“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”-Audre Lorde

I’ve dealt with serious, chronic illnesses for over half of my life. One of the hardest lessons I had to learn, in the wake of those illnesses, was that it was alright to step back, breathe, be “selfish” and take a moment for my recovery. Wordsworth wrote “the world is too much with us” and I’ve felt the pull in the last week. The what and the why and the who and the where aren’t pertinent. The importance lays in the how. How do I return to center and encourage myself to disengage from the world and focus on personal self-care?

Self care is the radical concept that sometimes you must take care of yourself for your own health and sanity. In a world that demands so much attention, sweat, emotions, and energy, self care reminds us that our first duty is to ensure we are whole, hearty, and happy. We must be active in ensuring that our bodies are nourished, our minds are centered, our bellies filled, and our hearts calmed.  In those hours and days when the stress rages, it is easy to overlook, to ignore, to collapse in on the demands of family. Or friends. Or work. Or the news. Or the cranky cashier at the store.

When the weight of these interactions weigh heavily, (especially amongst my dear, fellow introverts) it is the exact moment to step back and listen to the vibes our bodies hum. Listen to the internal declarations, so often banished and out-screed by a needy world. So, this week, I’m taking care of myself, first and foremost. Because only after I take care of myself, can I truly be with others in all layers and levels, in every way. I cannot help uplift my dear husband, if I’m collapsed in the proverbial gutter. I cannot bear the burdens of my fantastic friends, if I’m fraying at the edges. I cannot hold up my family, if I’m not strong enough to hold up myself.

So, I’m retreating into myself for a few days to find my center. I’m acknowledging my body when it aches or my head throbs, instead of ignoring the signs. I’m going to cry and smile and laugh and allow myself to feel. To heal. And most importantly, to recognize my my voice or my silence isn’t a burden. I’m listening to myself.  Lucile Ball said “Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.” So I’m listening to Audre Lorde and Lucy. And me. Especially me.

Photograph of Audre Lorde By K. Kendall (originally posted to Flickr as Audre Lorde) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons