The themes emerge predictably. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we gravitate toward the biggies: get healthy, get organized, get a life. We vow to travel more, read more, save more and volunteer more. We conjure visions of the expansive, to live life to the fullest.
Scan Twitter and you’ll find a multitude of plans:
“In 2018, I will skydive. No exceptions.”
“Put myself out there. Don’t be afraid of making a mistake.”
“No more plastic bags!!”
“I’d like my life to be as on point as my eyebrows in 2018.”
“I resolve to use my cookbooks more often!”
“2018 is the year we say goodbye to my auto loan.”
“I’m just going to leave the past in the past.”
My inspiration sprang from three cracked knuckles on my right hand – the casualty of a biting winter and dry skin. At first, I ignored them. But I nicked them enough that I finally took the time to bandage them. The simple relief that provided gave me pause.
This year, I’m resolving to practice the art of self-care – and to do so within a faith-based framework, as a spiritual exercise. I want to take better care of myself so I can grow more fully into the person God designed me to be.
St. Francis de Sales, the great 16th century bishop and doctor of the church, is guiding my way. He was a prolific writer whose achievement was paved by patience and perspective.
“Be gentle with yourself,” he wrote. “It is unjust to demand something of yourself that is not in you.”
It might sound like the mantra for an anti-resolution, a permission slip to try less, but it contains the seeds for a more loving, creative way, an abundance made possible when you put on your own oxygen mask first.
I’m also entering into conversation with Catholics I admire to deepen my thinking and help my goal stick. I like to hear the details of what self-care looks like in action.
My pastor connects with friends or picks up a good novel. My sister-in-law pours a tall glass of Fairlife chocolate milk.
For my mom, a full-time granny nanny, self-care happens Wednesday evenings, when she joins fellow 60-somethings at a nearby grade school for tap dance class. They dance to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling” – “I got that sunshine in my pocket, got that good soul in my feet” – and for an hour, their movement becomes music, heel to toe, toe to heel.
Wednesdays are when my friend Roxane doubles down on self-care: hitting the treadmill at the YMCA by day and heading to an hour of Adoration by night.
My aunt Jan also combines prayer and exercise, often walking as she prays the Rosary. Reconciliation is another gift she embraces.
“I like to have something on the horizon to look forward to,” she added. Her dream of walking the Camino de Santiago, for instance, requires that she stay fit, ready for the opportunity. “And I like to practice the art of having fun!”
As we settle into 2018, I’m paying attention to the little forms of self-care that renew me: a citrus-scented face scrub that makes me feel squeaky clean, writing thank you notes with a gel pen on cardstock paper, a pretty stamp, a morning prayer, a brisk walk, a hot bath.
I know it is pleasing to God when we care for ourselves, recognizing his great love for each of us and acting on it. It may not be as dramatic as skydiving, but it can be just as profound.
Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn.