I’m a big fan of self-nurturing. I believe in ninja-level self-care. Who knows what I need better than I do? (And how else would I have survived more than two decades as a human services provider?) Family court, criminal court, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, mental illness and addiction. Each is a lot on its own. Unfortunately, as we become more experienced, those issues begin to pile up. To overlap and intersect — also a lot. And, from an employee point of view? It’s a part of the word where the compensation is pretty bad.
When I made the decision to leave the arena, many factors came into play. As much as I engaged in good self-care practices and loved working with clients, I had arrived at a point where my bounce-back had stopped bouncing. My mojo wasn’t mo-ing. Self-nurturing no longer felt natural. The deficit was deep.
Is Keeping the Faith Part of Self-Nurturing?
Making the shift to writing and publishing made a lot of sense to me. There was a lot to learn so I stayed engaged. Social media kept me connected with social issues I care about and people continuing the work. I was educated and nurtured by other authors. I’ve “met” some incredible people online — and some have become relationships IRL. (That’s ‘in real life.’)
One of my favorite online connections turned out to be a young domestic violence advocate who was — like me — originally from New Hampshire. We developed a powerful friendship that has continued to grow and flourish for almost a decade already. She has always been overly generous with her praise about what she gets from our connection and doesn’t seem to absorb all of the benefits that flow in my direction. Perhaps most signficant of those involve the legacy aspect of our communication: I am impressed with the dedication and brilliance of some of these ‘up and comers.’ They give me faith in the future of our field and the opportunities to provide improved services to folks who need them.
But, as I’m sure you know, the universe has a sense of humor.
Not Funny, Universe
The change started innocently enough. I guess I’d call it more of an ‘evolution’ First there was an online gathering place for these front-line workers to come and check in. Blow off steam and ask questions. Post pictures. Share resources. Recommend books and music. Make each other laugh. Validate concerns. Dust each other off and nurture those sparks that make us advocates.
Before any of us knew it, the thing had a life of its own. It had become a group with thousands of members and a personality of its own. Incredible leaders committed to improving lives for a wide range of humanity continued to suit up and show up to give one another the kind of firm but nurturing support that is rare in this line of work: there are no victims here. We eventually reached some sort of critical mass and took steps to organize as a not-for-profit serving and supporting advocates.
Is it Energizing, Relaxing or Both?
Fast forward a couple of years to our second online conference. The topics and the speakers were wonderful. We had a great turnout. The interaction by attendees — both at break times and during Q&A sessions — was wonderful. We had few issues with technology and discovered that one member of our team has a spectacular gift for making playlists. The blend of genres, styles, and decades gave us breaks that were energizing, relaxing, or both.
Board members attended and participated. Once it became clear that all of the conference things were ‘handled’ (extremely well) we were able to attend sessions and focus on how we care for ourselves. We thought about larger systems and the ways we work together (and sometimes don’t) to develop a robust and healthy organization. What part of this work is nurturing and fulfills us? What is there that kicks off old, unhealthy habits?
I became aware of one: there’s a part of my work and time-management styles that leans toward doing “one more thing” before I stop. It might be years of providing emergency services and knowing there was likely a big, hairy situation that was going to demand a pivot. Or maybe it comes from a learning style that’s wide before it gets deep: it’s not always easy to get my focus back once I let it go.
Meeting the Exception That Proves the Rule
I noticed that I’d not spent much good “dog time”good “dog time” that week and, since my time zone is an hour earlier than our organization’s home base, decided to take my youngest shepherd out for a leisurely walk and a little training. It’s one of those things that always sets up a great day for both. Or should I say, “almost always.” Yep — this was the day I met the exception that proves the rule.
Brava is wonderful. She’s silly and smart and freakishly strong. I’m grateful that her breeder is an incredible trainer. Hard training is a form of play she loves and she’d do just about anything to spend time with me. Sometimes she’s enthusiastic to a fault.
This was one of those times. I was planning a shady walk but someone didn’t get the memo. What I forgot to mention is the fact the girl is obsessed with squirrels. For a youngster she’s pretty well behaved — until one of those fuzzy rats shows up. Then it’s lunging and screaming and barking on a level that won’t be appropriate until she moves into protection training.
By now I’m sure you’ve guessed. We stepped out of the front door just as one of those bushy-tailed freaks bounded across the walkway. She barked and screamed and pulled. Hard. And then I screamed — loudly — from my uncomfortable position on the ground.
Would I Do it Again?
Unfortunately elevation and ice did not work their magic but Favorite Husband was convinced to wait until the conference lunch break to drag me off to express care. There I learned of a minor break — and that it would only need rest and a walking boot. Six weeks later, with 20/20 hindsight, there’s not much I would change. During this time period I had other reasons to chill.
And maybe that’s the definition of things that belong on a list of self-nurturing activities: those things we’d do again — even when there is a price to be exacted. The price of not engaging in certain practices is far greater than any consequences of diving in. And each of us gets to decide that for ourselves.
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