I’ve had one of those days, today when I wish I was sitting with my sister in that old, maroon faux-leather booth bench seat across from my dad, gleefully waiting for the arrival of our German Pancake. It’s been a great, groaning, grinding, personal growth experience since the day I decided I wanted to own a home almost two years ago, and many things have moved into the “high-priority” column, taking precedence over any previously held habits of self-care and exercise. As I write this to you, I am uncomfortably poised over my computer in my bedroom desk (also known as my dresser) which is the wrong height surface for me to be working on, in a hard, wooden chair that has no flexibility, in my wonderful, old, historic home that is slowly warming up to a comfortable temperature thanks to the (eco!) heaters a friend recently helped me install …
Before moving here, I found myself in an odd spiral: things were not at all as they used to be, and my life was rapidly changing. My interest in running was much reduced, inclination to eat out with friends severely decreased (cooking at home is so much easier, more affordable, and delicious), and … something was shifting. I felt a much needed change coming, but I was not yet aware how this change would manifest in my life.
Then a promising relationship ended, winter was in full-force, and I excused myself from running due to snow (and ice!) and the possibility of getting hurt, suddenly I felt myself drifting into a deep and necessary hibernation. I so wanted to be alone.
When I found this house, it was after I had given up on buying “for at least another year.” I really wanted to live in the city, as I was so familiar with the area, yet, a big part of me wanted to escape to make room for me and for self-care, saying "no" more easily to invitations (distance = more space to think clearly about the reality of the commitment), and to enjoy more quiet. This house was out-of-town, in a quiet suburb, where everyone goes to bed around ten (or at least goes inside). There are no crazy, loud bars on the corner, and it actually gets quiet in the evening… I was in love. Big, and old, Victorian double-hung (at one time) windows allowed all the light I could ever want into the space I would soon call home.
I had to work hard to make this house my home. After a few extended conversations with neighbors in the area, I outbid 15 other offers from hopeful families, and wrote a rather heart-wrenching letter of interest to the owner. When I learned I’d been chosen, it felt divine to know I would soon be a homeowner of a beautiful, 111 year old house, in a quiet place with no upstairs or downstairs neighbors to keep me up at night, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Then the lessons started: knocking down all of securities or faith in myself that I would be able to make life work (as I was accustomed to) as a homeowner, in my little corner of this new town. My work commute more than doubled as I now had to traverse 25 miles (each way) rather than the eight I travelled in the city. This made running before work a greater challenge with no known routes and an unfamiliarity that kept me at home, sleeping later than I ever have in the morning, and waking up with just enough time to throw on whatever clothes made me feel the most comfortable, make a cup of coffee, and run out the door for that hour plus drive.
Physical things broke: the plumbing didn't work when I moved in, the water heater started leaking two weeks after moving into the house (no hot water, but my shower didn’t work anyway, so…), the stove electrical panel malfunctioned 2 months after being in the house, and when I went to turn on the heater in September, I learned it was not working either.
Every single mechanical item broke. I had purchased a flipped fixer in every sense of the word.
I was spending all my time focusing on the external issues - playing fix-it, using what little cash I had to react to the issues cropping up all around me. Between broken appliances or systems, my commute, and work, I felt like I had no time for me.
And it was true! I let all the things be more important than myself, and let go of self-care. To be honest, I have never had a real practice of self care. The only time in my life that I can remember ever being proactive and prioritizing my needs over external demands was in 2014 when I was training for the Siskiyou Outback 50k (read about my experience with this race). I was motivated by the sheer distance of that race, nearly 32 miles, and the fact that if I was not prepared, I would be in dire straights out on a mountain in the woods, hot, and unable to finish before the time cut-off. I needed to prioritize training in order to simply finish and succeed.
Why is it that without the threat of failure, I can easily side-step taking care of me, and instead do something “more important” like weeding the yard, doing projects that other people have asked for my help to complete, or cleaning the house?
When do I become an Important priority in my own life?
In truth, I have accepted that this journey of life I’m on has been a little rough the last year an half, and that I am not currently in fighting form. There something of astrological significance I heard about that happens when you turn 35 (yes, this woman admits her age): the Saturn Square. This is apparently when you look back at your life for the past seven years, and if it isn’t going the direction you want it to, you become extremely aware and uncomfortable… well, at least that’s my interpretation (if you’re curious, read more about cycles of Saturn at Astrodharma.org). And people, I could not sit still.
While this may or may not resonate with you (and I’m still skeptical) what I read gives me all the feels and, well, it’s time for me to shift some sh*t.
Despite all the change in the works, the exercise and self-care I have been neglecting (including this - writing - which I love so much), I have come to a place of true self-acceptance. For the first time in my life, I feel truly feminine because I have not been exercising. I have more curves than I have ever seen on my body, and although I want to be fit, I acknowledge there is something about my body being softer than ever before that is a gift for me to experience.
Instead of self-care, I want to commit to Self-compassion, it feels so different to own that - I don’t need to take care of myself any differently, but how would I treat myself today, if I could really say I really care about and love myself? I have also committed to starting a practice each morning of at least a little movement and meditation because I feel better when I do something before I head into the office. I am not going to define quantities or time because when I do not meet my commitment, I feel bad for letting myself down, and that really defeats the purpose!
Simply doing what feels right that morning, before work, is taking a step in the right direction.
In a more recent development, about six months ago I declared to the world that I want more meaningful work. What felt like a mere moments later (literally the very same day I stated my desire), I was met with a message from a mentor that she would soon be taking on apprentices (and you better believe that I jumped on that opportunity!), and I found a job in my new home town that allowed me to dramatically reduce my commute.
I am endlessly surprised by how the Universe lifts itself up to meet our requests.
When working through stressful cycles of learning and growing, I often find myself with a strong desire for comfort food. For me, that favorite has long ago origins, sitting across the table from Dad at The Village Inn, waiting for my German Pancake. Dad is the best.
I have finally figured out how to finesse this recipe to be deliciously gluten-free after many years of experimenting. (I'll tell you my secret - it's Oat Flour!)
I hope you enjoy this as much as I have over the years!
(Downloadable PDF for this recipe here)
(Side note, recipe measuring is made easier when making 2 pancakes... Double it and share with your gluten free friends!)