In an article Sarah Thebarge wrote after spending two months practicing medicine in a war zone in South Sudan, she said, “I keep reminding myself that rest is holy.”
Back in the United States and spending time with family, Sarah wrote about missing the Sudanese children and her work at the hospital, and feeling slightly guilty for being safe in America while recharging her batteries.
This wisdom from Sarah after writing about the importance of rest before venturing out on another tour of service:
So this week, my goal is to fill back up. To be still as my heart, body, mind and soul soak up Love. To be restful in a restless world so I can better prepare to practice compassion again in this world that God so loves.
I recently heard a gifted young woman speak about the selfishness of the concept of self-care. In her case, I think it was a matter of semantics and how she defined the term.
For the sake of this discussion, self-care isn’t putting our needs above the needs of others. It’s not seeing to our physical, mental, emotional, spiritual health first.
Self-care is simply refueling ourselves — body, soul, and spirit — in order to have a full reserve from which to better care for others.
There was a dark, pre-dawn day when I hurried my husband, Gary, to ER. After five hours of some serious infusion of antibiotics, I brought him home, prepared something for him to eat, ran out to pick up his prescription and … (wait for it) … reported to work.
Exhausted in every imaginable way.
My co-workers would have been appalled to know that I showed up at work after being out and tending to my husband since 4:30 that morning. But they didn’t know.
Self-care on this particular day would have simply meant taking the day off, brewing a cup of tea, curling up on the couch, chatting with Gary when he was awake, taking an afternoon nap when he slept.
It would have meant giving my anxieties that were stacking up—like so many totaled and crushed cars—back to God, listening for His voice, adding to my gratitude list, picking up a good read as my beloved dozed on and off.
Self maintenance would have refreshed me for continued caregiving as the day progressed, and for the next day of work.
Refueling can be done in so many simple ways: a gentle walk, sitting on a park bench and contemplating the grandness of God, picking up a knitting project, memorizing a scripture and pondering its meaning, meeting a friend over coffee, playing fetch with a dog.
If it’s challenging to get out of the house, then recharging our batteries can be as easy as brewing a cup of coffee (and maybe finding a piece of dark chocolate), lighting a fire, lighting candles, and sitting with a good book in a favorite chair accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Healthy personal care should happen on those days that challenge us to the core, but always after feeding our families, after tending to a sick child or an elderly live-in parent with Alzheimer’s, after seeing to the needs of a beloved husband who is dying of cancer.
No, self-care isn’t selfish. It’s critical in order to better serve, in order to be more present in our serving, in order to be glad and not resentful in the service.
Back to Sarah Thebarge — a couple years ago I had the privilege of taking a writing class from her: “The Healing Power of Your Story.”
Sarah told her own story in her book, The Invisible Girls – about surviving an aggressive breast cancer in her twenties, a broken relationship, leaving her Ivy League education and successful career on the East Coast and starting over in the Pacific Northwest where she met Hadhi, a Somali refugee, struggling to raise five young daughters alone.
Sarah helped Hadhi and the girls improve their English skills, taught them how to navigate the American way of life, and recruited her church to reach out in love to this Somali family. Which helped bring healing to Sarah’s own brokenness.
And get this: All proceeds from her book, The Invisible Girls, are going toward a college fund for the five Somali girls. How cool is that?!
Giving of ourselves is reciprocal — we are the ones who end up getting the greatest blessing.
So true and well said, Carol: “ … we are the ones who end up getting the greatest blessing.”
My faith keeps me going. It is in the early morning when I have the most difficult time to embrace the day. Grieving the loss of my beloved husband last August 1st has been very difficult. I have grieved the passing of both my parents, dear friends and relatives as well as three golden retrievers.
Having been my husband’s caregiver, cheerleader, friend, his wife and confidante my band width over the 5+ years of his cancer profoundly impacted me.
Now it is time to turn a new page in my life. Time takes time and the beauty of your prose helped me immensely today. Thank you Marlys.
How simple yet profound, Pat: “Time takes time …” I can’t imagine your grief with so many losses, but I love your attitude: “Now it is time to turn a new page in my life.” Good for you for living forward.
Gigi P. Harris
I had to learn to take “A be good to Gigi day” At first I felt guilty but soon learned that the more I gave the more that was expected of me and I became resentful because I was exhausted, and didn’t know how to stop being a human doing. I can’t take care of you if I’m not ok. I hard to actually schedule a “rest” day in my calendar. Then I had to be true to myself and keep that appointment. I am so much healthier, happier and ready to pour myself out again wherever God directs me. It’s a joy!
What a great idea to schedule a “rest” day on your calendar, Gigi. Good for you.
Marlys, Thanks so much for sharing on this topic. I have several friends who are caregivers for loved ones and need to hear this. They feel guilty when they take any time for themselves. I have one friend who is now having health problems which may well be a result of not taking care of herself. I will be sending this on to them. Thanks again. Blessings to you.
Roxanne – I have a friend whose grandmother was a long-time caregiver for her husband. Shortly after he passed, she was diagnosed with cancer and not given much time. I wonder if she ignored any symptoms her body may have been trying to shout at her because her focus was completely on her husband. And now the family has lost two beloved grandparents. Thank you for sharing the blog with your friends – very much appreciated.
‘Such a much’ of a good read, I certainly appreciated the many meaningful pointers… like reading a piece of scripture. Oh, if only some folks knew how uplifting such a practise can be. I keep a number of ‘those pieces of scripture’ in my wallet.. come sun, rain, hail or snow.. they WILL help me, God’s word will always be with me/us. We all know the Lord’s prayer BUT how often do we ponder slowly over each word/phrase/sentence… it always works for me, ‘Thanks Father God’. Thanks for your sharing, our love, Bx P & family.
I trust you’re taking care of yourself as a caregiver, Peter. Blessings.
Bless you for enquiring. I continually find I have to re-position when ‘the going is tough’, BUT the learning process is in place for me to call on in a ‘self help’ way…. Realistically, I often need to give myself a good talking to.. really it’s God balling me out for not calling on Him, that’s when ‘I truly get it’ and find that ‘peaceful place’. There you go… just written another song because of this conversation & it’s called, ‘Peaceful Place’. Barbara sends her love & thanks for ‘being there’ for us, sharing in these conversations. Love from both of us. Bx P & family
Peter, yay … another song! Love and blessings to you and Barbara.
You have just been killing it for the past month. I asked Cheryl if maybe you had picked up muse and she just smiled. Good work.
Thank you for your kind words, Steve … and thank you for reading. (No muse, at least not the kind Cheryl’s thinking of!)
Thank you Marlys. Such a good reminder for us busy ‘doers’.
I’ve heard it said that nurses are the worst at self-care, Peggy. You have filled that role, as well as cancer caregiver and mom and to an extent your caring work at J Bar J.
Thank you so much for this wonderful story, Dear Marlys. God bless all of you.
Sarah is an amazing young woman in so many ways, Grace. Thank you for your comment.