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silhouette of friends looking at sunset, arms raised, making hearts with hands

There’s a post that went viral on Facebook in 2019 and has since been floating around on the interwebs and was the topic of many blog posts. It was a quote from Nakita Valerio that said, “Shouting “self-care” at people who actually need “community care” is how we fail people.”

Even though I make a living working in social media and spend a lot of time thinking about both self-care and care of others, I only recently saw this quote and it resonated with me. Knowing nothing about the circumstances from which this quote arose, I placed it in my own context. One of the things I have learned this week (or maybe was reminded of this week) is that though doing things and creating habits to support my own physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being, trying to do this all on my own will only get me so far. We are made to be connected and relational beings, in community with others. We are meant to share our experiences, partly so we can know that we are not alone but also so because we are made to journey together, to learn together, and to encourage each other along the way.

This week, I let people know not just that I needed help, but what that help was. I asked for time off from work, I asked for others to give more support to my mom so I could focus on my family, I found a social worker to help me create new strategies and tools to cope with my ongoing and stressful circumstances. I want to be the person that does it all, but even self-care is not a solitary endeavor. As they say, it takes a village. But the village won’t know how to help unless we tell them.

So that’s how I interpreted this quote, but in doing research, I found out that Valerio was speaking about something different. She was speaking up about the reasons that self-care is difficult, if not impossible in some cases, for women of color who are often caring for parents, children, and working. And though I too am in the sandwich of caring for kids and mother, I have many advantages that others do not. I can take time away from work and it not affect my family’s day-to-day. I can attend yoga classes, practice meditation in my quiet yoga room inside my home, I can buy the organic foods and grass-fed beef, even if they are not on sale this week. Still, at the end of the day, I need the support of my community to care for myself. Just like everyone else.

My support needs may look different than yours, but we are the same in needing one another. We are not alone. We are all in need of wholeness and wellness. We are all worthy of it. My hope is that I can be a part of or even help create a community of care. One that cares for one another and supports endeavors of self-care and wellness. What if we committed to being for one another, committed to coming together for the common goal of caring; giving care to our community and ourselves?

Last weekend, I hit a wall. The combination of the pandemic stress, my mom’s increasing needs, and my own struggle to keep connected with my children and husband in the midst of our busy and strained schedules, collided into me like a train, and I was knocked completely over. My fatigue, which is always looming, enveloped me. I was down and wanted to stay there…and sleep. The anxiety, which comes and goes with the daily uncertainties of life, parenting, and caregiving, welled up inside me until I could no longer contain it. More than just that overwhelmed feeling that I sometimes get that abates with some yoga or a good night’s sleep, this was a pervasive, full-body reaction to what I have been trying to just “get through” for the last several months. I burned out.

Days later, with a couple of good night’s sleep and some perspective, I am still burned out. I recognize that I have been allowing my circumstances, which I cannot always control, have begun to control me. I have been here before. Tossed by the changing winds of my circumstances, the mood pendulum going to extremes as I grasp for a sense of control, or really, if I am honest, stillness. I just want the crazy to stop. I want certainty. I want a plan. I want an easy button. And, I want someone to take care of me.

When you are called to care for others, parents, children, friends, students, clients, it is easy to forget that you are a person too. And, when we are so invested in the care of others, it is easy to be burned out on caring for ourselves. At the end of the day, there is nothing left. Honestly, sometimes there’s nothing left by 3pm.

But here’s the thing. When we put caring for ourselves first, we have more to give…others and the world in which we live. So, this week, I decided to place myself at the top of my list. Sure, I cannot stop caring for my kids or my mom, but there are many other things I can move off my plate. So I did. I took some time off work so that I could go see my doctors, spend more time in prayer and in journaling, and I scheduled an appointment with a counselor. Why? Because, self-care needs to happen even when I am working, even when I have a lot on my plate, I can’t control my outward circumstances. Self-care needs to happen BECAUSE of all of these things.

Another thing I am going to do is ask for the care I need from my family. I tend to shut down and pretend I can do it all, “I’m fine,” I say. But I am not fine and those around me won’t know it unless I am honest. Learning to speak up for myself is probably the hardest thing I will do this week, but I will still do it. Taking care of myself and asking for others to help me is the key to moving toward healing, wholeness, and a healthy mindset to sustain me.

