationships, a lot of women (some men too) put off their self-care or dissuade themselves from taking action because they worry about how the other person will feel. We are culturally encouraged to be peacemakers and to not ruffle feathers. Disappointing others can be hard at times. However, we cut ourselves off from new experiences, new people and new opportunities when we stick with the same old (uncomfortable) same old.

You can never go wrong with erring on the side of self care. Good things will happen! You’ll see ….

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