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.

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