In the past two years I have heard a lot of counselors adamantly stress the importance of “self-care.” My head would begin to bob up and down in agreement while inside there was a battle raging between my true feelings and my social graces.
“Don’t roll your eyes!” my social graces would shout.
“BUT AM I NOT SUPPOSE TO BE EMOTIONALLY HONEST?!” my true feelings would shout back.
And the battle would rage on.
I suck at self-care. I don’t get it. Am I supposed to take care of my physical biological needs? I already do that. Am I supposed to go buy myself a coffee, sit down and journal for an hour each day? Who’s supposed to watch my kid during this? Get a pedicure? As if I can afford that. Rub my own feet? Unsatisfying.
I googled self-care and printed out a list of one hundred ideas. My top three:
1. Give yourself a manicure.
I love doing this, obvi. But why waste all that time in silence? I multitask by watching TV whilst I paint my nails. A much better use of my time…but, I have discovered that TV definitely doesn’t count as a self-care activity for me. It’s more of an escapist tactic.
2. Go for a walk.
If I’m going to walk I might as well bring Theo. If I’m bringing the baby I might as well bring the dog. If we’re leaving the house I might as well check the mail. If I’m checking the mail we might as well just go to Target.
3. Take a bath.
This I succeed at. I rock taking baths. I always have. I have distinct memories of my mother dragging my sleepy 12-year-old body out of bed in the morning and telling me it was time to get ready for school. I would groggily stumble to the bathroom, fall into the bathtub and promptly fall back asleep.
Baths and I go way back. So a bath doesn’t feel like something I am specifically doing to take care of myself. It’s just routine.
Self-care should be distinct activities directly intended to care for my being in some way. I ruin all my self-care attempts by trying to kill-two-birds-with-one-stone. Am I going to make myself a delicious and healthy snack? I tweak the recipe so Theo will eat it and not know he’s eating spinach!
But I think I have found my specific, completely me-focused form of self-care. Drum roll please!
Natural hair care.
A bit anticlimactic, I know.
I was in my nightly Pinterest trance when suddenly I found myself immersed in articles about diatomaceous earth, ACV (apple cider vinegar, for those not acquainted with the crunchy scene), goat’s milk, the GAPS diet, biotin and Grass-Fed Gelatin. There is a whole world of new words and acronyms out there, all claiming they will change my life. I’m game to try on a few!
No, I don’t ascribed to a particular diet and I’m not making huge lifestyle changes. I just want an activity to deliberately divert my mind to fresh ways of maintaining hair health. There’s no way I can make natural hair care a two-in-one deal. Theo and Gabriel will benefit zero from this endeavor and it will only affect my personal scalp. Perfection.
So, I’ve gone “no-poo” as they say in the natural, crunchy world. I’m extremely uncomfortable with that terminology, so I will say ‘natural hair care’ from here on out in reference to my shampooless routines. I’ve been reading articles, Pinteresting up a storm and I’ve washed my hair twice with a diluted baking soda mix and conditioned it with an ACV spray. I bought a boar bristle brush and I have been practicing the ‘inversion method’ (you basically massage your head for five minutes to stimulate magical hair growth).
And I feel wonderful.
My hair is soft and shiny. More importantly—every time I Pin an article elaborating on a new recipe for a coconut oil deep cleansing mask I intend to try—I feel a little loved by myself. As I massage my scalp every night for five minutes and “preen” my hair with my boar bristle brush (i.e., brush little sections of my hair), I tell myself that I matter. I matter to myself. As silly or inconsequential as hair care really is, it is my hair and I’m choosing to show myself a little bit of love by learning about it, and treating it well. I’m spending the time solely on myself, because I want to treat myself well.
I needed an activity I couldn’t cheat on, one that couldn’t be multi-tasked and I didn’t find mind numbing. I love to learn, so learning about this world of natural care has given me a way to care for myself in a personal and loving way. As I grow stronger everyday, I realize how deeply my pain and insecurity have touched my sense of identity. God faithfully reminds me—He loves me.
Self-care is hard and complicated. It is not a list that can be printed from a website. But I’m battling it out. I’m rediscovering and redefining what “self-care” means to me. I brush my hair slowly, look into the mirror and whisper, “I love you” to a beautiful, wounded daughter of the King.
I know I am loved.