Sometimes we must think of ourselves. It’s hard to do when our main concern is to help others. We are taught early on that putting the needs of others before our own needs is virtuous. We learn that “selfish” is a bad thing to be. And yet if we don’t care for ourselves we really can’t take care of anyone else.
Incredibly, in the last few weeks I have been through a hurricane, an earthquake, a flood and a medical emergency. In fact the flood was the same day as the medical emergency. Days were spent cleaning up our flooded basement and then driving to the hospital. Some days I forgot to eat. Last night I noticed that my hands were shaking and I felt lightheaded. I had been going on too little sleep, too much stress and very little food. I also found the order for my yearly mammogram tucked into the rungs of the stair rails. I didn’t schedule it because I didn’t want it to interfere with my father’s outpatient treatments that required me for transportation.
How stupid to allow ourselves to become rundown and tired, the result of trying to put the needs of another before our own. If we really want to care for someone else, we have to care for ourselves. We have to remember to eat even more healthily, try to get extra sleep, and keep up with our own medications and appointments. Even when stress is high and our appetite is low, foods like hard boiled eggs, cereal bars, peanut butter on whole grain bread or small cans of vegetable juice are easy to grab on the way out the door and can be eaten in the car or stashed in a purse or backpack. When sleep is hard to come by, even a 30-minute nap can be a huge help. I type these words while my eyes are heavy, but a nap awaits me. If I get sick, who is going to step in to take over? Not caring for myself would, in fact, be selfish.