The great thing about being a therapist and a novelist is that I know a thing or two about self-care. The horrible thing about being a therapist and a novelist is that I have no idea how to make time for it. As a graduate student with two teenage boys, I would sit in class listening to professors preach about the importance of self-care. They would suggest doing things unrelated to school, reading, and learning. Basically, they felt it was important for us to rest our minds. I found it odd that they would say this on the cusp of 20-page paper assignments and 10 to 20 chapters of assigned reading.
As a therapist, I encourage my clients to participate in self-care. “What is that?” they ask. Heck if I know! Great question! I explain self-care might mean going for a walk, spending time with a loved one or pet, taking a trip to the beach, a long bubble bath, or even a nap. When I do this, one of two things happens. Either they come back the next week feeling refreshed and thanking me for the suggestion and tell me of their plans to incorporate this into their regular routine, (good luck with that) or they tell me they didn’t have time. If they could read my thoughts, they’d know that I truly “get” the not having time thing.
I have three novels, all part of the “Group Therapy” series, staring at me. They remind me of stray animals on their second week of foraging for food. Two of them are in the wrong tense. One is only a first draft. The first book is in the hands of an editor who has warned me so many times I’ve lost count that I won’t like her by the end of this process. While I’m not intimidated by this - I come from old school newsrooms where editors call you an “idiot” from across the room - I’m not dumb enough to think the editing process will be enjoyable. To me, editing is like cleaning the house. It has to be done but it’s not fun. It feels great when it is done, but is better when done by someone else.
But the whole author thing isn’t all that’s preventing me from doing something for me. Therapists spend their days listening to other people’s problems. While we are taught otherwise, we often take those problems home with us. It’s not easy to put things like child abuse in a box just because it’s 5:01 p.m. In writing “Group Therapy,” I was sure to have Katherine struggle with this same issue because it’s a big part of working in the field.
Realizing I haven’t slept more than three hours a night in three weeks, and that I’m now getting sick, I’ve decided to plan out some space for self-care. For me, that’s going to look like a daily nap. Every day, I make time for my children, my writing, my clients, my family, and my work. But the one thing I don’t seem to do well is make time for me. I write three to five hours a day. I’m a mother 24 hours a day. I’m thinking a 30-minute cat nap will be reasonable. I’d let you know how it goes, (don’t hold your breath) but I’ll be sleeping. See you in my dreams.