i will not abandon myself

Friends, this post is part of The Declaration of You‘s BlogLovin’ Tour, which I’m completely jazzed to be a part of. If you’re wondering what The Declaration of You is, it’s a gorgeous, fun, fanciful book (the real, live, paper kind that I love!) that’s coming out in just a few short days. You can learn more — and join the fun — right here.
 . . .
I believe it was near the beginning of my freshman year of college when I decided to abandon myself in service of accomplishment. It wasn’t a conscious decision, because I didn’t realize there were any other options. I do, however, recognize it as a decision.
I had been admitted to New York University by what seemed, to me, the grace of god, and I would do anything to stay there. Anything turned out to be a lot. Mainly working late nights at a Starbucks which seemed to be frequented by Lower Manhattan’s grumpiest and/or most strung-out clientele. 

Anything also included spending a lot of time alone, entirely without a local support system. I didn’t know this was a problem at the time. Now I do.

Spiritually homeless.

That year, I had my first major depressive episode. I developed a binge eating disorder that possessed me in a tornado of shameful fervor. The few people I knew, I didn’t treat particularly well.

I am ashamed of who I was that year. 
While I was myself, I was a version of myself who was abandoned, spiritually homeless. My inner caretaker was too consumed with staying afloat in an unfriendly city to tend to me. And so I threw a tantrum, a tantrum which I don’t think had too much of an effect on onlookers, but (as tantrums do) ravaged me.

A glimmer of light.

If you’re thinking that I realized the err of my ways and learned to care for myself after that year, you would be wrong. The self-neglect continued into the next year. It was halted mostly by the miraculous appearance in my life of  Mary, the woman who’s now my wife.
Mary appeared as a wholehearted glimmer of light. Her presence reduced the extent of my lonely suffering. Still, the process of returning to care for myself was gradual, and took years. I think that Mary saw that I was abandoned, and her caring formed a bridge as I learned that I could also care for myself. Since then, I’ve been juggling the dual pursuit of caring for myself and pursuing my dreams.
. . .

It’s possible. Not easy, but possible.

Self-care and achieving our goals are not incompatible with one another, and we need to stop believing that they are. The accomplishment of your goals isn’t going to mean much to you, for longer than a moment, if you abandon your own needs, your very human needs, to get there. You don’t have to keep believing that achievement must come at the expense of self-care. You can make a commitment to caring for yourself and being ambitious, and you can then puzzle out what that means.
I cannot tell you how to do this. Each of us must create our own subtle mixture of ambition and self-care, tailored to our own particular body and soul.
What I can tell you is that it’s possible. Not easy, but possible. You do not have to neglect yourself to achieve great things. There is another option: valuing yourself and your work, and making the daily commitment, even though it’s hard and you’re not sure how, to pursue both. Staying committed to both yourself and your goals is what will keep you thriving for the long haul.
. . .
What I know now.

I now know that pursuing my dreams is contingent upon taking care of myself. Abandoning my own needs to pursue a goal is, quite simply, not an option. I have to remind myself of this often, because I forget often, as we tend to do with these things.
One of my favorite quotes I’ve read from Macklemore is this one: “It’s very important to go into the rooms of AA, smell the shitty coffee and be reminded that without sobriety, I would have no career.”
Switch out sobriety for self-care, and here’s my personal reality, whether I like it or not: Without self-care, I would have no career.
If I didn’t do all the many things that comprise my own self-care, I’d be unable to be a coach, a photographer, or anything at all. As annoying as it sometimes is, if I didn’t sleep every night, eat somewhat-healthy food, go to therapy, take my meds, go to the doctor, take my supplements, move my body, and spend time with people, I would not be functional.
And so I care for myself. Not only because I love being a coach and a photographer, a friend, a daughter, a wife, but because I like myself. And every day, I choose not to abandon myself again.

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