I was writing about self-care, how self-care isn’t selfish and how we need to look after ourselves first. This is the first step - understanding that our feelings are created by our thoughts. The second step is taking responsibility for our own feelings, which are created by our thoughts. Then, instead of reacting to people and situations, we are able to choose a response.
I stood in the middle of the grocery store, carrying a heavy, overstuffed grocery basket. My son and I had come to pick up food, because there was none in the house, and had split up to hopefully get out of there as fast as we could. It had already been a long day. I’d been up super early, worked all day, and had a long list of things to still do once I got home.
On the drive there my son had been talking animatedly about something… maybe it was the latest video game or something about army tanks. And I just wasn’t there. I wanted him to be quiet. I wanted to be left alone. Instead of listening and engaging, I was dismissive and disinterested.
I was standing in the middle of the store, waiting for him at our prearranged meeting place, and he wasn’t there. I felt the frustration and exhaustion in my body and in my mind.
“He should be here already.”
“He only had 5 things to get.”
“I’ve been waiting forever!”
“Doesn’t he know I’m tired?!”
The thoughts we think create feelings.
These thoughts created feelings of frustration, which is fine, except that it was frustration directed toward my son. I was telling myself that him not being there was causing me to feel how I felt. I wanted to say these things to him. I wanted him to be the reason and the cause of how I felt.
I wanted something to blame.
I saw him come around the corner, lugging along his own grocery basket. He looked like he had been looking for me. I paused. I didn’t lash out and say these things. I didn’t believe these thoughts just because my mind said them. “He had been looking for me, just like I was looking for him,” I realized. This thought created a drop in the frustration. We were both in this together, we were both just trying to find something to eat and get out of here.
This pause, this shift in my thoughts, it changed how I responded to him when I saw him.
I didn’t snap “Where were you?!” Instead I asked gently, “You were looking for me too?”
“Yah, he sighed,” also carrying a heavy basket. He had also been frustrated at not being able to find me. “I’m tired and it’s been a long day. I just want to get out of here,” I said, bringing us closer.
This is what it is to look after ourselves. This is what self-care is - it’s looking at our thoughts and being able to give ourselves what we need instead of blaming how we feel on other people and situations. It’s in this way that we are able to care for other people. Instead of reacting to my thoughts, and creating separation, I chose what I wanted to think. I chose thoughts that brought us closer. Sample text