Friday, May 12, 2006

Chocolate For Your Soul

"What are you going to do to take care of yourself?" my therapist asked me during the last five minutes of our session last night.

I had been surprisingly emotional. Surprising not because I was emotional, but because of what I had been emotional about. I had been planning to talk about work and my fears for the future, but instead I ended up talking about my relationship with my family.

As I was about to start gathering up my things, CG asked me what I was going to do to take care of myself after I left her office. I looked at her and said, "I feel like having some chocolate," and then added, "but I know that wouldn't be good for me." CG said, "What are you going to do to be nice to yourself?," meaning that eating chocolate, which would inevitably make me feel guilty and probably give me a stomach ache, was not the epitome of "being nice" to myself. She then asked whether I enjoyed getting 10-minute massages at nail places. Who doesn't?

At her suggestion, I ended up going to get a manicure after my session. Nail places are very hit or miss in NY, but I was lucky last night. The manicurist did an excellent job, and then I splurged and paid $13 dollars extra for a 10-minute massage. A young Korean guy named Jay did the massage honors and he was awesome. He had strong hands, used the perfect amount of pressure, and basically turned all of the stress that I had been carrying around in my back into liquid. I felt like warm, worked-over putty by the time that I got up from the chair. It was so awesome. Prior to the massage, I wasn't going to tip him because I had rationalized that I was already paying $13 extra. However, by the end of the massage I was so filled with gratitude that I decided to give him a tip. He truly was amazing. I'm going back for sure.

CG had a good idea. She said that weekly rituals where you take time for yourself can be "self-soothing" (which is another stress-busting concept we're working on together) and another type of coping strategy. Not that life should be all about coping, but rather that you should be equipped with different strategies to cope with stress and to keep yourself happy and balanced. You should make time to take care of yourself, to do things that act like chocolate for your soul. How divine does that sound?

Weekly manicures + massage are a great treat, but at $25 a pop they could get somewhat expensive. Especially for a girl looking to ditch her corporate existence and bank account. Weekly, and sometimes every-other-day, bubble baths, are an excellent ritual that I used to practice religiously in my old apartment, but I've run into some snags in my new abode.

Another idea I've had, but have yet to implement, is making a concerted effort to get out into nature at least once a week, or at least a couple times a month. I've always known that being out among the trees, or on the water, is good for me. It does the job of a 90 minute massage in about five minutes. Being out among the greenery was one reason Connecticut was such a wonderful experience. That's something Simone reminded of me during our last phone conversation.

So, so far my tentative list of self-soothing rituals that I am trying to incorporate into my life includes the following (notice that shopping, chocolate, wine, and mint-chocolate-chip ice cream, though they work damn well sometimes, are not on my aspirational list):

1) Manicure + mini-massages
2) Spending time outside among the trees or on the water
3) Bubble baths
4) Yoga
5) Reading a good book (I'm just about to finish "Never Let me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro, it's great).
6) Meditation (aspirational)
7) Acupuncture
8) Journal Writing regularly
9) All things lavender (such as oil, satiny eye packs, soap, etc.)

All of these have in common being internally still, which is something I've always known that I need for my sense of well-being. I've found this through art in the past, and may need to put that on the list in some way. Maybe a painting class?

I need to be silent and still, and to give myself time to think. It's how I recharge and re-energize. It's amazingly hard though, especially in New York, and particularly in this job, to find time to be still (and not racked by guilt). So often it seems like I'm either working (or of late willfully not working) or trying to have fun. There's no in between. (I was just thinking I bet moms reading this are rolling their eyes in disbelief. I'm childless. I have only me to worry about, but look at all the issues I have just handling that! Good Lord.).

What do you do to take care of yourself?


Tracy said...

I like to take walks and pray. :)

Also, about your interaction with your mom...whatever was going on insider her in that moment had to do with her--not her feelings of love for you. I know you know that, but I wanted to say it anyway.

It is hard when you are making yourself vulnerable like that with someone and there is not a response in kind. I'm glad you could talk about it with your counselor.

I believe in telling those I love just that. And even if there is not a response in kind, I will never have regrets about sharing my feelings. And I don't think you will either. I admire you for expressing your love to your mom. :)

Buttercup said...

Thanks Tracy, you're very sweet. Taking walks is a good idea. Especially now that summer is here, and the nights are nice.

wordnerd said...

Hi Buttercup! I think you are doing great things for yourself! I know it seems hard but keep fighting the good fight, I am confident that you will emerge happier and stronger in the end.

As for my "chocolate for the soul" are a few things that seem to lighten life's sometimes heavy load.

I take the time to smell my doggie's paws...they smell like dirt, and rawhide and love. I actually think I that I kind of meditate when I am with him. There is something deeply therapeutic about spending time alone with your dog.

I take the time to make muffins, from scratch, to drink with a pot of fresh coffee on almost every Saturday morning. There's something good that always seems to happen to my state of mind when I make things with my hands...especially healthy and delicious things.

I also take walks by the water and bring either a journal or my ipod. Sometimes I want to hear the world and connect with sounds, other times I want to drown it all out and retreat inwards to think, plan and dream.

I take pictures and then work on them's great to again make things...making a pretty picture look satisfying. I've found as well that some feelings and situations have translated better in pictures I've taken than through any words I could have chosen.

And lately, I've been trying to write more letters. The most difficult part is getting out the stationnary box, once I start I find that I never want to stop.

Have a good rest of the weekend!

Buttercup said...

Just one clarification: My mom and I discussed our interaction and apparently there was a miscommunication and my mom didn't realize I was looking for a response. To reiterate: I love my mom a lot, and SHE does tell me often. Sometimes miscommunications happen, and it was just one small aspect of what I was thinking about when I wrote this post. No harm was intended mom. Love you. Buttercup.

wordnerd said...

I'm glad you cleared it up!
miscommunications are very difficult yet happen so easily!

Happy Sunday Buttercup and happy MOther's Day Mrs. Buttercup!

gravelly said...

I know your Mom loves you very, very much, she thinks that you are a gift that keeps on giving! Sorry about the miscommunication! xoxoxo

belledame222 said...

Right on. "Be nice to yourself:" *always* good advice. and a painting class sounds like it could be a lot of fun. see what sounds good to you.

per "silence:" do you meditate, Buttercup?

Buttercup said...

Wordnerd, wonderful ideas. I always feel like I should be making the time to write letters, and I would LOVE to take walks by the water. So far, the Hudson River is the closest I've come, and that was nice.

Belledame222, I have been thinking of meditating since I got back from Thailand in October. I need to get my act together and try it. I've gone so far as to research a few places in the city, so I'm getting closer.

Ally Bean said...

I create simple signs on my computer using all sorts of fonts and colors and dingbats. These signs tell me what I want to remember about what is good with me or what I want to accomplish. For instance, right now I have one that says: lighten up, loosen up, live it up.

I put these simple signs on my bathroom mirror and around my workspace, so that I know what I'm currently about. I change the signs when the spirit moves me-- and shred my old ideas.

Goofy? Perhaps, but this does make me happy and seems to keep me centered on what I think is important.

Gypsy said...

What a great list of centering activities! What do I do? I take a bubble bath. I cuddle with the mutts. I read. I wander or go for a drive. Sometimes I turn on ABBA and dance around my living room.