I just finished reading Pax: Journey Home (by Sara Pennypacker) and it was such a beautiful story, and such a lovely time for me to finish reading it since it deals with themes of death and loss (and today is the five-year anniversary of Karen's death) and also of the importance of being true to yourself.
I'll try to not give away too much of the story (if you read it, read plain ol' Pax first (the first book)), but essentially what Peter tells himself he needs is...not what Peter needs. I think that is so interesting—that a person can be adamant about what they want, about what they need, and that...that thing that they want can be detrimental to themselves and others. Part of Peter's journey was truly figuring out what he needed out of life, who he needed in his life, what to do with his life.
The ending of the book was very touching (it's been a while since a book has made me choke up), but I especially appreciated this line from one of the Peter chapters, after he decides on a course opposite of how his father advised him to deal with the very situation he found himself in. He says (or, rather, the narrator says):
"Maybe [this thing] would have been the right thing for his father to do, but it wasn't the right thing for him.... If that was a disappointment to his father, or to anyone, well, it didn't matter. It was his life, and he had to live it" (p. 227–228).
Instead, Peter ends up doing "the right thing for him" (p. 235), which is ultimately the most important thing to do in your life—the right thing. The right thing is rarely the selfish thing. Peter tried being selfish, he tried looking out only for himself...and that wasn't it. That wasn't right for him. In order to be truly happy, Peter had to...care about others and be cared for in return. And I only share that part because I was expecting that to be the case from the very beginning (and it was the case, thank goodness, but how Peter got there was beautiful).
Miriam is taking psychology this semester and she came to me gushing about self-care. She was so excited about what she was learning because for once the idea of self-care made sense to her. She'd only heard it used in the context of selfishness, of doing what one wants to do at the expense of their responsibilities. She'd heard of Disneyland as self-care, a manicure as self-care, eating a gallon of ice cream...self-care.
"But that's not what self-care is!" she told me. "Self-care is...actually taking care of yourself! It's listening to your body's needs and responding to those needs so that you stay healthy—it's eating right, and drinking enough water. It's getting enough sleep and going for a walk and practicing breathing exercises. It's visiting with a friend and keeping a journal of happy thoughts. It might be treating yourself to something or taking a vacation so you can truly relax, but it's mostly just...taking good care of yourself."
I was so glad she was hearing this from someone other than me (not that I'm not a good source for information but, you know, sometimes it helps to have someone other than your mom tell you something because moms can be so cringe sometimes). I was also glad to hear this information from her because hearing the word self-care used as a guise for selfish, irresponsible—and even harmful—behaviour has really rankled me recently.
We recently finished reading Hamlet and we all got a kick out of Polonius. He's a humorous, somewhat-flighty (but also calculating and manipulative) old man. His speeches are...wonderfully hilarious. In Act 1, Scene III, he offers an onslaught of advice to Laertes before Laertes leaves for school. This good, though superfluous advice, includes the famous line, "This above all: to thine own self be true."
Laertes suffers the death of his father, and the death of his sister, and the unworthy King Claudius convinces Laertes that Hamlet is to blame, and really kind of stirs him into seeking blood for revenge (I feel). Hamlet is a tragedy, of course, so Laertes only realizes that the king was to blame for all the earlier...tragedies...after he's already dealt a death blow to Hamlet, as he's in the process of dying himself. In the end I think he wishes he had been true to himself, and not allowed himself to become so wrapped up in the plan the king was concocting.
Surely Laertes had every right to be upset with Hamlet...but I don't know that things would have gone the way they had if the king had not been involved. Perhaps he would have instead chosen to...bury his weapons of war (that's from Alma 34, but also kind of a message wrapped up in Pax) instead of seeking fatal vengeance on Hamlet.
Because clearly that was not self-care for Laertes.
Anyway, Grandpa brought doughnuts over this afternoon because my kids believe with 100% of their hearts that today is Donut Day.
We looked up idioms about resilience (because Miriam misspoke an idiom at the dinner table last night and Rachel gawked at her and said, "Tell me every saying you know..." which turned into a rather hilarious evening for everyone). The kids chose one to write about (every cloud has a silver lining, keep on keeping on, and...things like that), then they had to make a list of everything they've accomplished (or enjoyed) in the past five years. Then we talked about how Grandma's death was hard, but that a single difficult moment doesn't define who they are. There are more hard times ahead, and those hard times will feel hard. But then...what?
Then you keep on keeping on. You achieve great things because...you must (because it's self-care).
And finally they made a list of what things they look forward to accomplishing in the next five years.
It will always be sad that Grandma isn't with us. The memories of losing her are hard. But we're here, we're keeping on, we're good.