The month of self-care

During our 3-day vacation at the beach, in between devouring books like ravenous beast, I decided that July will be the Month of Self Care. In the past six months, I have: finished earning the down payment on our apartment; obtained a teaching contract at a new university; just about completed the second year of my masters’; trained to be a speaking examiner for a second international English exam; purchased the aforementioned house; and zipped home to the US to support my father through the removal of his bladder cancer. It has been a damn busy time. One thing I have not done is conceived a child. These 3 days at the beach were well-deserved, but it occurs to me that perhaps that whole thing about stress impacting the likelihood of conception is a Real Thing. Hence: the Month of Self Care. I will exercise, by enjoying meditative walks around the burgeoning countryside! I will eat healthy food, which I will cook in a relaxed manner while listening to podcasts. I will give myself leisurely reading breaks. I will reconnect with friends in this reprieve from the pandemic. I will calmly and methodically move my possessions into the new house, resulting in an organized and peaceful space. It will be delightful and restorative.

On Monday, July 5th, things start off swimmingly. I sleep enough, have my half hour morning coffee routine, and put in 2.5 hours of work before deciding to get my exercise in. I walk a full hour around the field behind our soon-to-be old house. The wheat is swaying, birds are chirping, and a motivational podcast is murmuring peacefully into my ear. I take deep breaths and savor this walk, which I will miss greatly after we move. I have a relaxing shower and then even do a face mask. Self care for the win!

I cook lunch peacefully, only the slightest bit conscious of the fact that my face mask has pushed lunch prep perilously close to won’t-be-ready-in-time-for-boyfriend’s-arrival territory. (NB: He totally doesn’t care and, if anything, will marvel at the rare occurrence that is a meal even approaching readiness upon his arrival. I’m the one that cares, because I really wanted to, however briefly, be the kind of girlfriend who, every once in a rare while, has a meal ready when her partner comes home from work.)

We eat lunch (this is Quality Time) and then engage in even higher-quality time, which consists of relaxing on the couch together post-lunch. I don’t know what he does, but I read my latest Libby book and only occasionally dip into email checking.

Later, following an afternoon work session (me) and shoving stuff in boxes (him), we go to IKEA and purchase some shelves for the basement like a couple from a freaking commercial. We wrap up the evening with a visit to my best friend to catch up after her trip to visit family.

Just kidding. When have I have wrapped up an evening that way? We do catch up with her, but then I wrap up the evening by putting in another hour of work until midnight. I mean. It’s the Month of Self Care, not retirement.

Tuesday dawns promising from a self-care perspective, because I have a nearly free day: just a few hours of translating to do, and a plan to varnish the shelves we bought the day prior. I awake at 7:30, have my half hour of morning coffee time, and plan to do some work, have another lovely exercise walk, and zip over to start varnishing the shelves by lunchtime.

I start work, and quickly come up against the harsh reality that there are only actually 4-5 hours until lunchtime. I skip the walk, speed through a quick shower, and am on my way to varnishing. It is moderately relaxing, although I get more than a few mosquito bites and possibly also slightly dehydrated. I rush inside to deliver another translation halfway through the morning and also halfway through the afternoon.

I also spend half an hour having a lunch break with best friend (nurturing important friendships is self care!) and the length of an entire soccer game socializing with the boyfriend’s childhood friends. This is emphatically NOT self-care, but is good for relationship harmony? I mean, he spends lots of time with my friends? Right? Anyway.

Wednesday also dawns promisingly because there is no actually scheduled work on the calendar! There are 4-ish hours’ worth of translating to get through, and a socializing-cum-networking lunch in another town, but, you know… still. Somehow, the relaxing walk gets cut out of Wednesday, too. I decide to at least engage in self-care-by-reading while on the train. However, two minutes in, I feel guilty about the number of unanswered text messages lingering on my phone (and poking insistently at my consciousness). My system with text messages is brilliant in theory: I don’t want answering messages to interrupt my working (or relaxing) time throughout the day, so I batch them to deal with at the end of the day as long as they are not urgent. In practice, it is decidedly un-brilliant because I am too unmotivated to socialize (even via text message) at the end of the day, and so instead I ignore them for days at a time, until they either become urgent or my sense of guilt overwhelms me, as in this case. And so my train ride is productive in the sense that messages get answered, but not at all self-care-y.

