These last several months I have been doing daily self-care excursions, getting myself to beautiful places, even if for an hour or so and even when the weather is not so good. As soon as I get into my car, I feel such relief, and then an almost euphoric feeling comes over me when I get to one of those places. I would like to share a little background, an event in my life that planted the seeds for me to know the value of doing things like this.
Some years ago, when I was going through a very dark time, the most difficult days of my life, there were several times when I was in a pretty bad way. So many people who opened their arms, and their hearts to me, including several friends who without them – the daily phone calls to check in on me, allowing me to vent, their advice, their love – I don’t know if I could’ve made it through those days as emotionally intact as I did. When I think back, it seems as if they were put there in my life, just when I needed them most.
One day I called one of those friends because I was very upset, and I felt like I’ve never felt before – pain, fear, almost despair. I could feel my heart racing in my chest along with some other symptoms, physical manifestations of emotional pain. She said to me, “Do the things that otherwise bring you joy.” So I went to the gym and started to feel a bit better, but I worried that I may get injured, accidentally dropping the weights. I then drove to the beach, Rockaway. It was a beautiful day. The sky was mostly blue, but hovering over the beach there was a great big and beautiful white cotton-like cloud mass moving very slowly across the sky. I sat there for a couple of hours photographing the beauty. I must have taken a hundred pictures. I then went home and went through all of those photos, selecting the one that I thought was the best, to send out to my email group (photo above).
While sitting on the beach taking those shots, and then going through them to share with others, I felt better and better. I knew I would be sending a beautiful photo out to so many people and hopefully, some of them would experience the same comfort seeing the photo, that I felt sitting on that beach. I did something, that otherwise brought me joy in life. A couple of years later, making my way through those tough times, I hung that photo in my office, just behind my chair, over my desk. It reminded me that while I had found my happiness, I went through great pain to get there.
One of the things I enjoy so much about life is that when I experience something good, learn something new or pick up new insights, I love sharing them with others. I believe that we live to give, and we give to live. So there have been many times in these years since that day on the beach when I have told people who were experiencing significant pain, “Do the things that otherwise bring you joy.” Many have later told me how helpful that was. I am grateful for the good that came from my struggles back then. I am honored to be able to share that advice with others. I am appreciative of their trust in me. I will never forget how that friend helped me get through such a painful time that day. And I am thankful every day for the bliss I have found and for all of the good that has come into my life.
Back to today, these are difficult days for sure. Having endured the unknown and unimaginable challenge of COVID-19; isolation from others, loss of life, unable to properly memorialize our loved ones who have died, or being able to spend time with them in their final days. Just when we were hopeful that we were getting through that, all of the violence, the discord, and the uncertainty of our nation’s future fell upon us. That advice my friend gave me back then certainly applies today, do the things that otherwise bring you joy. That is why I make sure I get out every day, rain or shine, and experience something different than what I am seeing in my apartment.
I truly believe that when we get through these days, we will somehow be better off as a people, and as individuals. For me, I am even more aware that self-care is so important, and so often overlooked. We live our lives trying to help others, which is why we are here. But we so often forget to help ourselves. We need to be strategic about making sure we are taking care of ourselves as well. Maybe that is one of the gifts of the pain we are going through, to realize that. It is for me. And remember, taking care of ourselves is not selfish – it’s selfless because it better enables us to take care of others.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I wish each of us the perfect balance of giving to others and taking care of ourselves.
June 27, 2020