Building A Toolbox
One of the reasons that I’m delighted to be a part of Holistic Pathways is that I think of it
as gathering tools for my relationship. I think, as women, we feel that if something is “off” in our
relationships, then we aren’t getting anything right. We might be having a time of struggle in our
personal relationships, with our friendships, or with our kids, and find that it sucks massive
amount of energy from our ability to feel we are living productive, healthy, happy lives.
Despite what it looks like on facebook, everyone has relationship struggles and hurdles
and that is just a part of the journey of life. The most important relationship we may ever have is
with ourselves-and I think that this gets entirely overlooked far too often in the hustle and bustle
My partner of almost five years and I attend a monthly relationship group, and one
positive benefit of that is you get the sense that it is normal to have some areas of your
relationship that is going great and other areas that may need some improvement. Another
positive benefit is learning that it is necessary to practice good self-care skills. When things are
rough in life, not only is it important to know what we need from our partners, but we also need
to know how to sooth ourselves.
I work from home and have full responsibility for all of the chores, errands, cooking, and
cleaning. I’m also a full time student in a Masters program. I recently had to take time off of
school to deal with some chronic health problems. I’ve had to learn to accept that because I am
legally blind and have fibromyalgia, everything takes me a long time. I tend to be a wee bit
perfectionistic and feel that I must always do my best all of the time. Recently, a friend who is
also a therapist pointed out that not everything in life requires one hundred percent effort, one
hundred percent of the time. I was stopped in my tracks and had to wander off and think about
this idea for several days.
One of the gifts of my disabilities is that it has taught me how to be mindful, how to be
self-aware, and how to force myself to take breaks. But I was still stuck in the thinking that I had
to put maximum effort into all I do. When I sat back and thought about it, I had to admit that that
was about my childhood lessons and about being a perfectionist. So, I have added the idea to
my toolbox that sometimes it is okay-even preferable-to prioritize which jobs need total focus
and what can be left for another day.
One area that I have had to work on extensively in the last few years is managing my
stress. Some ways that work for me are taking time before my partner comes home to put
aside my work, light candles for her, and meditate. There are days that I’m trying to get a list of
fifty things accomplished and am in go-go- go mode. That doesn’t make a space for my spouse
to have a peaceful home coming, nor does it give me a chance to just breathe before she
comes home. So, every day, I light a scented candle, fix my hair and make-up, take a look at
each room and my success of the day, turn off the television and sit quietly. When she comes
home, I’m genuinely ready to receive her and am able to be a warm spot in her day.
Another thing that helps me is that I deliberately pack items for self-care in my purse.
When I went through therapy years ago for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, we learned
techniques to help us be calm and centered and (importantly) stay in our body. The goal of
each item I pack is to bring things that help me use as many senses as possible at the same
time. So I always have gum, scented lotion, music, and books I can listen to. Living in New
York and taking the subway can produce anxiety in anyone and I find it helpful to know how to
keep myself calm and centered.
Another thing that I do that really helps me is to stay conscious of being mindful is
smiling at every person who crosses my path, smile when I enter a space, and take a few spare
moments to just breathe and offer peace to anyone who may need it this day. I think of this is a
kind of spiritual meditation, an act that can be done at any time, anywhere. We all have
burdens to carry in life, being aware of others and offering warmth is a way of connecting deeply
to ourselves and each other.
I hope that each of us continues to add tools to our self care kit, because we all need
deep connections to feel whole, and all relationships thrive when we are at peace with