Self-Care and the Art of Denial

by Evelyn Kalinosky on February 21, 2012

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Spinning plates in airI spent the months of December, January and part of February offline and out of my office recovering from extensive surgery. Truth be told, it was life-saving, life-changing surgery. And that made it non-negotiable. For women like me, non-negotiable is often the only way self-care gets done.

We power-charging women don’t like to think about being on injured reserve. We’ve got too much to do and too many people depending on us. But the reality is, it happens. And it happens while we’re busy doing other things. It’s called life.

And for those of us over the age of 40, it’s a reality that grows more likely with each passing tick of the clock. The risk is there for even the healthiest and well-balanced of women, but I know many more women like me who are juggling an inordinate number of plates in the air at any given moment, and that reality’s a bitch.

That reality means when we least expect it and can least afford it, an illness or injury crops up that requires our attention. Requires our self-care. And all those plates we’d precariously balanced in the air come tumbling down.

I don’t have the best track record for self-care, or for stopping to smell the proverbial flowers. Like many women, given a choice I’d run the engine until the service light came on.

This time around, however, I got smarter. I decided to heed the advice of those docs in white coats who were telling me I’d need a good eight to nine weeks to recover. The first few weeks in the hospital I had no choice but to listen, but once I was home an amazing thing happened – I kept listening. Not so much to the medical professionals, but to something I’d never given much credence to in the past: My body. It let me know when I needed to rest (and I needed to rest a lot). It told me when I needed some exercise, when I needed to eat, when I needed to connect with others. It told me when I needed to simply do nothing (and I did nothing a lot).

And as the days and weeks went by, the connection between my mind and my body grew more simpatico. They became BFFs. And my energy in mind and body began to grow exponentially. At first I was only working an hour a day. Walking to the mailbox and back. Reading one page of a book. Gradually, like a flower unfolding and expanding, my reservoir of strength began to blossom and I began to feel like my old self. Only better.

What would have happened if I hadn’t listened to the experts? If I’d decided to push myself beyond my capabilities at a time when I was most vulnerable? Craziness? Foolishness? Absolutely. Yet that’s what many midlife business women do because of a belief system that says: “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done” or it won’t be done to our satisfaction. We have a very hard time relinquishing our responsibilities to others, but it’s important to remember that we have a responsibility to ourselves as well.

And as much as it might hurt to admit it, while I was out on R & R the world kept turning without me. Things kept getting done. Time kept marching forward, and when I was ready, it welcomed me back as if I’d never been away.

Are you guilty of short-changing your self-care? How does it show up in your life? What’s one thing you can do today to take better care of yourself? Your answers will help so many other women like you, so please share!

Evelyn is a catalyst and mentor for business women in midlife transition. She specializes in working with women age 40 forward who are ready to claim – or reclaim – their Sacred Capital. Her passion is to create a new paradigm in how we think about aging, specifically, how we think about women aging.

Her award-winning Inner Affluence Blog received top honors in 2011 and 2012 as “Best Coaching Blog” by the School of Coaching Mastery, and she was named “1 of 101 Women Bloggers to Watch in 2011″ by WE Magazine for Women. In addition to being a coach and mentor, Evelyn is a speaker and published poet.

You’re welcome to use this article on your website, blog or in your ezine if you include the entire post without modification and link it back to www.InnerAffluence.com. If you liked this article, you’ll want to visit www.InnerAffluence.com and sign up for Evelyn’s bi-weekly ezine to receive more comprehensive information, strategies, and resources for the midlife business woman.

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  • Sonja

    Evelyn , thank you raising this topic. Its great to read that you have begun to listen to the wisdom of your body.All too often we fall into the pattern of treating our body’s as though it was a machine. Actually we generally treat our cars and Iphones with more care than we do our bodies. As an integrative health care partitioner and Wellbeing Empowerment Coach I see this pattern over and over again. Despite my know all about the body, its needs and its amazing capacity to heal I too found myself hiding behind the ” mask of Super Woman and Director of the Universe” roles. Taking care of every one else’s needs and fitting myself into someone else”s version of success.
    I received a “wake up call” via the presences of a rare cancer. I am so pleased that I heeded that call , though being vulnerable was not something that came easy for me,( if I am honest I still have to check myself on that at times) and seeing how easily the world went on without me, or how quickly people found some one else to care for them has ultimately lead me to living a richer more rewarding life.
    I believe that it is our inner conversations and hidden beliefs regarding our own self worth and desire to be accepted and approved of that is at the root of this kind of self sabotaging behaviour. By taking time to listen to the wisdom of our body and having the courage to work through the hidden self sabotaging beliefs that we open the door to reaching our health potential while increasing the values of our lives.
    So Evelyn the challenge will now be to continue to heed that wisdom even when you feel really well again. It is now 13 years since my wake up call and I am happy to report that I am vibrant healthy. Keep nurturing yourself.

