The Detoxing Man is Caring (for others and himself).
Self-care looks different for me than it does for my wife. For one, she is incredibly good at it. She has done the important work of looking within and finding things that will rejuvenate her. She goes to yoga or the gym most days of the week. She sticks to her skin care regimen without fail. She finds time to read novels for fun, even when she is exhausted by life. She makes plans months in advance and then anticipates them as a joy-filled activity unto itself.
I, on the other hand, am not good at self-care. I know I need it, and yet it feels wrong to me much of the time. There is some part of my brain that will scream at me if I attempt any task that is not in some way productive. If it is merely joyful or self-preserving, and it does not coincide with a productive act like doing the dishes, then it doesn’t feel right.
But, when I lean into why it doesn’t feel right, the only thing pushing back is the enigmatic sense that other people will judge me for taking the time I need. And, I don’t even know who those other people might be. My family doesn’t judge me when I say that I need some time. I have a supportive work environment, where they value me taking care of myself. So, who is the voice in my head that says I need to “get back to work?”
It is the same voice that says, “washing your face is optional” or “getting a coffee right now would be irresponsible.” It is the one that focuses on doing hard things the hard way, like having to each neglected item as it lays on the floor to its respective home elsewhere in the house instead of collecting a bunch of them in a central location for later organizing. It is the unwelcome guest whenever I am listening to others, telling me that there are more important things to be doing, just to realize that I am not actually listening but instead thinking about those other things.
The Productivity Voice doesn’t care about me. It doesn’t care about what will make me happy. It only cares about checking off all the boxes. But, that’s the catch. There is no end to the boxes. I have found that one of the only ways to quiet the voice is to buy myself a meal. I sit at the Waffle House and order an egg sandwich on texas toast with hash browns filled with mushrooms, jalapeños, onions, and ham. I sit and eat my meal without a device. I listen to the people in the restaurant and I listen to my own thoughts. I let the Productivity Voice go because this is not productive. I am just sitting, sipping my bottomless coffee and letting all of things I could be doing go.
I care for myself by quieting the Incessant drive for Productivity. I care for others by doing the same. While I need to complete important tasks, that isn’t what shows care. Showing that I care is in making the conscious choice to be unproductive. It is in choosing to be with my wife while she is at the esthetician. It is choosing to watch a movie I’ve seen dozens of times before with my children. It is in choosing to be present within a conversation when my notifications are desperate to be read. Self-care, just like all care, is a quiet contract you make. It is the promise to yourself for moments of quiet attention in a world of loud distraction.