Here I am again: this is me…the Pot calling out the Kettle.

Last week I wrote about loving yourself; accepting yourself; making time for the things that bring you joy. I write those things because self-care is such an important concept for those in the helping profession. Without it, we crash and burn. We leave our calling for self preservation.

I know you struggle with taking care of your own needs. I know.

You dismiss my encouragement away with the roll of an eye and the wave of a hand. You think,

“Easy for you to say! I dont have time to do those things! Have you seen my caseload?”

I get it. I really do get it.

How do I know your struggle is real? Because I live it every single day.

I wish I could give you the magic key that unlocks the door to that mythical creature: The Elusive Work-Life Balance. But rub the lamp as I have, no genie appeared before me bearing the secrets to make our quest easier.

Actually, no concept, in my 31 plus years as a social worker, has been harder to adopt into my belief system than the idea that I may not able to do it all.

Even at my age, I find myself perpetually waving my hand in the air…Volunteering to take on yet another project. I just find it very very hard to admit that…

I have limits.

Last year my heart, (I’ll call her Delilah for her betrayal) became disgusted with my mule-headedness, and decided to stage a protest! The temporary shut down of my body successfully commanded my attention. Her little stunt drew an audience of doctors, family and friends who dictated that I make substantial changes.

So I did. Like always, I picked up the gauntlet and sped into a “life change”. I ate better, exercised more and took preventative medications to regain my health. Losing 30 pounds made me so proud of my determination. And for the past year, while not jumping for joy, I figured Delilah must be grinning like a smug cat.

But, as I am a superbly stubborn human being, I held on to that one thing I couldnt bear to part with…My drive…my need to be productive and to live a life of meaning. In my head, that has always meant social work.

Throwing myself back into work felt cathartic at first. Victoriously coming through surgery, I needed to show the world (and myself) that I was whole again; that I was the same.

But I wasn’t.

I pushed back the uneasiness that tried to creep into my thoughts when I slowed down. I dismissed the scolding of my friends when I cancelled plans because I was “too busy”. I kept going as fast as I could, hoping to outrun the truth.

I was a hypocrite.

I encouraged, cajoled and even sternly recommended my staff take care of themselves and make time for joy. But I wasnt practicing my own sermon. Despite knowing how vital self-care can be, I pushed everyone into it but me.

Denial is a funny thing. I would have argued that I had changed; That I took time for me. But this week, I was reminded that in the year since my surgery I have taken a total of 3 days off just for me.

So yes, I understand your struggle. I get that it is hard to plan mental and physical escapes. But admitting my struggle only fuels my desire to do better. I wont give up. When I actually admitted, to myself, the hypocrasy of my actions, I felt relieved. I knew that I really did want to enjoy life and have non social work adventures. It was exciting to take out my calendar and mark off some me days each month.

I will find other ways to be meaningful (the possibilities are endless). I will plan actual vacations this year and join a book club. I always wanted to learn ballroom dancing. Do people still do that??

I will no longer be a hypocrite. Next time you read my posts about finding your own joy…know that I am still struggling, but determined to start practicing what I preach.