OPINION

The Flatlander

Third-person self-care: it sounds weird, but it works

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There’s a funny nameplate on my desk that reads: “I’m kind of a big deal.”

But the truth is, down deep, I’ve never been that much about self.

Not that it’s some admirable attribute of a sweetheart of a guy. I’m a live-how-you-feel kind of guy who doesn’t hide his emotions well, but ideas like self-love and self-care just never lined up with my personality.

My friend, Naomi, is the first person who got me thinking about this.
We met on a park bench just outside Leon, Spain, both having walked about 325 miles of the pilgrimage known as Camino de Santiago. Naomi was a teacher from Michigan, the first English-speaking person I’d encountered in days. We struck up a conversation that began a special friendship, and walked together another 14 days to the burial site of St. James, the apostle of Jesus.

This is the thing about pilgrimage. There are two activities. You walk. And you talk. Some of my closest friends are those I’ve met on the Way of St. James.

It was the end of a long day in the town of Ponferrada where Naomi and I, and our new friend Aida Guerrero, were in the tight quarters of a small public albergue, and just before bedtime I noticed Naomi doing some chores that seemed to bring her a special delight. She was folding and neatly placing her clothes for tomorrow on the top bunk while taking the remainder of her belongings and assembling them in the order in which they’d be packed when we rolled out the next morning.

“Are you going to bed?” I asked, ready for lights out.

“I’m doing some nice things for Naomi. In the morning, she’ll appreciate me doing this for her,” she said in strange third-person.

“Naomi, I do believe you walked way too many miles today. You’re talking about yourself in a weird way. Go to bed.”

“But that’s the way you have to do it. Occasionally, it’s a really good idea to see yourself that way, and do yourself a favor. I try to do myself a favor several times a week, and you ought to try it some time and see how much satisfaction it brings you.”

“Okay,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Steve has to go to sleep now, and he’s telling me Naomi should do the same.”

I’ve never forgotten that little conversation. Naomi was so sincere, and believed so strongly in what she was doing. And she was trying to bring me in to her teachable moment. So while I’m still not great at it, here’s a third-person description of a bit of self-care I’ve adopted into my life.

Daytime Steve for Nighttime Steve

•The Crockpot may be the greatest self-care device ever invented. At 7 a.m. before work on a cold winter day you can throw in a roast, some potatoes, carrots and onions, splash of this, a pinch of that, and literally turn a knob one click to “low” and you’ll come home hours later to smells and tastes out of this world. You’ll give yourself a big hug in the evening just for being so nice to yourself.

•Make the bed. I’m not so great at this, but it’s a pleasure my wife gives me most days. What a delight it is crawling between the flannel sheets in a nicely made bed.

•Just this morning, I had a spare moment while the coffee brewed and made up some Jello with fruit. It takes four hours for all this to come together, so if I do it in the morning and come home to it in the evening, it’s a nice, simple dessert. Truly a simple pleasure.

•Make sure there’s enough wood near the door and under cover to keep the fire going at night. I enjoy stoking our wood stove during the night to keep the house warm, but it means a stick of wood about every two hours. No way I want to walk all the way to the woodpile for this. Stoke the fire, then back to the flannel sheets. It’s a beautiful thing.

Nighttime Steve for Daytime Steve

•Fill the coffee machine with coffee and water so at 4 a.m. there’s nothing to do but flip a switch.

•Charge the laptop. Sounds silly, but I write early almost every morning and there’s nothing more frustrating than a laptop with a dying battery before the sun comes up.

•Keep a small flashlight handy just in case you do have to go out. It’s downright dark in Round Bottom Valley at 2 a.m.

Summertime Steve for Wintertime Steve

•Fill a freezer or two with a cow and some vegetables.

•Order firewood, so it’s nice and seasoned by December.

Wintertime Steve for Summertime Steve

•Store all the pavilion items nice and tidy so you won’t swear like a sailor when it’s time to bring them out for spring and nothing works.

•Buy garden seeds the moment you see them in the store. They get gone fast around here.

•Start the lawnmower every now and then so the battery doesn’t die.
See you in next week’s newspaper.

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