Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Growing up I watched my very motivated father work his fingers to the damn bone. If there was a retake needed by a football player, he’d stay until 6 to give it to them. If a parent meeting needed to happen at 5 am or 9 pm, he’d make it happen. If he needed to learn Spanish or trombone to get the information across, he’d do it.

Every evening I watched him get home late and fall asleep minutes after sitting down. And every single school break I watched him get horribly sick and spend his time off recovering.

When I started teaching I promised myself I would find a way to work for my kids, to give them every chance I can, without burning myself out.

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I have been blessed with a team of co-workers who are caring and understanding, who always look out for me. My co-teacher tells me often to take care of myself. The beginning of every department meeting is either a self care check-in (where we talk about our specific self care goals and what we are doing to reach them this week) or a self care practice (Tai Chi, guided meditation, etc.) My Assistant Principal meets with me once a week to lesson plan/unit plan/revise curriculum/talk about what’s not working and how to fix it. My in-school mentor meets with me once a week to talk about literally anything I need help with.

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I’m supported, much more so than a lot of teachers. I’m lucky and I know it. But still I got caught with a case of ignoring my own needs.

Last Monday I got up at 4 and laid on my couch sobbing because my head was pounding so hard I couldn’t move. I called in sick but by noon the fever, headache and general ick was so bad I couldn’t stop crying.

I went to the clinic in the afternoon (I’ll be honest I went mostly because I wanted to be at work the following day) and found out I had a high fever, a sinus infection, and an ear infection.

My point is: don’t do this. Don’t let it get this bad. I was sick, really obviously sick and tried to push too hard through it and for what?

Americans especially have this notion that if you are not absolutely killing yourself at work, you’re lazy. I can’t say this enough times: that’s bullsh*t.

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In Peru, we would work from about 7- or am until lunch, go get lunch and take a nap or spend time with family, and then go back to work from 3 until 5 or 6. Yeah, that’s a three hour lunch. We also took 20-30 minutes breaks throughout the day to sit and talk.

At first I was torn apart by the difference and went to the go-to argument so many others have used (or at least thought in their head): well maybe if they worked more, their country would be more advanced. This, my friends, is also bullsh*t.

The reasons that many countries struggle has more to do with internal structure and corruption than with amount of hours worked. Hard work may be important, but worker bees working their buzzers off with no break  will not improve a country or a city or a workplace or a person.

I suppose the moral of the story is: put in the work, do whatever it is you do the best that you possibly can, but remember that half of being your best is treating yourself well. Work hard, self care hard.

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Best of luck.

Learning to Take Care of My Damn Self

Escaping the Food Battle

Food and I have a complicated relationship. And not complicated like we fight, break up and get back together or we don’t want to put a label on it or one of us is married to a plant. Complicated like we’re actually trying to kill each other.

We go way back. Unfortunately, however, my knowledge of proper nutrition only dates back a few years.

I grew up in a pretty classically American household; there was a lot of processed foods and ready-to-eat stuff. I don’t remember noticing my body as anything other than a vessel with which I moved through life until fifth grade. Overnight I went from running around without a care to worrying that I didn’t look the way I was supposed to and that I needed to fix it.

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Body issues bred food issues, food issues bred eating disorders and shame which bred more body issues and so the cycle goes. In college, armed with the ability to buy and eat what I wanted and a crippling depression, I gained sixty pounds. By junior year I was desperate and terrified. I was terrified to work out in public for fear I’d be laughed at, so I tried cutting calories. I tried juice cleanses, and purging and alcohol-only days. I tried sketchy internet diet pills that made me pee all the time.

It was not some conscious moment that changed everything, that part came later. Looking back now, I think it had to. At the end of my junior year of college, I studied abroad in London. My daily commute just to and from school logged a solid two miles, plus the time I spent exploring the city the rest of the day. I walked and I walked a lot. I started noticing how much better I felt, not just because my pants were starting to sag, but because my body was getting the chemicals it had been needing.

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The struggle continued through the following years, but the pant sizes kept going down and my general outlook got better. The conscious moment of change came during Peace Corps years later. I’d had stomach infections, parasites, and a myriad of other ailments through my first six months of service. After a lot of antibiotics, I finally started to heal but found that my stomach was always upset for some reason.

So I started reading and I found the Whole30 community and Paleo and AIP* and everyone claimed the same issues I’d had for years past and in recent times. Everyone found solace in changing their diet.

I’m sharing all of this for two reasons:

First, I’m doing another Whole30 reset through January, because the holidays and the stress have led my eating patterns down a dark road and it’s time to reset. I’ve recently read Melissa Hartwig’s most recent book, Food Freedom Forever, and I’m feeling mighty inspired.

Second, for too long diet changes and exercise and living a healthy life have been connected only to weight loss and that’s not what this is about for most people. I’ve felt that itching inside me to lose weight, to be skinny, to finally be beautiful and that itch wasn’t cured by weight loss, it was cured by learning to love myself and understand myself. If everyone told a story of weight loss instead of health and self love, we’d be…well, nowhere good.

I’ll keep y’all posted on the Whole30. I’d love to hear your questions, comments, and especially if anyone would like to join me on this round of Whole30 fun!

Best of luck

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