First thoughts on
It’s Okay to Start with You
written by Julia Hogan,
published by Our Sunday Visitor
Previously published at the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch
There were actions that sustained me in the hard times. Eat fewer chicken strips, order the apple and peanut butter on the hospital tray. Walk far and wide, as much as possible while the baby slept. Binge-watch less. Read more. Drink water. Talk. Learn a new medical word. Wear make-up and earrings. Buy comfortable shoes.
I got so good at self-care because the alternative was a pit of despair. Everyone around me encouraged self-care. Everyone around me excused it. Since I was no longer functioning bedside it would be okay to leave. Since I couldn’t pass a day without crying before I slept away from the hospital, it was clear that away was better.
Self-care worked. It got me through. It made some memories.
Between the counselors, child-life specialists, doctors and degrees in psychology, the concept of self-care was a regular one, nothing extravagant, simply the practical application of the advice “take care of yourself.”
The internet presents a different picture. Spas, pedicures, rosé, a weekend away with the girls, a man cave, cigars, chocolate and a Netflix binge. “You do you,” they say in the modern mincing of words.
Is it any wonder those citizens of our earth who are practical, feet on the ground, knuckles white from hard times, who feel the solution is to work through your problems instead of indulging your fantasies, find this approach saccharine, distasteful and a down-right waste of time? Or that those noble souls whose off-time from work or retirement-time or time-away-from-the kids-time is spent helping others, dishing up potluck for a weekly church dinner, weeding at the Arboretum, making sandwiches for the hungry, might look at such a concept, shake their heads and say “we are meant for more than this.” They turn and teach their little ones, “love thy neighbor.”
Enter a new book, It’s Okay to Start with You, written by author and therapist, Julia Hogan. The title tells you her premise. It is okay. She will spend the next 125 pages explaining why that is.
Hogan teaches self-care is a discipline, rather than an indulgence, that takes effort, is learned in small steps, a habit gradually built up that revitalizes us, supporting us when crisis hits and sustains us when we are just trying to do the thing of living.
We might have learned these things indirectly in another time and place. But in our complex, fragmented society, we are spinning in circles between tasks that do not easily overlap. This balance is difficult to maintain without boosting our personal, not just physical, immune system.
It sounds simple at first. Then Hogan astutely addresses the obstacles that arise when we try to put it into practice. Lack of time, know-how, mixed-up priorities make it hard. What makes it even harder? When we do not see the point…because we aren’t worth it.
It is not just that Person A is putting others before him. It is that, rather, he does not see himself as worth the time of day. The mind gets unsatisfied and either will flit from one task to another without commitment or over-extends himself. The heart seeks affirmation by trying to prove worth either in relationships or work against an inner critic shouting thoughts of worthlessness. Or the body gives up, lazy, tired, listless and stops trying altogether, because why try if he will fail?
After Part I of It’s Okay to Start with You, I chewed on the concepts finding myself referring to it again and again in conversation with others. After Part II, I got to work.
Hogan’s writing is accessible, yet rich and full of ideas at the same time. Self-help books can vary between the overly-affirming, fluffy styles that make psychologists roll their eyes at the bad science and jumpy conclusions, to the erudite academic literature that no lay person actually wants to read. Hogan’s work stands somewhere above the rest presenting common problems and intelligent solutions on a firm foundation.
In less than 150 pages, I feel like it has the lessons of a lifetime.
For more resources on self-care visit www.JuliaMarieHogan.com