on self-care, resourcing, and giving yourself what you need (which isn’t what you want)

I read this post from Addie Zierman this week, in which she talks about the difference between ‘resourcing’ and ‘self-care.’ She’s talking in the context of the current political climate, but her conclusions put words to something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

She writes that where self-care makes her think of bubble baths and comfort food, indulgences and luxuries, resourcing is “plain and simple and unglamorous. It brings to mind grocery shopping and wood cutting and preparing food and pouring water.” Self-care for her means hiding in her house, introverting on the couch. Resourcing means going out into the world and doing something for others, something that gives her hope and keeps her grounded when things aren’t going well.

For sure, the distinction isn’t as cut and dry as the two terms would make it seem. And I suspect self-care in its classic form comes easier for introverts, most of us who have had to learn to set boundaries and take care of ourselves (ie, hide) in an extraverted world. But the article resonated with me because I struggle with self-care. Not because I don’t take enough time off (believe me, I do. I spend an inordinate amount of time reading cozy mysteries on the couch). But with the rare exception, I come away from those moments of ‘self-care’ feeling more frazzled than when I started.

As many of you know, I have a lot on my plate right now. Bubble baths are not the answer–at least not for me, and if only because I’d have to clean the tub first. It might be a minor difference in framing the concepts, but self-care feels like escapism to me, and resourcing means giving myself what it takes for me to be able to continue to show up tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. Addie writes, “Resourcing is not so much about giving yourself what you want. It’s about honoring what you need and doing the work to provide it to yourself.”

When I’m stressed, bubble baths don’t cut it. But extra sleep does, and sitting at my desk before and after work to get these chapters done, and taking Josie out for a walk in the sunshine does too. Sadly, resourcing means a lot less binge-watching of NCIS or Parks and Recreation, which is my normal response to stress and, as L. can testify, one of my favorite non-productive hobbies.

But this concept also resonated with me because I am turning 30 at the beginning of next month. I have no qualms about leaving my twenties. My twenties were better than my teens (anything was better than that), but they contained some extraordinarily painful lessons and experiences, and I am happy to leave them behind. But still, turning thirty means indulging in some self-reflection, and as I look to the future, I see more slowing down, more intentional living and decision-making and taking my time, rather than my usual “full speed ahead and let the chips fall where they may” approach. (That approach got me L., so it’s not all bad. It’s just also given me a lot of anxiety and fear, which is less good.)

Concretely, this means that I deliberately don’t have a fully-thought out, month-by-month plan in place for after the PhD, no lists to make and boxes to check, but am going to see what happens and what feels good then. It isn’t what I want–what I want is to know what is going to happen (or what I want to happen) and set goals and do research and make things happen, preferably yesterday rather than tomorrow. But it is what I need.

Deciding I didn’t want to try for tenure sent me into a tail-spin of sorts, in which I frantically (and fruitlessly) tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life, if I wasn’t going to be a professor and sacrifice all on the altar of academia. And while I’m very happy we moved to California, I won’t pretend it hasn’t been hard to move here as a trailing spouse. It’s been a rewarding, but also a hard year, is what I’m saying, and the years before that weren’t that easy either.

So I’m going to defend in June, and then I’m going to breathe. I know, I’m shocked too. I was very resistant to the idea when someone (ahum, several people) challenged me on my tendency to want to do everything now, all at once. But I sat with it for a little while, and I realized I also felt relief at the idea that I could maybe just be, just exist without having to prove my worth to others (or, you know, myself, if I’m being totally honest here, because that’s really the only person I have to convince, and also the hardest).

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

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