Is Caring For Yourself A Burden?


It occurred to me recently how easy it is to see needing to take care of ourselves as a burden. As something unwanted or unfair. Overwhelming or an inconvenience. How we can see the little (and big) things that arise in the body as a problem. A sure sign of danger. Proof that the body is broken, a hassle and doesn’t know what it is doing.

But on one particular day recently, it really dawned on me in a moment what an incredible opportunity it can be to choose to tend to something. To decide that it is a blessing to be able to turn towards your own life and care for it. This is not something we are taught. Nor is it a way of being that is supported in the “take a pill and be done with it” culture.

What brought this on for me was the strange and somewhat numbing sensation I have been experiencing at the end of one of my big toes. At first I was ignoring it, hoping it would just go away on its own. So far, it hasn’t. Which then prompted my mind to begin turning towards naming it as a way to get control of what was going on. The only thing that came to mind was “Neuropathy.” Not because I knew it to be that, but because I had heard others talk about it.

My response?┬áNope. Don’t want that.

Given what I’ve heard about this “condition” it only brings up fear as it feels like some of the things I love to do most, running, walking, hiking, being physical, would be negatively impacted. Which is why a little mind battle showed up next as I tried to find that balance between actually being with the sensation I was experiencing right now and the need of my fear-based mind to layer on a diagnosis and prognosis based on what other people say or have been through.

The point I want to make here is that it is never a good recipe for creating a satisfying relationship with your own body, one where you are in it first and foremost, to take up what you have been told about the body. Yes, there can be “comfort” in the “knowing.” But there can also be a deep short-changing of a way of being that honors the truth of what is possible in a body; beyond diagnosis and prognosis.

Paying homage to the kind of relationship I want with my body, I sat down, literally, with my toe and began to wonder what it needed. What I got was it needed to be warmer more often. OK. I can do that. I can keep you warm with socks. I can massage you. I can rub ginger oil into you.

Will this “cure” what is going on? I have no idea. But to my point, a “cure” may not even be what is most in order. The real point being, when I’ve got something going on with my body, can I see it as an opportunity to get closer to myself? To be with myself. To tend to myself as only I can.

This is vastly different than blaming it on age, the frostbite I got in my early twenties, or something nefarious lurking beneath the surface. Different than jumping to a diagnosis. Or doing the opposite, by denying what is going on. Different than going so quickly and fearfully to that place of needing to know a name for what I am experiencing.

Can a name help? It can. But in our information-saturated, fear-driven health culture, in our obsession to know everything and figure everything out, when does naming something create obfuscation? When does a name demand that we bypass something vital?

That “Something Vital” being the direct experience of being in and being with our bodies in a tender, open and trusting way. A way that allows us to see that learning to care for ourselves at this level is the greatest gift we will ever offer not only to ourselves, but also to a world in dire need of some open, trusting tenderness.