    Cheers

    Sonja

  • http://www.starpolisher.com/ Carol Hess

    Oh, Evelyn, you are sounding so healthy and wise and just plain wonderful! And you’re talking about the Achilles heel for so many of us. In fact, I’m going to be sending lots of my friends the link to this post. Just today — I have to confess — I skipped my usual gym workout and swim class because I thought it was more important to deal with the mini crises that were popping up everywhere with my new website launch. In retrospect, it was a poor decision. And my body is reminding me of that right now. So I think I’ll do a little self-care and go to bed! I’m so glad to have you back!

  • Linda Mickle

    Welcome back, Evelyn! Thank you for your candid post and allowing us in on the process you experienced through your recovery. It’s amazing what can happen when women’s heads and hearts are connected. It reminds me of a line in an old Little Feat song “when the mind makes a promise that the body can’t fill”. In my experience of working with women living with illness, they so often strive to “look good”, forcing themselves to go through the motions and as you said, do it or it won’t get done, to the detriment of their wellness and healing. When we allow ourselves to be honest about what’s REALLY going on with our bodies and honor that feeling in the moment, we come out all the better for it, rejuvenated and wiser. Celebrating your new found connection with what I call “Knowing Woman” and following through with the self care necessary for your healing process.

    As for my own personal experience, I too had a major surgery in August of 2010. Oh, how I balked when the doctor at UCSF informed me that I would START feeling better in around six months and that the recovery would take about a YEAR! Well, let’s just say I didn’t want it to take that long! In the beginning I pushed myself to get back to my 2-3 mile daily walks with my dogs and to get back to “normal” ASAP. Yet my body kept telling me to chill. What I really needed to do was nurture myself, eat well, move in moderation, laugh at my Aussie pups, to SIT and BE in nature and connect with my heart. The more I did the latter the better I felt.

    So what I have to say to ALL women, well, sick or recovering, is “Be gentle with your one wild and precious self”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1448662009 Evelyn Kalinosky

    So great to be back, Linda! You are a role model to me of someone who strikes that balance between doing and being. Especially in the midst of illness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1448662009 Evelyn Kalinosky

    Thanks, Carol. Feeling better each day, but realize this is going to be a long, long process. Some days I’ll do a better job of balancing listening to my body and plowing forward full speed ahead, but the good thing is my body now has a way of getting my attention a lot sooner than it used to. Thanks for sharing this with your friends and remember that self-care, sweetie!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1448662009 Evelyn Kalinosky

    Sonja,

    You are such a wise, wise woman. Funny how often it takes something like a health crisis to get our attention and keep us more in tune with what our body truly needs. Like Linda and Carol, you are a role model of how to do it just right! So glad I’ve gotten to know you!

  • http://www.starpolisher.com Carol Hess

    So much wisdom in your reply to Evelyn’s post, Sonja. Where do I start? “…it is our inner conversations and hidden beliefs regarding our own self worth and desire to be accepted and approved of that is at the root of this kind of self-sabotaging behavior.” Bingo!

    As an overweight woman who works with other overweight women to encourage and empower them to live their lives to the fullest no matter what they weigh, I can confirm that it is what goes on in our heads that is the true source of the problem. Real transformation — the kind that is permanent and life-changing — begins on the inside and makes its way out. Not vice versa.

    So glad you survived your wake-up call of a rare cancer (I had the same wake-up call) to achieve vibrant health and bring such insight to us. Thank you, Sonja.

  • Gloria Wilson

    I agree. Self-care is the most important thing we can do so our strength is strong and we can move forward. Just a simple thing like walking for 30 minutes will provide the exercise and fresh air to build mind and body. Don’t wait until your body is drained of energy-do it now!

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