I sat in my car at the red light. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I felt an overwhelming sense of panic and dread.
“It’s going to be okay,” My sister’s voice soothed me through my car speakers from the other side of the United States. “I have a hard time getting my hair cut too.”
The light turned green and I hesitantly pressed on the gas. Even though I’ve lived in Texas for over a year, I still didn’t quite know my way around.
“It’ll make your life easier. Showers won't be so difficult, you’ll be able to get ready faster, and most importantly you like yourself with short hair. You think you look cute, and I think you look cute too. It suits your face”
“I know, you’re right. You’re so right… it’s just so much money and it seems so selfish.”
“I know it seems that way, especially when baby formula is expensive, but it’s really not. How often does that Marine husband of yours get his haircut? Every week? Do you ever tell him it’s selfish?”
“You’re right.” I say again. “But he has to get it for work.”
“And you have to get one too. For your work around the house and with the kids and for you to have more time writing and painting.”
It seems to me that my sister Corrie always knows the right words to say. She’s affirming yet pushes me, and I needed to be pushed. I hadn’t gotten a haircut in a while, and the thought of getting one fills me with dread. Why? I’m not sure why. I probably need years of therapy to untangle the knot in my stomach when I enter a hair salon. I just hate it. I’ve had bad haircuts and, well honestly I have a hard time communicating what I want with the people I hold dearest in the world, so communicating to a stranger what to do with my mangled mane seems impossibly daunting. So daunting that I had texted a friend early that week.
Please help me, I wrote. I know I need a haircut but I have no idea where to start. Can you help me find a picture to show the stylist? And a good stylist to go it? And my friend, because she’s a good friend, did.
“I’m proud of you.” Corrie said as I pulled into a parking spot. I had finally found the salon.
“Thanks.” I choked out. I was running late. Not late late, but late for me. My appointment was at 1 and it was now 1:05. I hated being late. It made me just not want to go in at all. I had to though, I needed to do this. I knew that the more I avoided it, the more unmanageable my hair and the knots in my stomach would get. I need to take care of my hair and my anxiety. I needed to take care of myself.
Self-care isn’t always fun.
For some reason I’ve got this image stuck in my head that when I’m taking care of myself, it should be a delight. I should love it. I should feel proud and happy and self assured.
But I don’t.
I usually feel dread and resentment (in the moment).
Afterward, I’m grateful though. I thank past me for pushing myself to the things that would be kind to myself tomorrow.
Taking care of one’s self, doesn’t mean spoiling yourself. Somehow, and maybe it’s just me, I get these confused.
When I think of self-care, I think of pedicures, wine tastings, and snuggling on the couch watching a movie eating chocolate. That might be taking care of yourself, but there are so many mundane things that go into taking care of yourself. There are some things I do at night so that future me, next morning me, has an easier time functioning. They include taking out the trash, doing the dishes, setting up the coffee pot, tidying the living room, and putting away laundry. There are some things I do to cultivate peace in my heart, such as journaling, reading before bed instead of scrolling on my phone, going to bed at a good time, having a daily quiet time, working out, drinking enough water, eating vegetables. I could go on… but the point is that these things are not glamorous or fancy. They are ordinary everyday things that need to be done, so that I can be kind to myself and others. They’re not fun. I can try to make them fun through various methods, but in and of themselves they aren’t… and that’s okay. Fun doesn’t have to be a goal (always). It can be sometimes, but it doesn’t have to be.
Fun is a tool that you have in your toolbox, and, like all tools, there’s a time and a place for fun. However not every problem is a nail, so therefore not every solution should be a hammer. Fun isn’t the answer to every problem, it might be to some… but it’s not to all. Creative care has a lot of fun elements. It’s fun to push paint around a canvas, it’s fun to scratch paper with a pencil, it’s fun to put words from mind to pen to paper. These are fun things, but to do these fun things sometimes you have to do some unfun things. Sometimes, to make sure you have time to paint, you have to meal plan. Sometimes, to make sure you’re able to go to that writing retreat, you have to budget and stick to the budget. Sometimes, to make sure you have time to practice your creative craft, you need to structure your days so that your kids have quiet time everyday. Sometimes you have to get a haircut.