One day, an improbable thing happened: someone thanked me for my work. I was working for Child Protective Services and in my role, on most days, everyone hated me. The kids, the parents, the attorneys, the foster parents, the other family members. The phrase “you can’t please everyone” was more accurately stated “you can’t please anyone” in this job. But one day, CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), gathered up all the social workers in my office and sat us down to say thank you. They had even managed to find the resources to give each of us a certificate for a massage.
I did not realize that the words “thank you” were so important. In theory, the job of saving children should be intrinsically rewarding. Why would we need to be thanked if we get the chance to save lives? But most days I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. Some days I felt lost in a broken system that seemed arbitrary and cumbersome. So when the words “thank you” hit me, the tears welled up in my hardened social work eyes.
If all CASA had done was say thank you, it would have been enough. Even that takes energy and they are doing the hard work of protecting children too. But they also gave us those massage certificates. How great is that?! If you had asked me at the time, I would have told you that the only thing keeping me from getting a massage is that my salary barely covered my living expenses. Money was my main excuse for not taking care of myself. But as the months passed by, I let the expiration date pass on my massage certificate and time also got some of the blame for my lack of self care.
Which excuse do you use more often? Money or time?
The truth is that I could have figured out how to find the time to take care of myself. I could even have found the money to pay for my own massage. When we really want something, and when we truly believe we deserve it, we make it happen. When our car unexpectedly needs new tires, we find someone to pick us up on the side of the highway. We find the money to buy new tires. We find the time to sit in the shop to wait for them to be installed. All the other things on our to do list are there waiting for us when we get back.
The same thing happens with self care. When you emerge from a self care moment, some of the things on that to do list will seem much less important and the cost will quickly be subsumed by your bank account. But unless you take the leap of faith, you won’t know that everything will be okay if you take a break. When I took the leap of faith into “extreme self care” (as my friend calls it), I discovered that I could not live a full life without it. Now it is a non-negotiable part of my life as a helping professional. Self care is how I say "thank you" to myself.
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Dare to be immortal.
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