Exhaustion, Self-Care and…Kindergarten

Today was my first day at a new job at a local elementary school.  It was a crazy, wonderful, chaotic, delightful launch of a new school year.

During the final recess of the day, I saw a sweet five-year-old boy sitting by himself, looking overwhelmed. Approaching him, I asked how his first day of kindergarten had been, and he said, “Whew…man, I’m exhausted.”  Fighting the urge to burst into laughter, I sat with him and wholeheartedly agreed that, yes, the first day of school is/was complete madness.  And- like him- I too, felt exhausted.

It got me thinking about introversion and extroversion- and I have a hunch that that little guy may very well be an introvert like me. While many of his peers were chasing each other around the playground, he was taking a bit of (highly necessary) quiet time for himself.  Without even consciously knowing that he needed solitude and down-time to recharge his energy, he was doing just that.  Deep down, he knew what he needed most in that moment.

It reminded me about the necessity of self-care.  I’m more attuned to the concept now that I’m in recovery.  It’s said that addiction is a disease of self-centeredness.  I can vouch for this.  We addicts put our drug(s) of choice above anything and anyone else, despite how doing so causes harm.  In recovery, we are learning how to be selfless and supportive while also caring for our own mental/emotional/physical/spiritual health.

Unfortunately, people often equate self-care with self-centered indulgence-or simply misunderstand the true meaning of the concept.  Coach and author Renée Trudeau has devoted her entire career to the subject and clarifies the meaning:

Self-care isn’t a goal you strive for.  And it’s not about becoming YOU Version 2.0.  It’s about meeting yourself where you are with a soft and open heart.  It’s believing “my ordinary self is enough.” It’s feeling safe enough to show up in the world 100% you and inherently giving others the permission to do the same.  Self-care is about attuning and responding to your needs and desires moment-to-moment.  It’s about forgiving yourself when you make a mistake, being compassionate with yourself when you bump up against your faults and treating yourself with the same love and tenderness you would have for a four-year-old who’s had a really hard day.  It’s not about adding something to your to-do list, cracking the whip, or finally getting in shape.  The true art of self-renewal is about cultivating a kinder, gentler relationship with yourself and asking for the nurturing and nourishment you truly need- whether that’s a hug or a kale smoothie.  It’s knowing that YOU have your back. And that no matter what you say, do or flub- you will not abandon yourself.

Wow.  That’s a beautiful, tall order (NOT of a Starbucks grande macchiato with eight pumps of caramel and a large dose of whipped cream.  Well, maybe sometimes…).  I believe self-care looks and feels different to each of us.  For me, it is first-and-foremost about putting down the wine bottle.  After that, anything (healthy and genuinely nourishing) goes.

Tonight, I’m starting with an Epsom salt bath, a good book and an early bedtime.  Hopefully by the time coffee is brewing tomorrow morning, my batteries will be recharged, and I’ll be ready to help kiddos navigate the crazy (often extrovert-oriented) world of kindergarten.

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