Confession time. I could never be Mother Theresa. The fact is I am not very good with illness and I spend an irrational amount of time and energy making and following through on healthy habits. Here comes the irony part, every single member of my family has died from or currently faces debilitating illnesses. Now my best friend is facing a battle with cancer. Though I have been working hard to be non-judgmental, easier with my friend. Not as easy with my family. It is hard to spend so much of your time immersed in the ramifications of a lifetime of bad decisions and not sometimes feel a little bitter and angry.
People often remark when I pack my healthy vegetarian, usually Vegan lunch everyday, forgo dessert at work celebrations, get out of bed every morning at 4 AM to run, cook dinner at home most nights, and regularly include chiropractic and gym visits into my life; “I could never do that.” I would be giving up so much.” I try to explain with all honesty nothing tastes as good as being healthy. I will never look back and think I wish I had watched more TV, and wasted less time exercising or meditating. In fact over the last 2 years the biggest difference in how I react to my family and what feels like unwelcome obligations brought on by someone else’s irresponsible choices has been to prioritize my own health both physical mental. My mother in particular has had a different life philosophy. She has always subscribed to the idea that to truly help someone you have to give all of yourself, until it hurts, literally. For a time I also tried that. What I found was bitterness and resentment, exhaustion and poor health.
I wanted to serve with a happy heart. I wanted to be as judgment free as I could be, given the circumstances I know this may sound cliché and like “Sure, Right. Maybe you can do that, but I live in the real world.” I get it. I was there. In the nearly two years I have been adapting my lifestyle, I have found that well I have to draw from for service is far deeper when I take care of myself first. If I continue to keep the commitments of mental and physical health I made to myself, I am a better caretaker. They are not life altering. I want to eat healthy so I have that food on hand with me. I want to run so I get up at 4 AM so I have time just for me when everyone who might need me is fast asleep. As soon as I finish my run I meditate. Most nights as I lay in bed, where I would previously silently stew in bitterness, judgment and resentment about why I am stuck doing all of this. I now meditate. I sleep better. These simple promises and gifts I give myself make all the difference in how I approach caregiving. It also frees up a lot of the chaos and anxiety in my life, so I have room to embrace the unexpected. It is not a perfect system. I certainly wish health on my friends and family. Finding this gap for myself fills my well so I can give to others.