Keeping up with my monthly series in 2020 as a slow farewell to AoS, today I’m sharing another letter to myself in 2010, ten years ago. Each letter focuses on one of the different categories we write about here: relationships, community, work, travel, self-care, and in the case of this month’s installment, self-care.

Though these are to myself, my hope is that you find a smidge of truth, beauty, and goodness you can apply to your own life — and perhaps this exercise will inspire you to write your own letters to yourself, ten years younger.

Dear Me in 2010,

Self-care wasn’t really a thing for me when I was where you are ten years ago. I mean, I cared about it, but it wasn’t part of my vernacular — I had a newborn, toddler, and kindergartener, so self-care looked like an occasional shower and sleeping four hours in a row.

Then, “self-care” was everywhere. It became the thing to talk about, especially online. Adults were admonished to remember themselves, to make it a Frequent Ritual in your calendar — wine in the evenings, regular manicures, Girls Nights Out, maybe even an annual trip sans kids. Get life while the getting’s good.

And some of that is okay. I like getting my nails done every now and then. Good wine on a patio is one of life’s little pleasures. I’m a fan of time with my girlfriends. What a dream it is when I get an overnighter with just Kyle (or even by myself!).

But I’ve learned this past decade that the doing of those things isn’t self-care. For me, thoughtlessly adding those rituals to my plate feels like one more thing to do. The irony is when I don’t get them checked off (because when does a working adult ever complete their day’s checklist?), I’m tempted to feel less-than — which the supposed idea of self-care is supposed to help quell.

Here’s my favorite definition of “self-care” I’ve learned over the past few years: Doing whatever it is that helps you most feel like yourself.

That’s it. It’s doing whatever you need to do in that particular moment to feel like yourself. I first heard this from my friend Kendra when we were podcasting, and it changed my perspective on the idea of self-care. It became less an item on my to-do list and more a mindset. It became an invitation to pay attention.

See, in order for this to work, you have to know yourself and continually learn more about yourself. Humans evolve, change their mind, and ebb and flow with the seasons, so one master checklist for the feeding and caring of you just doesn’t cut it.

Doing the things that make you most feel like yourself is an invitation to know yourself, it’s an invitation to pay attention, and it’s an invitation to stop worrying about the Shoulds. It’s a lightening of the shoulders, a freedom to take care of yourself however you see fit, even if it’s different than others around you.

For a while, I thought it looked like going to conferences, getting “out there” frequently with girlfriends or on dates, and keeping up with new movie releases. It looked like keeping up with pop culture, current trends, and a large consumption of whatever new books, TV shows, or movies They said were worth knowing about. I thought the goal of self-care was whatever helped me keep my act together so that I could seem like a put-together mom, wife, blogger, and thirty-something adult who knew what they were doing.

I don’t care about that stuff anymore. These days, self-care looks like whatever I need to do to help me be myself, which means restoring my soul to its resting place. The natural by-product is my evolution and growth as a mom, wife, neighbor, friend, and writer. Sometimes that may look like walking to the nail salon down the street and propping my feet into a bubbly bin of warm water. Most of the time, it looks like an early bedtime and plenty of good books to read.

It looks like daily dog walks with either the sound of a good audiobook, good music, good friend, or good silence in my ears. It looks like frequent front porch dates with Kyle, low on expense and high on iced tea and waves from the neighbors as they walk by. It looks like checking on the garden tomatoes while the kids tell me stories from their days. It looks like not caring about my gray hair or the latest Korean skincare product, not because I’m better than people who do care about that, but simply because that’s just not my thing. It looks like keeping social media off my phone and not even knowing how many followers I have on Instagram, because I just can’t be bothered to care.

These days, self-care looks like knowing myself well enough to know what I care about and what I don’t. Not caring about some things may take a hit on my writing career. But I’d hate to care more about that than not missing the evening show of lightning bugs and the sound of squeaking rocking chairs.

Those things — well, now. Those things restore my soul more than any dropper full of hyaluronic acid on my skin. *shrug*


You in 2020