Self-Care Is Not Selfish (Part 1)
I fully came to understand and cherish my feminine heart through well-ordered self-care.
The Church "desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the 'mystery of woman' and for every woman—for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the 'great works of God,' which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her."
– Pope St. John Paul II, Mulieris Dignitatem (No.31)
I fully came to understand and cherish my feminine heart through well-ordered self-care. Through this self-care and feminine love, I have learned that true integration of mind, body, and soul can exist in my life. As this integration occurred in my life, my heart has come to know love that is tough, real, tenacious, and discerning. I have come to discover my feminine heart and its place in my life as a Catholic woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend.
Where It All Started
In an effort to adjust to a new life as a homeschooling mom of two sons, I had taken on a low-maintenance attitude toward myself. I considered it almost sinful to take care of myself because it was taking time away from my duties as wife and mother. My mindset was that my femininity wasn’t nearly as important to my sons’ development as much as their father’s masculinity. There were many days during those early years of homeschooling that I actually did not put on makeup, fix my hair, or even take a shower. I adopted what my husband called my “uniform”: a velour sweatsuit. In fact, I had four of them in four different colors that I rotated through to add a minor semblance of variety. I attended Sunday Mass with a pair of slacks, a simple blouse, minimal makeup, and a chapel veil. (At the time, the chapel veil meant that I didn’t have to do my hair.)I immersed myself in the work surrounding my husband, kids, home, and parish apostolate. I did not maintain any friendships; I just had acquaintances. I thought I didn’t have time for the seemingly vain activity of chatting over a cup of coffee. I kept using the “too busy” excuse so I wouldn’t have to deal with my declining wellness. This decline was manifesting itself in forty-plus pounds of weight gain, a weak prayer life, lack of intimacy with my husband, daily back and neck pain, and a creeping loneliness from having no “real” friends to speak of.
Truly, I was on a downward spiral, and I denied every signal!
God Works in Mysterious Ways
Suddenly, God moved His mighty hand and used one of our sons as the instrument to change the direction of my wellness. Our oldest son was in an accident that left him with a reconstructed jaw, which was wired shut for eight weeks. My “busyness” came to a halt as my family’s focus—and my focus—became the healing and comfort of our son (and helping his little brother move through the trauma as well). It was a daily effort to keep him nourished on his liquid diet to avoid the loss of too much weight on his already youthful frame.
After one week of taking care of my son, the realization that I had totally “let myself go” became clear and unavoidable. I can remember the moment: I was coming down the stairs after giving my oldest son his lunch and setting up his little brother with some legos. (Our youngest son wanted to build legos in the same room as his older brother so he could be near him.) As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I felt the energy drain from my body. I felt like I had literally been hit by a train! It was only ten in the morning, and I had already been up and down those stairs so many times! My entire body ached; I was exhausted. I thought to myself, Betsy, you’re not old, but why do you feel so old? I turned around, went back up the stairs and into my bedroom and just sobbed! I cried out to God in a new way—a very personal way. I was lonely, tired, afraid, and terrified that I would never be able to feel good again. I wasn’t wanting a selfish “feel good” or a childish happiness; I was longing for true happiness. I wanted to experience true joy!
By this time, I had gained fifty pounds under my “uniform” and lost sight of my real self—the self that God had specifically and intentionally created. The weight I had gained had not caused the lost vision of my true self, but the weight was a symptom. Frankly, it was a symptom of my pride.
I was so overly concerned about upholding an image of the perfect Catholic homeschooling mom that I’d lost sight of the true femininity God was calling me to.
Looking back, it is almost funny how obvious it was that He used our son’s accident as a crystal-clear reflection of what I had become. I finally put my pride aside and started listening! The Lord had been reaching out to me in adoration, but I was too busy telling Him my plans. For too long I had failed to learn that His plans for me were so much better!
After the epiphany on the stairs, He set in motion more events that would come to transform my mind, body, and soul. I lost and continue to maintain a fifty-pound weight loss, train for and compete in countless endurance events ranging from 5Ks to full marathons to triathlons. The Lord inspired me through my own story, progress, and eventual success to become certified as a personal trainer and a nutrition coach specifically for women. I realized that if I struggled in these areas, then surely other women are, too! This realization led to discovering my calling to help women restore their self-care so that they can live out their vocation fully and happily.
Discover the most common obstacle to self-care and integrated wellness in part two.