Recently one of my Midlife Midwife™ Counseling clients called me in hysterics from the supermarket. This was her first shopping excursion since her last child left home. She had been long divorced and now her nest was completely empty. As she wheeled her cart up and down the isles, she realized that she didn’t have the slightest idea what to buy.
While she was practiced in selecting foods for her family, always considering each person’s likes, dislikes and allergies, it had been a quarter of a century since she had asked herself what she wanted to eat. And she panicked at the prospect.
We are now emerging from decades of caring for others, and many of us are at a total loss as to how to care for ourselves. It is crucial that we redirect back into ourselves some of the love and strength that we give so freely to others.
By middle age, most of us have lost already, or will soon lose, our parents, perhaps even our spouses, best friends and significant others. Who will mother us now? Who will take care of us, or more important, maybe, who will even care whether we take care of ourselves?
Now is the time for us to learn how to be our own caring best friend, sister, daughter, mother and devoted advocate. And this is our chance to be the sort of parent that we always wanted — for me it was the cheerful, optimistic, fun-loving Mary Poppins that my little girl-Self needed so badly.
But whatever our childhood was like, that was then and this is now. Now, we can give ourselves the unconditional love and support that we had or did not have as we were growing up. We can and must assume the responsibility to feed, nurture, encourage and comfort ourselves, to pamper and challenge ourselves, to whisper into our own ear each night as we slip off to sleep, “Good night, honey. I love you.”
Think about your daily habits. Are they healthy? Are they helpful? What improvements might you make in your diet, your exercise program, your work environment, your family life, your friendships, your thought patterns, or in other aspects of your routine to improve your well-being?
If you decide to make changes in your life, be realistic in your expectations. Your goal is not to be as you were at thirty. It is to be your best Self today and tomorrow.
Adopt the changes you decide on with your full intention and focused attention. If you want a certain result, you must work to actualize it. I know. Sad, but true!
Think about caring for yourself as an act of love, rather than an odious duty. Isn’t that how you care for others? Attitude is all. Your self-care is, after all, strictly a gift you are giving to your Self. You know how to nurture. Now it is your turn to receive it.
Take Good Care:
- Eat well — not too much, not too little — and allow yourself to take pleasure in your food. Feed your body with nutrients and your soul with color, taste and sensory delight.
- Sleep well. Sleep enough. Then sleep some more. Nap if you can.
- Exercise your body and your mind. And also your creativity, your intuition, your sense of adventure and the full scope of your options.
- Oil your rusty parts. Water what is dry. Polish your surfaces. Stretch your body, your imagination and your self-imposed limits. Tickle your fancy.
- Don’t worry about the future. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Let go of past resentments. Be here now. Take it all in and remember to exhale.
- Do things you enjoy. Have some fun. Play. Laugh. Be silly.
- Treat yourself with respect and honor. Watch your inner language. Support your dreams, encourage your goals, allow yourself to be proud of your achievements. Bless your Self.
- Mark your boundaries and don’t be afraid to defend them. Honor your needs. Fulfill your desires. Give yourself the time, the space and the permission to do so.
- Advocate for your ideals. Stand up for what you believe. Speak your truth. Walk your talk. Put your money where your mouth is.
- Make every thought, every word, every action, every second count. This is your life!
Like the excellent mother, creator, organizer, administrator, mentor you are, be patient with yourself. Change is slow and you are human.
I have a simple philosophy. Fill what’s empty.
Empty what’s full. And scratch where it itches.
– Alice Roosevelt Longworth
Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.