Tending the Fires of Self-Care

Do you ever get lessons or metaphors from everyday actions? I get them quite often and wanted to share this one that popped up on a chilly, snowy day last winter.

Photo by andre govia on Unsplash

I am fortunate enough to have a fireplace. I am even more fortunate that I was able to have an insert put in, which is basically a wood-burning stove with a nice glass door so that I can still see the flames crackling away.  Don’t you feel warmer just reading that? I certainly do.


On this particular day, I started a fire and closed the door. At first, the cheery fire burned brightly. Then I went out of the room, and when I came back, the fire was almost out. I pretty much had to start from scratch to get the fire going again, which was the lesson. I needed to tend the fire. To check on it frequently, even when it was burning brightly. I needed to keep feeding it, to add wood in the right size pieces. The hotter the fire burned, the bigger log I could put on.  If I started the fire and as soon as a flame showed up, I put too big a log on so I didn’t have to tend it so frequently, I would smother the fire. If I kept putting kindling size sticks on an established fire, the would burn out quickly, and I would either have to keep putting more and more on more frequently, or the fire would burn itself out in short order.

What does this have to do with self-care? It’s a similar process to take care of one’s self on every level: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We need to develop a regular habit, with frequent checking. It will be most beneficial to start with small, consistent actions. As we get more comfortable with these actions, as they become a part of what we do regularly, we can add more or bigger actions.

On the physical and mental levels, it could be starting yoga. You might take a yoga class once a week. When you are comfortable with that (and you might be surprised how quickly that can happen) you can add a second class, or start a practice at home. The better you feel, the more motivated you will be to continue the practice. That’s feeding the fire, the weekly class. The bigger log is adding another class. It becomes easy and regular practice to keep feeding your fire often enough with just the right log to keep it burning brightly.

On the emotional level, it might be finding a therapist to help you break through the blocks and barriers to feeling how you want to feel. I see that as finding the right size log at the right time to keep the fire burning, but not smothering it or having it burn out too quickly.  When you understand your feelings, and how feelings impact behaviors, you are on your way to a more mindful way of living. Not that you won’t feel the undesirable feelings, but that you learn that undesirable feelings pass, and don’t need to result in undesirable actions.

The spiritual level is very personal and could be a very long post. In essence, what is it that feeds your soul, that connects you to the bigger energy outside of yourself? What kind of community or practice fuels you? I wonder if this is less about the wood and more about the reaction with air, which is also necessary to keep a fire burning.

Self-care is an ongoing process of connecting all the elements that keep you burning brightly. It can be joyful, sometimes a little painful, sometimes a little difficult journey with bright rewards along the way.

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ACK! Where does the time go?

Are you like me? Do you have all these great ideas that stay in your head but don’t get down on paper or onto your blog? What holds you back? Do you procrastinate, are you shy, too busy or disorganized?

I find that I have my greatest ideas driving to work, a somewhat lengthy commute of about 45 minutes. Or just as I drift off to sleep. Drat!

Here are two ideas that I am committing to do. Not try, you don’t try you do or you don’t do.

  • put my journal and a pen and sharpened pencil on my nightstand
  • use a digital recorder in the car

I am also getting a coaching buddy to help me with some other projects. I want to have ideas to make the best use of our time, and recording the ideas will have me prepared to develop my action plans, instead of looking all over for my ideas. I feel pretty strongly about my ideas, it the action where I need the support.

So, how about you? Who is your support? When will you start organizing you ideas so you will take ACTION!

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Rogue therapist raves again!

That’s it, I will have to change the name of my blog. Or stop listening to the radio and watching TV.

So, in spite of my better judgement, I’m watching the news to get a hint about the upcoming storm of the century.  Not that the weather predictions have been all that accurate, but that’s OK, I’m not much of an alarmist. I live in New Jersey. It gets cold here. It snows here. But I should have turned off the TV after the forecast, before the story about vitamin infused Vodka. Oh for Pete’s sake, who the Hell thought that one up? To reduce hangovers? I’m thinking drinking less is what reduces hangovers. But hey, I’ve only been an addictions counselor for 23 years, and done my own research before that. What would I know?

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Remaining teachable

Therapist uses herself as example of remaining teachable.   I have avoided buying a salad spinner until recently.  I couldn’t decide what size, or if I REALLY needed one, or if I had room in the kitchen. “Oh forget it!” I would think. Until the next time I passed the salad spinners in the kitchen store.   Being an avid fiber person, or should I say rabid, I also wondered if it would be better to get a salad spinner for my veggies and lettuce, or a larger one for spinning the water out of wool that I had dyed or yarn I had spun and then washed.

So here’s the lesson: Keep it simple.  I am sure you have heard that one. Stay focused. Remember your goal.

It’s summer now, and the shares from the community supported garden (CSG) I belong to includes lots of wonderful greens. Which got me thinking of the salad spinner again. And of all the paper towels I waste blotting my lettuce, and dripping tea towels when I use them instead. So I used my handy-dandy 20% off coupon, and after reading all the boxes and looking at and test spinning all the samples, purchased a the smallest model. Go figure, it turned out to be the perfect purchase!

I thought I blotted my lettuce very well, but the salad spinner really makes a difference. It is quick, easy to clean and saves paper towels and wet messes. Ahhhhhhh!  And I’m actually eating more salads and greens now, since I don’t dread the mess. Prep is a breeze.

Many of the things we do in life are metaphors for how we live our life. When we have successes, we often forget to apply the learning to other areas. Sometimes a seeminly small thing has larger implications. I don’t think that means we have to look for the lesson or learning in every single thing we do; rather, to just be open for the lesson when it comes from unexpected sources.

And eat more salad!

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