Most people, especially those unfamiliar with practicing self-care, need validation (“Taking care of yourself is a good thing”) if not permission (“Taking care of yourself is necessary and important.”) so they can focus on who they are, what they need and how to be the best possible version of yourself.
How about you? Do you have permission:
• To choose what you want without guilt or self-recrimination?
• To address your needs while respecting the people around you?
• To be so very resourceful that you find satisfaction most of the time?
Mrs. Duncan was my 9th grade high school English teacher and although she was a good teacher, she was somewhat of an anomaly to me. I was born in Texas and bred in the culture of the Piney Woods; she was an Easterner—and I’d never met one of those before.
She had a fabulous sense of humor and she matched our adolescent apathy with kind-spirited but pointed metaphors. As I recall, she called us, her second-period class the cabbage patch because we just “sat there and let our leaves rustle in the breeze.” We got the message and smiled sheepishly as she pulled out her technicolor grade-book.
On the “day of tears,” (“Bring your own box of tissues, please”) we were more sober. That day was the day when she handed back our work collected over the past six weeks, complete with large red numbers across the top and LOTS of magenta comments in the margins for our parents’ to witness and sign. (Did I mention I was really good at my father’s signature?)
Her use of satire, so different from the ribald humor in my household, kept me curious. And, she used Latin to teach English, now how confusing was that? But I learned a lot from her.
So what does Mrs. Duncan have to do with our permission to choose? It’s her Latin, of course. It goes this way: To choose to take care of ourselves means to make a decision to do so. And the English word decision comes from the Latin decidere, de- ‘off’ + caedere ‘cut’. When we choose, we cut off an infinite number of choices, choose one way and see where it takes us. Choosing offers direction and agency—and that leads to results. Choosing to care for yourself, learning how to discern your needs and wants and deciding to make the best choices for your self-care will carry you a long way toward emotional and physical health.
Leaving your options open is a choice, of course. It is choosing not to decide—for now. And, that’s okay, too. The bounty of adulthood is you getting to decide for yourself what takes the best care of you.
And that is something worth choosing.