My mom often signs off our phone calls with, “Take care of you.” For the longest time I had absolutely no idea what that phrase might mean or how one would go about doing it!
For much of my life I was what I have referred to as “defensively pessimistic,” meaning I typically anticipated the worst possible outcome so I’d be prepared and not too disappointed when things didn’t go my way. In addition I grew up during a time and in a geographic location where girls were taught that “good” women – wives and mothers especially – always put their loved ones above themselves and their own needs. To do otherwise would be selfish, mean, and highly unattractive!
So I spent a lot of my life sacrificing myself for others’ needs, often sporting a pessimistic attitude while doing it. You might not be surprised to hear that I wasn’t a very happy person – even though I was a good person. Life often felt like I was on a forced march. No fun.
At some point I began hearing about “loving yourself.” Ewww, what sort of woman loves herself? And what does that even mean?
In recent years, I’ve begun to figure that out. To be honest I didn’t really begin to get a sense of it until I was divorced and all my children had moved out. I lived alone. Then the pandemic came along. No longer commuting to work and with no family to manage, I finally had time to begin being responsible to myself! So, what could I do to take better care of myself? To show myself some love?
Cooking was something I was required to do, but I wasn’t very good at it. My mother doesn’t like to cook, and my dad cooked mostly on holidays and so I didn’t learn much about it during my childhood. When I got married I bought a cookbook and figured it out. Clearly I was a good enough cook because I managed to keep two non-cooking husbands and four kids alive. But it was a CHORE. Once I became single and the kids moved out I cooked as little as possible. Why would I perform such an onerous task just for myself? Dinner for one simply wasn’t worth the effort.
I was, however, embarrassed by my lack of skill in this womanly art (now suddenly very popular with men!) and I decided to see what I could learn during the Covid years when no one was going anywhere. I decided to try meal kits. There are a bunch to choose from and I’ve tried at least four. I enjoy pouring over the various recipes offered, consciously choosing meals that boost my fish and vegetable intake while reducing my caloric intake.
When the box arrives, I have usually forgotten what I ordered, and opening the package is like receiving a surprise gift. I love the special little containers of exactly the right amount of spices, sauces, and cheeses. I love that I don’t throw out any food, because everything is in exactly the right proportion. And I’ve come to realize that I love that I am taking the time to choose foods to help me be healthier and going to the trouble of making a meal just for me. Taking care of myself – just like Mom said.
I am now a more confident cook than I used to be, and it no longer seems like such a chore. I’ve learned a few new tricks and some basics I should have known all along. Mom gave me one of those hydroponic indoor growing systems and I enjoy growing my own herbs and greens for sauces and sandwiches. I also enjoy sharing some of the new recipes I’ve learned, like the Savory Vegetable Dutch Baby I served to a friend on a recent Monday night. So thanks to a little help from Mom and Martha Stewart, cooking just for me is one way I’ve learned to love myself.
Loving yourself means caring for yourself. September is Self-Care Awareness Month. Self-care isn't selfish. I’d love to hear what you do to show yourself a little love.