By Caitlin Kelly
Button up your overcoat, when the wind is free, Oh, take good care of yourself, you belong to me!
— Ray Henderson lyric, 1928
After a few decades of running around — and four orthopedic surgeries within 12 years — I’m finally treating my body with a little more respect.
I grew up in Canada, but now live in the U.S., and near New York City, the epicenter of a workaholic, gogogogogogogogogogo culture, one that solely encourages and rewards “productivity”.
We’re all exhorted daily to move faster, do more, sleep less, earn more money, get the promotion.
Vacation? Hah! Even the few Americans who get paid vacations beyond 10 days a year are too scared to take the time off.
The notion of actually nurturing our souls, bodies and minds is anithetical to the industrial mindset of production. There’s no profit (for anyone else) in it!
On my last day of work at the American ad agency, something strange happened: I was smiling. A weight had been lifted, and I felt like a prisoner about to be freed. And despite my fear that no one would hire me, I soon found a job in Zurich doing exactly what I had been doing in the United States: copywriting for an ad agency.
My job title was the same, but I worked part time — and for a higher salary than I had received working full time in the United States. When I was politely asked to work additional days beyond the ones specifically mentioned in my contract, the agency paid me for that extra work.
Not only that, but instead of two weeks of vacation, I had five. And I was encouraged to use every single day of it, guilt-free. Once, when I went to Spain for “only” 10 days, my Swiss colleagues chastised me for not going away long enough.
Instead of worrying about working weekends and holidays the way I had in the United States, I planned trips like the rest of my colleagues: Paris. Prague. Zermatt. For the first time in my working life, I was living, too. Because of this, my creativity flourished. I had both time and money, and because I had real time off, I was more productive when I was at work. In my spare time I wrote blogs and essays and I swam in the lake.
I’m firmly and decidedly out of step with American values in this regard.
In 2015, I’ve spent 3 weeks in Europe in January, another three weeks in June in Ireland, 10 days in Maine and 10 days in Ontario.
Because my husband and I are, as of this year, now both full-time freelancers, (he’s a photo editor and photographer, I write for a living), we can work from anywhere there’s wi-fi and can take as much time off as we can afford.
We’re not wealthy and we live a fairly frugal life, with a small apartment and a 14-year-old car. Nor do we have the financial responsibilities of children or other dependents.
We’ve had terrific careers and won awards and the respect of our peers and while we still need to work for income…it’s time for us.
I’m not fond of the word “self-care” but it’s a concept I believe in strongly, especially for women who are socially encouraged to give everyone else their time, energy and attention — but often feel conflicted or guilty when they stop long enough to take equally thoughtful care of themselves.
Self care can take many forms:
— massage, manicures, pedicures, facials
— dressing well
— a barbershop trim or shave
— regular medical and dental checkups
–– cooking or baking something delicious, especially “just” for yourself
— a pot of tea in the afternoon, possibly with a biscuit or two (no sad little teabag in a cup!)
— drawing, painting, taking photos, nurturing your creative self
— doing yoga
— playing music
— singing, alone or with others
— keeping a calm, clean, lovely home, (or at least a dedicated space within it)
— the company of dear friends
— reading for pure pleasure
— visiting a gallery or museum
— wearing a lovely scent
— taking a luxuriously long bath or shower
— spending time in nature
— silent solitude
— listening to music
— unplugging from all devices and social media
— attending a religious service
— volunteer work
— coloring (have you seen the latest trend — adult coloring books?)
— cuddling and/or caring for your pet(s)
–– handiwork like knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing embroidery — or woodwork
Do you take good care of yourself?