Radical self-care: why (for the first time ever) I cancelled a class last night

Last night, I cancelled a class – an important class: the graduation of my fifth group of Soul Callers.

I want to reassure you that I’m fine. Really fine. ‘Edge-of-a-breakthrough” fine. I’m just learning, a little at a time, to live in a radical new way. And while it may not show on the outside, on the inside a cosmic, life-altering shift is taking place.

I am living, more every day, out of the center of my true self.

Which is why I cancelled the class.

I am learning to take care of myself… first. Before I take care of my kids, my husband, my mother, father or clients.

Cue the choir. This is big.

I’m not saying that I’m living ‘selfishly’ – far from it. Taking care of myself in this radical new way is allowing me to serve at a deeper level than ever.

This is Divine Selfishness. This is life through the lens of self-awareness, self-confidence and presence.

Radical Presence.

In the past, faced with the situation in which I found myself last night, I would have soldiered on and delivered the class – and I considered doing just that. But (and here’s the new ‘radicalism’) I chose not to.

I chose not to.

I didn’t sigh and shrug and make up some story about how, ‘this always happens to me’ or ‘everyone else always comes first.’

I made a choice.

A radical choice – toward my own best interests. A choice toward self-care, wholeness and love.

I made the choice to cancel because this week, I realized that I have a pattern of self-abandonment – and by simply seeing and owning that pattern, I was able to shift out of it.

Here’s how, finally, I found the pattern:

I got a sunburn. 

On Memorial Day, at the beach.

I’d made sure that my daughter had been slathered with sunscreen. But somehow, I’d been too busy chatting with my sister-in-law and playing frisbee with my nephew that I neglected my own slathering.

I didn’t even put on my hat. I looked like a lobster.

When you get good at weaving the threads of your life into wholeness; you notice things like this: they’re guidance.

The sunburn made me wake up and notice (painfully) that I’d slipped out of alignment into old patterns – I’d abandoned the center of myself and gotten into someone else’s business.

At the beach, it happened when I was trying to make sure everyone had the best time in the universe.

Back home, I was doing the same thing:

  • Trying to make it okay that my father is living alone in a nursing home; and no one visits him but me.
  • Trying to make it okay that my mother is having shouting matches with her aide – and has suddenly developed a severe GI problem which no doctor has been able to diagnose.
  • Trying to soothe my sister’s grief as her long-term relationship began to crumble
  • Helping my daughter through her first love affair.
  • Helping my son sort out his post-grad career: “Maybe I’m not meant to be a doctor. Maybe I’m a wellness coach; a hedge fund broker, a bar/restaurant starter-upper…”
  • Staying up late with my husband, talking through his deep longing to move toward his true calling as a visionary artist.

… pushing myself to the edges of my own life, self-care could wait. People need me! 

Out the window went my meditation practice, my impeccable eating, my yoga. No time for breaks, for sitting outdoors, for connecting with friends.

This is how I abandon myself.

… and yesterday, I caught myself doing it.

My mom was rushed out for emergency tests with severe GI symptoms; and, because it was my deadline day, I couldn’t help her. Here I was, fried to the bone, empty – not an ounce of energy or time to spare. Yet, I felt guilty for being unable to ‘be there’ for her.

Later in the day, my mother was back home, resting comfortably – a new prescription already sorting things out. But I was not okay.

A deep exhaustion had fallen over me like a heavy blanket. My bones ached; my head throbbed. I was having trouble organizing my thoughts.

I tried my usual strategies: I drank a lot of tea. Black tea. Caffeinated. Strong.

I ate chocolate.

I felt worse. Ragged out. Finished. Underwater.

How was I going to teach this class?

And that’s when a radical little voice whispered: You’re not.

I have to! I argued. I never cancel classes. I’m a professional!

Yup, said the little voice. Which is why you’re going to bed. And then, it asked me my soul questions:

What would your best self do? 

Where is the choice toward love?

There was only one answer: Cancel the class and go to sleep.

Which I did.

