I was invited to a friend’s birthday drinks on the weekend. I just knew in every inch of my body that I didn’t feel like going. I had just come off a two week stint of a major family visitation session with family visiting from Australia, America and Switzerland – all at the same time. We had literally had plans every single night for two weeks solid. Despite the enjoyment of seeing them all, it had left me feeling anything but solid. I needed to opt out. I discussed this with another friend of mine who said that she totally gets it and more to the point that she actually often experiences “JOMO.” Yip that’s right, Joy of Missing Out – the lesser spotted cousin of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Now there’s me thinking that we had coined the term JOMO. Turns out it’s an actual thing but in the strictest sense, according to The Urban Dictionary, it is defined as “You’re enjoying what you’re doing in the here and now and not on social media broadcasting or seeing what everybody else is doing.” Not sure if there is an official term for what I wanted to miss out on but I hope you will forgive my taking the liberty of using JOMO to refer to my joy of missing out on an actual human interaction. I chose to stay home, watch TV, doodle and ceremoniously open the Ice Cap I had found and bought in Pick n Pay during the week. Remember Ice Cap?! – The chocolate sauce that hardens when you put it on Ice Cream? I cannot even begin to tell you the replenishing joy of pouring the Ice Cap over the ice-cream and tapping the back of my spoon on the hardened Ice Cap as I had as a child. (Truth be told, there was a lot of Ice Cap tapped that night.)
I did what I needed to do and I was much happier for it and there was a knock on effect, the world was better off for it. Ok world peace was not attained but I was nicer to my immediate world, no heads were bitten off my family that next day. Instead, I was more energised, less irritated and was completely open to my children experimenting with pouring Ice Cap directly onto their tongues. It sounds like such a cliché but there you go… if I hadn’t taken care of my own needs I wouldn’t have had the energy to be able to give to others.
As Cheryl Richardson insightfully explains in her book, The Art of Extreme Self Care, “From years of personal experience, as well as from the work I’ve done coaching many caring and hardworking men and women, I’ve learned that when we care for ourselves deeply and deliberately, we naturally begin to care for others— our families, our friends, and the world—in a healthier and more effective way. We become conscious and conscientious people. We tell the truth. We make choices from a place of love and compassion instead of guilt and obligation. And we begin to understand—on a visceral level— that we’re all connected, and that our individual actions affect the greater whole in a more profound way than we ever imagined.” Granted I don’t think Richardson was picturing the Ice Cap escapades (Ice Capades?) when she wrote this but I think you get the drift. We have to shift from our people pleasing, do-it-all attitudes and recognise that if we don’t factor in the time to take care of ourselves, there is no way in hell that we are going to be able to effectively take care of others.
I love that Cheryl Richardson uses the word ‘Extreme’ to describe the kind of self-care she is referring to. She is not dilly dallying here. If we want to really get this right we have to take serious action and start tidying up our lives. Nobody says it’s going to be easy but I think (I’m still a work in progress) the benefits are plentiful.
Some things which may help us get our acts together:
“Did you call me selfish?” (gasp)
We really have to shift our perspective of what we think being selfish actually means. If it means that we prioritise our needs so that we are more energised, more grounded, more fulfilled so that we are able to give more of our time and energy to others then hell yeah, you can call me selfish. But rather don’t, as I mentioned I am still a work in progress. Obviously, we need to find the right balance here (ah balance.) I am not suggesting that we pack up and go and meditate all day, every day. We are in the world and we have responsibilities but we have to factor in time that is simply all about me (maybe I am very selfish!), ok all about you.
“Will the odd hot bath do?”
No, no no! And don’t try and get in there by saying you’ll even light a candle from time to time. We are talking long term sustainable things that you have factored into your day or at the very least your week. We are talking long term maintenance here, not burn out crisis control. You will be surprised at the fact that the world does not fall apart, your business does not come crashing down and the children actually cope when you have factored in regular time to do what you need to do for yourself. In fact chances are everyone will be better off for the time you have taken.
“What do you mean you have your own needs?”
During the times when I have gone out at night and left the kids and the Ice Cap at home with a babysitter, my boys have both made comments along these disdainful and appalled lines “But mommy you don’t HAVE to go out? You don’t NEED to go out with your friends. One of you COULD stay home” I know they both know that they are the most treasured things in our world but I always feel it’s important for them to know that I have a life beyond them and I do things that interest and sustain me. I think that’s good modelling. I would love them to know that I take my needs seriously and even though it’s not always an easy choice, I sometimes choose meeting my own needs over theirs. I think while that can be hard for children, it is also a relief for them to know that the focus is not always on them and the world does not always revolve around them. Obviously, this should be handled empathically, just because you are taking care of yourself doesn’t mean you have to get nasty!
“I’ll have what she’s having.”
There is no cut and paste solution to self-care. There is no cheat sheet. You need to connect with and rediscover what feeds YOUR soul. It may be running, it may be having flowers on your desk, it may be learning to say no to friends, it may mean having a regular coffee or beer date with friends, it may mean swimming in the sea, reading a good book, keeping a journal, I’m giving too much away. Find what it is that nourishes you. And we all know the Ice Cap and ice-cream is not a long term nourishment solution but still I listened to what I needed that Saturday night.
Funny thing. I was chatting to my mom on the weekend and was proudly regaling her with my story of how I had listened to myself and stayed home. I shared with her that I had a clear case of JOMO which prompted an explanation of both JOMO – The Joy of Missing Out and then FOMO- The Fear of Missing Out. My mother’s response “I didn’t even know I was missing out!”