It’s that time again. The life cycle of the student has again come to the point in the semester when everyone would rather join the circus than face finals, when we curse those classes that looked so promising in the course listing. One day soon, we will take daily showers, put away that mountain of clean laundry, and vanquish the layer of bacteria taunting us from the tub. Sleep will come again. The paper writing muse that sleeps during the day and comes alive at night will be long gone.
It is a cruel reality that the very place you first learn the meaning of self-care is the exact time and place where you are least poised to practice it. There is no crisis like bargaining with yourself for sleep to highlight the importance of developing balance. But when else am I supposed to write these papers or study for these tests?
What does all this mean when we get out into the real world? If we do not work through this stuff now, will we be doomed to repeat unhealthy patterns ad infinitum? While the end of the semester often leaves everyone a bit crispy, I do think we need to reexamine what we think of as unhealthy and how we define self-care. Some stress is good. It provides an impetus to get things done. It’s like pain. Few people seek out pain, but when we feel it we know that something is happening and probably needs to change. Appropriate self-care does not always mean removing ourselves from the fray of life or numbing ourselves to the things that bother us. Sometimes, things affect us so deeply that we simply have to respond. We also have to decide how far we will take it and where the limits of our involvement are. That is also self-care. Sometimes we have to spend a little time marinating over things. Turning things over until we have synthesized them. This is another form of self-care. When I cannot be anywhere else doing anything else, then I know I am giving myself what I need. Although divinity school tests my stamina and commitment, it is exactly where I belong doing work that needs to be done.