So often we introduce ourselves by pointing out where we work (I work at 1n5) or how many kids we have (I have one daughter) or where we are from (I have lived all over the United States). In these moments, I’m reminded of the book The Little Prince. In the book, the little prince reflects on how much adults like numbers, noticing that ““When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: ‘What does his voice sound like?’ ‘What games does he like best?’ ‘Does he collect butterflies?’ They ask: ‘How old is he?’ ‘How many brothers does he have?’ ‘How much does he weigh?’ ‘How much money does he have?’”
I admire the little prince’s efforts to get to know the heart of a person, to understand their stories. I am someone who has always valued stories. As a child, I sat alone on the stone wall by my house and made up stories to sing to myself. When I learned to read, I got lost in chapter books, and when I got old enough to appreciate my father’s bookcase I fell in love with Joyce Carol Oates and Nadine Gordimer. As an adult, I studied how to listen better, opening up the door to the world of captivating true and personal stories. Like the little prince, I believe these stories are what really matter.
Sometimes our stories are joyful, and sometimes they are not. In the last decade of my life, I’ve experienced immense loss, and I have cried and screamed in the face of grief, but I have also found ways to laugh and skip. When times are difficult, my stress shows up in the middle of the night. Like a screaming baby, stress shouts out and can be difficult to soothe. I know how important sleep is to my physical and mental health, so in these times, I amp up my self-care routines.
I find meditation to be hard, but I can manage ten minutes. I love anything outside and am especially grateful if I can take a long walk in the warm summer rain without a raincoat. I lie on the couch and talk to faraway friends for hours just like I did in the days of corded phones. And, of course, I also read stories. Self care for me during challenging times means that I head to the library for mysteries, fast-paced tales that are more plot than eloquence keep me in another world for a while until the world I am in has settled down.
Sometimes, people apologize for their self care. They say that they know the show they are watching is stupid, adding that they know they should get out and exercise more. Sometimes people worry that they aren’t doing what they should, but self care is about self and finding what works for you not about what works for someone. Self care is writing your own story and turning to the settings and characters and plot twists that help you thrive.