I hear from so many of you who struggle with structure. I usually hear something like this – “I don’t want to care for myself everyday! I just want to wing it. I get so tired of cooking and eating and shopping and preparing food…”
I get it! I think it’s part of human nature to resist the ongoing care, tending and relating to our needs.
I would love to share some thoughts on how we come to terms in accepting the necessity (and beauty!) of structure, routine, and grounding – of giving ourselves regular, rhythmic self care.
Most of us feel better when our days have a regular rhythm and routine. Were rhythmic creatures. Like animals, we go through daily cycles of highs and lows, monthly cycles, and seasonal cycles of ebb and flow.
And yet, structure is a common challenge for those of us who like to go with the flow or who are big picture people. Our challenge tends to be in the physical, day to day stuff, like the laundry that needs washed and folded over and over, the cooking that begins anew at each meal, or the body that needs care every day.
When we resist this repetitive nature of self-care, we often stop doing it. We look at self-care as something that should be done once rather than something thats made anew each day.
When we dont have routines in place, we have to work harder. Every day we have to reinvent the wheel, we have to think and plan and make decisions: What do I do first? What do I do next? What do I do last? We create more decisions, more thinking, more work…
Have you ever watched a top athlete as she prepares to race? Before she heads for the starting line, shell do her warm up. Shell go through a ritual that she does each time, such as testing out her starting blocks, checking her shoes for loose shoelaces, repeating a mantra, closing her eyes and visualizing her race, and doing a practice run.
This routine is her home base, a safe place in which to retreat when the outside circumstances are challenging, nerve wracking, and ever changing – different races, different competitors, different weather, different tracks, and more. (Youll have similar challenges as you eat in restaurants, at parties, during the holidays, and while traveling.)
Routines create a built in rhythm. You know what comes first, what comes next, whats last. You know, for example, that you eat breakfast before you go to work, or that you brush your teeth to signify the end of a meal, or that you rest for 30 minutes after transitioning home from work.
You come to count on these patterns, and you do them automatically, without thinking. They make you feel safe. They start to feel like home, a little oasis of calm throughout the day, as Kim John Payne recounts in Simplicity Parenting.
Youre probably already experiencing this with food. You have patterns of eating sugar and food that comfort you its why you do them over and over. They feel like home base: normal and comfortable, like a well-worn pair of slippers that mold perfectly to your feet.
What feels abnormal is wearing the new pair that isnt worn in yet. Over time, this will change as your new pattern not eating sugar; not using food as a surrogate parent becomes home base to you.
Routines are very comforting. When my children were toddlers, they liked to hear the same stories over and over. We would have a stack of books on the bedside table, but they would chose the same book to read every single night, for months in a row.
You have a similar need for security, especially as you venture out into the unknown. Changing your food patterns feels scary. Your routines will be essential in giving you the surety to move forward, out of your comfort zone.
The nature of routines and grounding is repetitive. Many of us feel challenged by grounding because we feel angry, irritated or resentful about being a human being who needs care and nurturing everyday. We somehow feel that we shouldnt need, or that we should need less.
It can be funny to watch this thinking at work. For example, you may notice how irritated you get when youre hungry, because you have to stop what youre doing and make yourself some food. I know that I can get irritated at myself when I have to stop what Im doing to go to the bathroom! Hopefully, we can have some humor about this. Sometimes being a human being can feel frustrating, because theres so much we want to do, and things wed rather do than go to the bathroom, feed ourselves a meal, and rest when were tired.
And yet caring for ourselves is an invitation to honor our tender humanity every day. The very act of self- care is grounding. It roots you to this earth, your home. More than that, caring for your body connects you to your self, to your values, to love, and to the aliveness that flows through us all.
May we all embrace this care, this love.