By Cherith Fluker

I could start this essay by griping about how terrible 2020 was to me.  But that probably wouldn’t grab your attention because I’m sure you’d have a comeback for every single complaint or problem that I listed.  Your response would probably match or exceed whatever gruesome event that would come out of my mouth.  So, I’ll spare you the details.  I’m sure you can imagine what happened, anyway.  Like so many other folks, my 2020 was filled with loss, pain, illness, and depression.  But because I’ve heard so much about that, I’ve decided to focus on something positive that happened in 2020.  I want to talk about my newfound love for self-care and how it changed, and possibly saved, my life.

To make this all make sense, I have to pause right here to mention that I lost my mother in February of 2020.  That happened just three months after I had lost my father and two weeks before the world shut down due to COVID-19.  To say that my world had spun out of control is an understatement.  I honestly did not know how I would (or could) continue life.  But, because I had a husband and two children to take care of, and the fact that the world forbids women to crumble, I knew that I had to get it together and I knew that I had to get it together quickly.

[Black Power Heals: Southern self-care is activism]

But why did I have to get it together quickly?  I wasn’t ready to.  I didn’t want to.  I wanted to grieve.  I wanted to skip showers for several days.  I wanted to eat junk food.  I wanted to cuss. I wanted to ignore telephone calls and text messages.  I wanted to say no to visitors.  I wanted to drink wine.   So, I did all of these things. And because the world was shut down, I was able to do these things as much as I wanted because I had nowhere to be and no one to answer to.

One morning, I passed by the mirror and caught a glimpse of myself. I will never forget what I saw in the mirror.  I saw someone who was weak, grief-stricken, hopeless, and sad. These are words that I’ve never associated with myself and words that I know my parents would never use to describe me.  It’s not who they raised me to be. Though I was glad I’d given myself time to grieve, at that moment, I decided it was time for me to do something different.  I knew that I did not want to be the person that I saw in that mirror.

[Self-care is your crown]

A few days later, I was scrolling on my phone and came across an article about self-care.  I had heard that word several times before, but for some reason, it especially caught my attention this time.  Then, a few days later, I saw something on television about self-care.  Since I don’t believe in happenstance, I accepted that as a sign that I needed to take action.

For the next few weeks, I searched and searched for information about self-care.  I began reading all the self-care books and watching all the self-care videos.  I was determined to take a turn in a different direction.

I came across a self-care article on essentiahealth.com that helped me to change the trajectory of my life.  It specifically talked about the importance of caring for yourself while grieving.  There was one particular part that helped me determine my next steps in life.  It read, “Do something you’re good at. It is important to immerse yourself in your skills and abilities, even if the outcome isn’t up to par.”  It didn’t take me long to figure out what I was good at.  I had youth writing awards, college degrees, fancy writing memberships, several years of teaching experience, and a dissertation to prove that I was a good writer.  So, I picked up my pen and notebook and I began to write. I wrote daily. I’d write about whatever I was feeling that day. The more that I wrote, the better I felt.  The more I wrote, the less time I had for shenanigans that were sending me into a pit of depression.  I knew that I needed to weave writing into my daily schedule somehow. Hence, I started a blog.

As I flipped through my journal, I noticed that I was scribbling lots of thoughts about self-care, the very topic that made me pick up my pen in the first place.  I wrote about the things that made me happy, things that made me smile. Ultimately, I decided that I wanted to use self-care as the basis of my blog to help others get through whatever struggles they face in their lives. My blog has been self-care for me. It has served as a means of keeping me focused on something positive.  It has helped me to navigate the grief. It has given me something to be proud of and something to look forward to.  My blog has changed my life.

It took a series of unfortunate events for me to make an intentional effort to start my self-care journey. As women, we often wait until we hit rock bottom or until we are faced with no other choice before we prioritize self-care. Self-care is so much more effective when we make it a lifestyle rather than a one-time event.  When self-care is a regular part of your life, you are better equipped to handle the things that life throws your way.  You do not have to wait until life becomes challenging for you to begin your self-care journey.

Cherith L. Fluker is an educator and writer who encourages busy women to create a lifestyle of self-care. On her blog, WhatCherithinks, she shares tips, strategies, and encouragement for women on their self-care journey. You can also follow her on Instagram for more about self-care.