Today, before leaving for work, I risked being a few minutes late and took the time to cut up a lemon to put into my water bottle. When I was a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) Chaplain Intern, I was known for having water infused with fresh fruit at all times. My colorful water bottle filled with fruit was a topic of conversation. “What are you drinking today, Chaplain?” I would be asked. Lemons. Limes. Blueberries. Strawberries. Cucumber. Ginger. Between the great taste and health benefits, what is there not to love? Fruit infused water was my jam.
More than my jam, my ever changing bottle became a barometer for my self-care practices. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but one day my CPE Supervisor and Mentor, Dr. Griesel (Dr. G.) noticed that my water bottle was missing something. She inquired and my response was a quick, “I was rushing and didn’t have time to prepare the fruit.” And because we are both well versed in the art of spiritual and theological reflection, my tasteless, flavorless, colorless water became fodder for a long conversation about self-care practices in life of the chaplain—in the life of this married, mother of young children, preaching, running chaplain. It was an eye opening conversation. (This is the same brilliant woman who gave me permission to wear my bright lipstick and colorful nails when I was on call, reminding me that just because I work in a hospital doesn’t mean I have to look sick.) From time to time, even when she could see blueberries floating at the top of my water, Dr. G. would ask, “Does your water have fruit in it?” Which was really her way of asking, “Are you taking good care of yourself?”
As I was slicing the lemon this morning, I recognized that it has been almost a year since I’ve taken the time to put fruit in my water. As I slid the knife blade through the lemon, it was as if God removed the scales from my eyes. I once was blind; But now I see. And if I am honest, what I saw caused my heart to sink. My self-care practices had taken a back seat, I knew this. I just didn’t realize the extent. When I was active on social media, one of my favorite hashtags was #selfcareisnotselfish. I survived and thrived through having an infant, a two-year old, a rigorous CPE internship with clinical hours and emotionally taxing academic work, AND training for my first half marathon because I prioritized myself. And somehow, someway I stopped making time for myself. I stopped putting fruit in my water. When I think about this, I know that there are things in my control like sleeping, exercising, nourishing my body and soul, breathing deeply, and connecting with people and engaging activities that bring me joy that I can implement. That is the kind of fruit that will bear much fruit. And then there are things out of my control which I shall not name, things I am trusting God for, that impact my sense of well being. Those are the things that I have allowed to take priority. But thanks to a God moment, a holy encounter slicing a lemon, I am committed to taking the time to put fruit in my water, literally and figuratively.
What self-care practices do you implement for well being? What are the telltale signs that things are off kilter? Let’s chat about it.