Almost each day someone asks me, “Hi. How are you doing?”
That someone could be a coworker, cashier, bus driver, neighbor, or another person that randomly ends up in my path.
Inevitably, I respond, “Fine. How are you?”
Then that person answers in one to two words. The reply might not be a full sentence. Bonus points if it is.
These daily exchanges between others and me can be so brief that there is little room for follow-up questions. There is no way for others and I to verify each other’s answers. Are we really fine? What makes us fine?
Typically, I would use this example as a foundation to encourage all of you to engage in deeper dialogues with each other, but I will not do that today. That is because I only want you to pursue more meaningful conversations if you truly care to know how somebody is. It would save people who are going through rough times the emotional labor of explaining their situation only to find out you were asking how they were because you were simply being polite.
Currently, I like that most people do not ask me follow-up questions to verify how I’m really doing. Truth is the past few months have been challenging for me. Several of my loved ones have reached out to me as they’ve encountered some of the most difficult times of their lives. I’m not complaining. I’m relieved and honored that they trust me enough to confide in me and solicit my advice. The past few months have been different in that these friends are dealing with heavier topics than before. In particular, health and death have been a theme.
This holiday season people are reaching out to me because they are processing the death of a loved one, are confronting their own health issues and mortality, or are facing the imminent death of a loved one.
With all of this talk of health problems and death around me, you would think I could feel more grateful for what I do have in life … but I’m not there yet. (To clarify, I am grateful, but I do not feel grateful. There is a difference. One is intellectual, and the other is emotional.) While I presently am not managing problems on my loved ones’ level, I still have my own issues that I cannot ignore.
That is why I saved the Buzzfeed article 37 Self-Care Tips for Anyone Who Is Kind of Not OK RN by Anna Borges and Rachel Wilkerson Miller. Of course no Buzzfeed article is complete without a long list of recommendations for improving your life.
It’s funny. Although Borges and Wilkerson Miller wrote that “not all of these tips will be for you,” my initial reaction was to see how many of their suggestions I could incorporate into my current life.
Thankfully, I quickly realized that trying to fulfill as many of their 37 tips was not the best strategy for self-care.
After much reflection, I became aware that I already had been following their advice to skip holiday parties if that was what felt right. It did not even take much thought on my part. This month, I had become so exhausted from fulfilling commitments with work, volunteer service, and miscellaneous appointments that I did not have energy to attend a couple holiday parties. In fact, I was fighting off a stuffy nose and sore throat for part of the month. That likely was my body telling me to chill out.
Usually, I feel guilty about breaking an RSVP at the last minute, but this is a time where taking care of my mind, my body, and my soul takes precedence over any other consideration.
The thing about being a certified trustworthy advice-giver in both my professional and personal lives is that I need a break to take care of myself.
I need to ask loved ones for support. I need to seek out mentors for advice. I need to sleep. I need to exercise. I need to journal. I need to meditate. I need to pray. I need to indulge in food that tastes good (and also indulge in food that does not taste good, but is good for my health).
These activities won’t translate into pretty pictures posted on my social media. However, there are enough people posting photos and commentary on each meal, each vacation destination, and each gift that social media won’t miss my insights on that brunch spot’s French toast, that beach in the tropics, or that new house purchased with my inheritance (if only the last one were true).
I told you what I need for myself, but what I need might not be what you need.
What do you need for yourself? Write it down. Speak it out loud. Share it with someone who will hold you accountable.