Katie Den Ouden is a light in the world. Seriously, that is not an exaggeration. I have participated in several cleanses that she has led, and I was honored when she asked me to join her Skinny Dip Society Feed Your Soul Blog Tour. The goal of the tour is to bring together 25 women in support of living in a way that feeds our souls, frees our bodies, and loves our lives. I am delighted to be a part of this effort, which I believe in to my core.
Katie represents and models a life of self-care and gentleness, something I aspire mightily to and fail at often. Still, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that all we can do is begin again. Over and over again, I try, I stumble, I start again.
I am turning 40 this year and I have finally begun to figure out what I need to do to take care of my body and my spirit. Of course, I often fail at doing these things. But at least I know what I need to do.
There is a short list of non-negotiables for me when it comes to health and happiness, and when I fail to prioritize these things I almost always get into trouble. I need 8 hours of sleep a night, I need quiet time to write and to read, I need to feel safe and taken care of by the small handful of true native speakers in my life, I need to exercise, and I need to eat mostly healthily most of the time. These things, which are, at the end of the day, all choices, help me feel calm and happy. They help me to love my life.
In order to make sleep, down time for reading and writing, and exercise a true priority I have had to cut back on many other things. Because I work full-time, write as much as I can, and, most importantly, want to be my children’s primary caretaker, I don’t have much other time. I don’t do very many things socially, I rarely meet friends for lunch or dinner, I don’t watch very much TV, I almost never go to movies, my husband and I don’t have very many date nights. For me, it’s more important to read Harry Potter to Grace and to Whit, to be the one who packs their lunches, and to read and write and go to bed early in the evenings, and to get up at dawn to run.
My best, truest friends remain essential and close. I don’t see them as much as I want, but they know who they are, and I value their support and love and presence more than I can possibly articulate.
Exercise is important to me. 25 years of running have had an impact on my joints and I can’t run as much as I used to. I think a marathon is out of the question now, unfortunately (though, as Whit likes to say, I’ve run a marathon, just in two halves!). I have been doing yoga on and off for 15 years and I find that it is an increasingly important part of my life now. The hamster run of my brain is slowed and quieted by exercise, and it helps me sleep better.
Food? One gift Katie has given me is increased awareness that what I eat is hugely important. I like Michael Pollan’s simple, powerful line: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Amen. I have come to love – and crave – green juice, and I drink it most mornings. I don’t, however, love smoothies. But grapefruit, kale, ginger, through the juicer? YUM. We eat a lot of vegetables around here. I often view it as a challenge: how many different fruits and vegetables can I eat today? But I also love sugar and try as I might, I haven’t successfully given that up. I am going with the 80/20 rule on this one. Mostly plants. Not too much. That I can do.
It’s not rocket science, is it? In fact, as I write this, I’m a little bit ashamed that it has taken me almost 40 years to feel so clear on what I need to do to take care of myself and to love my life. Sleep. Down time. Reading and writing. Exercise. Vegetables. Lots of time with my children. And, of course, a commitment to begin again.
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