Month #11 of Extreme Self-Care

Oh me, oh my, this month’s homework is going to be fun!

The title of the second last chapter in Cheryl’s book,

Extreme Self-Careis “Wake Up!”

According to Cheryl, as we ‘grow up,’ we get so enmeshed in the busyness and stress of our daily lives that we lose sight of what truly makes us happy. It’s like some devious demon godmother casts a spell that slowly puts to sleep all of the interests and desires, dreams and aspirations that, once upon a time, made us keen to explore and experience our world.

The more we age, the more responsibilities we shoulder, the more we become entrenched in the same patterns and ways of being modelled by the adults around us, the more deeply buried are those things that bring us joy.

Raise your hand, please, if you had the model of an adult in your life who allowed themselves the genuine happiness that comes from unabashedly doing what they loved.

Fully.

Not just cramming it in somewhere in an elusive free moment.

And without guilt.

Or censure from others.

I’d be willing to bet there aren’t many hands up right now.

Which means there aren’t too many healthy models to emulate.

So we may need to follow Cheryl’s example and do some excavation.

Cheryl Richardson’s hope is that the previous ten months of Extreme Self-Care homework has resulted in an increase of time, space and energy in our lives so that we can begin to enjoy those things that bring us real joy and meaning. 

She tells a fun story about rediscovering her buried passion for fashion and design. Reintegrating that passion into her life did not mean she had to stop everything else and dedicate her life to this one thing. It meant giving a forgotten part of herself the permission to wake up and be expressed, therefore enriching the rest of her life.

This was reassuring to read. I always thought that anything I was passionate about had to be parlayed into my life’s work. It’s refreshing (and a little daunting) to think about it, instead, as my life’s play.

This month’s homework is two-fold:

Step One, go on a treasure hunt.

Start with your five senses. Pay attention to those things you love to see, hear, touch, taste, or smell. And I would add the sixth sense to the list: those things that uplift you, that buzz with lightness and energy, that draw you into the zone where nothing else exists but what you are engaged in.

Then, see if you can find an object or a symbol that reflects that inner part of you that longs to be expressed. Notice the images in a store window, on the television, in a movie set, in a magazine or catalogue that catch your eye or pull at your heart. Sometimes some household archeology will help to reveal a hidden part of you. Check your closets, seldom opened drawers, basement boxes, anywhere where you might have hidden away your interests while you dealt with the monumental task of day-to-day living.

Once you have an item or image or symbol, bring it into your life somehow. If it’s an object, display it. Same if it’s a photo. If you have neither an object nor a photo, go online to search for an image that portrays what you are looking for.

And then talk to it.

“________, what do you want to tell me?”

Or if talking to an inanimate object is too woo woo for you then try some third person musing: “If this image or object could speak, what would it tell me?”

And then write down whatever occurs to you.

DO NOT CENSOR YOURSELF! Just write what comes.

Another cool thing I would suggest–and here you really do have to suspend your disbelief–is to have a conversation with the object. Write the question with your dominant hand (the one you usually write with) and then transfer your pen to your non-dominant hand so the object can answer. Be prepared. If you like things neat and tidy, this might not be for you. The answer will be scrawled in a child-like, sometimes illegible hand because, after all, this hand doesn’t often get to take hold of the pen. But I promise you, if you suspend your judgements and try this, you will be amazed by the answers that appear.

(If this intrigues you, there’s a really cool book about this called The Power of Your Other Hand by Lucia Cappacchione.)

Step Two, once you’ve uncovered this sleeping part of you, do something to wake it up.

When Cheryl woke up to her inner fashionista she did several things to nourish it. She went shopping at a fabric store with her seamstress cousin to learn about fabrics and sewing tools and buy some material to make a duvet cover. She toured the Boston School of Fashion Design. She spent an afternoon with scissors and fashion magazines, cutting out images she loved (something, incidentally, that she used to do as a child) (which, of course, is another clue to buried passions. What did you used to do as an eleven year old?). She created a treasure map of those collected images along with motivational messages to keep her pursuing this passion.

Sounds like fun, eh?

Go on a Treasure Hunt and then . . . play.

Hmmmm. Play and more play followed by play.

On second thought, this may be way harder than I thought.

Guess we’ll know for sure by the end of the month.

See you then!

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