The Good Kind of Selfish

My dear friend Susan Timmons Marks always says when she leads iRest practices, “there is no selfishness in self care.”

I really understood that, like REALLY understood it, when I went away for five days to Boston. By myself. No kids. No husband. No students. No teaching.

It was selfish. It was indulgent. And it was exactly what I needed.

Every year the venerable Judith Hanson Lasater teaches a training in Boston called “Experiential Anatomy”. I’ve been wanting to take this for at least eight years. Seriously. But it wasn’t until this year that I finally made the decision that I had to go.

What was holding me back before was that it seemed like such a selfish decision. To leave my husband to deal with all three of the kids for five days?! (This has absolutely nothing to do with my husband’s ability to manage our children. Because I work on so many evenings and have for a long time, he is the master of the solo dinner/bathtime/bedtime routine. So of course he is completely capable, but I know how exhausting it is to do all of that, plus all of the house chores, and then morning routine, too!)

There was also the general organization of it. Calling favors for babysitting so my husband could keep on schedule with his work, finding great subs for my classes, making sure there was enough food and clean clothes for everyone before I left…

Not to mention the expense of the whole trip! Air travel, paying to stay some place, the cost for the training itself…

Just the idea of leaving made me feel guilty. So indulgent!

But while I was there, I realized just how much I needed it.

In taking care of myself and only myself for five whole days, I realized just how much time I spend taking care of other people. Cooking for my family, cleaning my house, putting bandaids on skinned knees, propping my students to help them rest, mentoring apprentices… Having a week without teaching, cooking, or giving advice, made me recognize how integral taking care of others is to my life and who I am. Caring for other people truly brings me joy and sense of purpose. But sometimes I get so immersed in my role of care-taker that I forget that I need to be cared for too. This trip helped me recognize that things were way out of balance for me.

I returned from Boston a more enthusiastic teacher, with a better understanding of my motivations on the mat, with exciting class plans and new things to explore. I came back with a greater appreciation for those obnoxious early morning bed invaders. I actually missed cooking and folding laundry while I was away. Everyone missed me while I was away and I missed them too! I came back a more grateful teacher, mom, and wife.

Turns out a little selfishness and indulgence is just what I needed. You too? Maybe you need a weekend yoga retreat, an extra piece of cake, an hour of sleeping in. These things help us relax and refresh. They remind us of all the amazing things we have and help us stay focused on what we really want and need. So it’s good to be selfish. Sometimes.