In what areas of caring for yourself do you need to ask for help? Who can you ask to support and encourage you? I am here to cheer you on in your quest to take care of yourself so that you can live a full and caring life with others. You are not alone!

I have been a caregiver for my mom longer than I have been a mom. In 1984 my mother was diagnosed with an illness. She was hospitalized, surgery performed and then sent home months later with a ton of medications and a whole new way of maneuvering through life. One of my earliest memories is counting out her pills for her to make sure she took the right amount of the right kind of pill at the right time. I am not sure now whether this was something she needed me to do or if she was just giving me a job to keep my mind occupied. Either way, I took the role of pill-counter very seriously and performed it well. During the early days, I don’t remember much else that I had to do that was directly related to her illness, but I do remember the laundry, the dishes, and the house cleaning. I know that most kids have chores and that helping around the house is a normal thing, but I am not talking about “put your plate in the dishwasher” or “hang up your clothes.” It was more like there were things that needed to be done and the more mom tried to do them, the weaker she got. If I could do more, she would get stronger. So, the laundry didn’t get done every week and the sink was usually full before the dishes got washed. As I grew older, we all had our own things to be working on. I had school, my step-dad had work and mom? Her main job was just getting better, stronger. Sometimes she was able to work, but even then, we were always just doing things as they came up. We were surviving. This is not to say there were never good times, vacations, or other family members to help out, but the overall feeling was one of survival. My mom’s survival, my family’s survival, my own.

I was 8 when my mom was put in the hospital the first time. When she came home, she was still my mom, but things had changed. Over the last 37 years, I’ve learned to be both a child and a caregiver, a wife and caregiver, and a parent and caregiver. I’ve lived away from my mother and lived close, I’ve gone to college, traveled, vacationed. I’ve had my own illnesses, surgeries, and traumatic experiences. So far, I’ve survived. When I started this site, I was going to share all the wisdom, the tips, and practices that I have developed over the decades to survive, yes, but also to thrive! And while I do plan on continuing to share my experiences and the lessons I have learned, please know, I am still learning, I am still a work in progress. I have no secret formula for caregiving or marriage or parenting. And, in my life at least, there is no “balance” per se. But I’ve been on this journey a long time and if you are on a similar journey, I want you to know you aren’t alone. You will survive.

It’s 8:49 p.m. on a Thursday. I have been up since 5:30 a.m. and have worked a full workday, helped my kids with school, done some housekeeping, made dinner for my family. After dinner, I went to my mom’s to help her sort through some issues with her health care, prepare for her next phase of treatment, and safely get to bed. I am now back home to “watch tv” with my family while working on this blog.
I should be folding laundry, or washing laundry, or unloading the dishwasher, or talking to my husband. I should have stayed with my mom longer so she wouldn’t feel so alone. I should get to bed so I can get a good night’s sleep and be productive at work tomorrow.

These are the feelings that squeeze me in every day. We are squeezed between caring for the younger generation (our kids) and the older generation (our parents), we are the Sandwich Generation. Can you relate? Are you similarly feeling the squeeze between all of your responsibilities? Wondering how to find time to do it all and wondering what happened to you in the midst of all of it? Do you feel guilty about your kids when you are caring for your parent? When you are caring for your kids, do you wonder if your kids are going to be ok? Does the laundry pile up? Is the sink overflowing? Is your gym membership card gathering dust at the bottom of your purse? Yeah, I have been there.  I’ve been caring for my mom since she was diagnosed with an illness when I was 8.  Fast-forward thirty-plus years and I am married, have kids, and dreams and goals of my own. This blog, this website, my YouTube channel is all about sharing what I’ve learned over the years…I found hope and health and happiness even in the midst of the chaos and uncertainty that often accompanies caregiving and parenting. If you are tired of feeling alone, guilty for not taking better care of yourself (but also feeling guilty when you do), if you are looking for some encouragement, practical tips, and resources to help you feel UN-squeezed…you have found the right place. WELCOME!