This is a picture of my kitchen ceiling. On Friday, I was making coffee when I looked up and noticed a 6-inch bubble hanging out above my stove. I did the only thing any sane person would do, which was hop on a chair and poke it, only to have water dribble down my neck. Naturally, my very first thought was:
...or something similar...you fill in the blanks.
You see, as a homeowner, I try and take care of my house. I've learned how to use power tools (still have all my fingers), I've replaced my microwave keypad (#winning) and I've learned never to put rice down the garbage disposal (thank you, Plumber Robert!). But there are some upkeep things that I've kind of popped into the category of "I'll get to that later." We all have that list, and if yours is anything like mine, it's generally a tenuous game of Risk Jenga, where the goal is to eventually do THE THINGS before they become BIGGER THINGS.
So when I saw that 6-inch bubble, my mind instantly went to the unopened bottle of caulk that was sitting in my garage. My Risk Jenga tower began to teeter, and visions of black mold horrors started dancing in my head.
If I was a rockstar homeowner, I would have been able to deduce that the shower head was dribbling onto the wall and had compromised the seal on my tub faucet (like Plumber Robert did after sawing that hole in my kitchen ceiling). I would have resealed the faucet and chalked up another win for Proper Home Upkeep. But I didn't, so I wasn't.
Often in our lives, we treat our own self-care like that shower faucet. As long as we're functional (and I use that term loosely), we press on with our grueling work hours or our many commitments, promising that we'll take care of ourselves once we're done with whatever it is we need to do. We continue this behavior until we break, which shows itself in a myriad of ways. Tempers may become ragged or the wells of patience run dry. Either way, we crack, and it isn't pretty.
I deal with chronic stress headaches all the time. You would think that I'd be doing everything I could to get rid of them, yet when it comes to giving my neck and shoulders the exercise and focused care they need, I push those things aside. Maybe I had a long day at work, and I'm just too tired to hit the gym, or I don't like how traction makes my neck feel, so I skip it. Each time, I'm adding another block to my personal game of Risk Jenga. I'm pushing my body's limits, and not in a "this is so awesome I could be an Olympian" way, but more like "where's the Tiger Balm and can I bathe in my own pool of tears" way.
In an article on Lifehacker, author Kristin Wong discusses self-care and why it's so hard for us to maintain. She says:
Self-care is hard because it's not a natural priority. It's a conscious behavior that requires active choice. Most of the time, that can seem overwhelming, impossible, or both, which is why we have to reach out to those that care about us and can lend a hand. Because the alternative can be much worse if gone unchecked. My stress-addled nightmare of endless fields of black mold didn't come true, but it just as easily could have. I was lucky to get away with a leaky faucet and a hole in my kitchen ceiling.
When it comes to priorities, don't confuse selfishness with self-care. In fact, taking care of our core needs can give us the strength to avoid burnout and be a better version of ourselves, which in turn allows us to be more selfless.
For my part, I'm going to be better about going to the gym. I've even phoned a friend to help keep me accountable.
Now if anyone needs me next weekend, I'm going to be recaulking the entire bathroom.