Last night I was doing an exercise from The Artist's Way that involved planning a week of nurturing for myself--one nurturing act a day. Seven items. It took me half an hour to complete. It seems to me that when bathing (albeit with bubbles) and conditioning your hair end up on a fantasy list of kind things to do for yourself, something in your life has gone terribly, horribly wrong. Then the afterthought instruction Julia Cameron gave (Please, binge!) only made me feel worse about my skimpy, stingy ideas. I know that any of my many mothering friends can relate, but they aren't the only ones. This sickness is an epidemic, and all caretakers are carriers of the disease.
A massage-therapist, acupuncturist friend of mine once told me, "You know which of my patients are in the worst shape? Nurses. They are more likely to smoke and be overweight than any other profession I see." If my exercise last night had been to plan a week of nurturing for my spouse, or my children or my best friend, I could have come up with a month of ideas, the kind of ideas that leave bathing and conditioning in the dust. So why the big discrepancy between the way we care for others and the way we care for ourselves?
It has to be a survival instinct that may have gotten us through in some time long past, but is completely irrelevant today. We all operate like we're following a very bad theory of Caretaking Economics that says, "There isn't enough to go around, so to alleviate the problem, starve the source." No warnings about golden eggs or hunger pains from our souls are powerful enough to override this system. We believe it like Soviet citizens steeped in warped ideology from birth.
The only way to freedom is to become a dissident. It requires the courage to challenge reality, or the strange perception of it that has gained the reputation of The Truth. Inner and outer voices will chide us for selfishness and chasten us for depleting the supply. We know somewhere inside, in a place we frequently lose the map to, that this isn't true. Kindness begets kindness, like life begets life.