I drive out to the new house, ostensibly to unpack, but actually I have some translating to do. I work in the new office for the first time and it is a delight: the sun is slowly going down over a field outside my window. I wrap up the evening with a dinner with the boyfriend + his mother, and then a phone call to my father, thus doubly honoring filial piety but still not really relaxing. However… tomorrow is another day!

Unfortunately, Thursday dawns a bit less promising than the previous two days. There are quite a few hours of translating and also teaching on the docket, as well as a meeting with a department head at the old university to discuss why I am not planning to continue working there. (Hint: it’s because the new university gave me a good contract, in contrast to the old university giving me zero contracts of any kind thus far, instead preferring to keep me freelance.) This meeting promises to be uncomfortable and looms over my head for the whole day. Spoiler alert: it is exactly as uncomfortable as I feared, with department head insisting that I am of great value to the department and she wishes someone would give me a contract, and me agreeing that that would be nice but doesn’t appear to be how things are going. In addition to this awkwardness, I am antsy because the conversation drags on far beyond the point of uselessness (in my opinion) and because it was difficult and annoying to find parking.

Following that, I drive over to the new house, trying to convince myself with a nice podcast and admiring the scenery that I am in a good mood and in possession of a good amount of energy for unpacking. In actuality, I am neither, but I do my best to enjoy the unpacking nonetheless – one of the first times I am in the house alone! I make at least some progress, which is good, since we are planning to sleep there for the first time the next day.

Meanwhile, the boyfriend is doing night shift, so I will actually be alone for the last night in the old house. I decide this is the perfect opportunity for real self care! I pick up some Indian food from my favorite place near the old house, and spend a lovely hour and a half of absolutely for-sure real self-care time. Unfortunately, I doze off at that point, eventually rouse myself to get to bed, and that is the end of self-care for now. As I brush my teeth, I ponder where my relaxing walks and soothingly organized packing and unpacking process have got to. I observe the amount of stuff that still needs to be moved over (bedding, assorted end tables, cardboard boxes of food, who even knows what’s in those bags…). I lament the fact that I didn’t even get to have one last relaxing walk around the wheat field, resolve to squeeze it in the next morning before work, and scroll discontentedly until I fall asleep.

Friday is moving day! But unfortunately I need teach online all morning! Doubly unfortunately, I also need to be in the new house to let the electricity people in! Despite that, I am determined to get at least a quick version of my old favorite walk at the old house before work. I linger in bed, feeling groggy and eye-scrape-y, just long enough to make this rushed instead of relaxing. I speed home, speed through a shower, drive over to the new house, and get set up just in time to teach my class. Sad fact: it is three hours long and I already feel exhausted five minutes in.

Positive fact: the electricity does indeed get hooked up. Afterwards, I speed through a translation, with the prize of a last ice cream at our good old favorite ice cream place near the old house before my afternoon meeting. The translation takes just long enough to make the ice cream un-relaxing. The meeting gets done. It wasn’t even that useful. Now it is time to move! Or at least, to pack up those last things into (hopefully) one car-load each, and drive over. It is 5pm, which… sort of sucks, but I guess is not the end of the world?

Just kidding! The internet company chooses that moment to finally call back in order to set up the internet connection at the new house. They are rude and I am tired and irritable. This takes until 6pm, but… at least we will have internet?

I snap a photo of my car filled to the brim with what seems like random flotsam – a bedspread, two pillows, an end table, a lamp, a stack of books that didn’t make it into any boxes, a mop and bucket… and start the drive over. It is only about a twenty-minute drive, but during those twenty minutes, I fantasize more than once about pulling over and just “resting my eyes” for a few minutes to regain some energy. My month of self-care is clearly working great. There’s… always next week, I guess?

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