Which was totally radical.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Laura Doreson

Yes. Take care of you before you can take care of everyone and everything else.
I have realized the same.
Wrung out like a thread bare, filthy dish rag, headed toward the market for groceries, cart hits a pothole, goes over and me with it, breaking a bone. Surgery done 2 days ago, 4 neat little pins putting my bone back together.
What did I do? Knowing I had broken my left pink, I went food shopping, while my finger hung, dangling off it’s hand. I drove home. Groceries put away by daughter; off to the ER.
The panic and absurd stress the “leadership” at my workplace continue to put upon me, had me typing and frantically working, 10 hrs a day in continued fear of no job.
I was not going to have surgery until a nurse friend of 30 years basically said, “Are you out of your mind?”
She was right.
My boss, a 28 year old genius and a genuine friend said, “You’re taking off the month and healing your hand. The hell with these f**kers. That’s what your insurance is for.
The doctor agreed.
Time to take care of ourselves! Please recognize that there is corporate insanity.

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Amy

Ow – and also, aw nuts. The image of you grocery shopping with a broken pinky is a perfect example of self-abandonment. I am sending the healing angels directly to you right this moment. They will have tea; and a good book for you to read with your splinted pinky. One thing I am seeing – we need this time off. We don’t have to break bones – even little ones – to claim it.:)

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Hiro Boga

Lovely. I’m so proud of you for choosing wholeness and love for your beautiful self.

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Amy

I’m kinda proud of me, too. :)

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claire

Absolutely beautiful!

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ije

beautiful! i love how you weaved this story together. such a beautiful example of how everything that happens…especially the hard stuff…is all guidance, designed to bring us back to our center. your vulnerability and transparency is inspiring. thank you for sharing:-)

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Amy

Thank you Ije. It’s not ‘easy’ but it is so empowering to keep at this particular lesson. I am learning so much from what I do and don’t do.

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Paty

That’s teaching by example Amy. Thank you for the lesson.

Hope you are feeling much better now. That your mom is doing well, that the sunburn is not hurting anymore (you can rub aloe where it hurts and it will help you so much!). And for the rest, everything will fall in it’s right place. You taught us that!

A big hug to you from Mexico

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Amy

Gracias – I love hugs. And now that my sunburn is better (thanks to your good advice) you can give me one and it won’t hurt!

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Fiona Leonard

Have been talking about this topic with my coach this week.

Funny too how when you do something like this (ie not taking a class) you discover the radical truth, that the world doesn’t end. Actually becomes an interesting exercise to experiment with taking radical steps.

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katarina

thank you for being so open and honest! there is no Superman, or Superwoman. no one can handle EVERYTHING regardless of how mentally healthy one might be.

again, thank you for being an honest person. and for showing others the way. and for inspiering others to go their own way =)

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Karen B

How about – when we’re berating ourselves for not fulfilling our ‘obligations’, we think about what we would say to someone else in the same situation? Would we have a go at them for not doing what they feel they ‘should’, or would we give them a hug and say “take care of yourself – the world will not end if you don’t do this – and come back later when you are refilled and revitalised and we’ll do it then”? If you can say it to someone else, then you can say it to yourself!

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Amy

Yes. Thank you. Yes. A good reminder.

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june in Ireland

Wonderful, thoughtful, important post, beautifully expressed. Yes, most if not all of us know how this feels all too well. Always so much to do for others, and we gladly and wholeheartedly tend to it, but yet we don’t extend this same self-care to ourselves. Or if we do, it’s all too infrequent and we usually end up feeling guilty or feeling too self-indulgent or self-obsessed that we’ve taken so much time on caring for our own selves. We gladly people-please to the nth degree, yet fail to realise that we’re also one of those people.

Thanks for sharing this very important post, with these very important words of wisdom and notes to self. I hope your sunburn is a lot less painful now (aloe vera and a bit of tea trea oil mixed into coconut oil really works wonders, I’ve found).

Reply

Amy

Thank you June. I agree – finally sorting it out that self-care isn’t ‘selfish’ – it’s imperative.

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Nicole Navratil

Rock, on Amy. Everything about this is gold. Thank you so much for telling this story.

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Amy

Thank YOU for stopping by to comment!!

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Hakikah

Absolutely essential reading. Thank you for yet another exquisite piece.

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Amy

Thank you, so much, for stopping by and commenting. :)

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Lynn / Power Chicks

Love this: I made ” choice toward self-care, wholeness and love.” Thanks, Amy.

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lori

amy, you are the mirror for me!!!!!!!!! I read your words and they so resonate with me as i am depleated with nothing left. Hmmmmm. The characters are “sort of different” but not so much!!!!! xoxoxox to you!

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