Self-care can become a whole new world (cue Aladdin, please) when we think of ourselves in the third person. As in “I’ll bet Naomi would really love it if someone washed this three-week pile-up of dishes here in the sink for her.” Invariably, I’m willing to do an act of loving service for a friend more quickly than for myself. However…what if I’m that person? What would that be like, treating myself as a dear and cherished friend? Someone for whom I would be willing to go out of my way to share a kindness?
This is a crazy idea of a lot of us.
Let’s find out what it could look like.
My friend Naomi is a total bad-ass. At the end of November 2015 she finished walking over seven hundred miles across part of southern France and most of Spain on her NINTH pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. It took her nearly three months. Can you imagine?! She once hiked (with a heavy pack) all day in near-blizzard conditions with sopping cold hands and feet inside a flapping wet ankle-length rain jacket up and down a mountain. And sang Christmas carols while doing it! She’s crawled to the bathroom in the middle of the night multiple times because her feet hurt so badly and then got up in the morning, laced on her boots and carried on. She speaks at least three languages, and four if you count the Italian that she can also sort of manage. Wait. Five. She can also read some Latin. Not to mention that she’s taught high school for eight years. And been a drill sergeant for juvenile delinquent boot camps. The list goes on. What did I tell you? Bad-ass, right? Additionally, she’s kind and funny and generous and a sensational cook. Also very humble.
She’s the real deal.
Despite all this awesomeness, she hasn’t always done the best job of caring for herself so that the awesomeness can continue unabated. That’s where I come in. When she keeps me around, I’m like her handler. Here’s an example from a trip we took to Spain together last fall.
Life on the Camino de Santiago is a bit different from ordinary life. Since there are not public restrooms every 10 feet, that necessity needs to be strategically managed. Caring for my friend can look like making sure she goes pee behind a friendly stand of trees even if the need isn’t urgent because there are many miles to go with little cover and I don’t want her to have to walk and be uncomfortable. It can be stopping again to readjust her pack or tie and retire her hiking shoes just right so that nothing pinches or rubs the wrong way. Since she sometimes gets focused on just gettin’ ‘er done, she can soldier on in the name of efficiency. I have to keep reminding her that each day, each moment is the point of all this walking. No one is giving out prizes for making it to Santiago the fastest. Truly. Sheesh. You’d think she would know this from walking this pilgrimage so many times already. Some of us are slow learners, what can I say?
In that spirit, her last morning in Santiago I gave Naomi the gift of leaving an hour early for the train station in Santiago. It is a 15 minute walk there, tops. I happened to know that her pack was at least 50 pounds from gifts she’s purchased in the past few days and that when Naomi is traveling, she HATES have to run to catch the train or plane and feel anxious and break out a full sweat. However, she doesn’t always manage her mornings in the most efficient fashion. So that day I handled it for her.
On the way to the Santiago train station, I ignored the siren call of cozy bars with gleaming espresso machines off cobbled streets, twinkling Christmas lights and the fragrance fresh bread for the both of us. I walked us slowly, enjoying a last pilgrim amble through town, and promising her that next time visited Santiago we’ll spend a bit more time in one or two of the places that caught her eye.
I got my friend to the train station with half an hour to spare. Enough time to buy her a fresh squeezed OJ, roll up the concert poster I peeled from a wall for her and store it away safely, peacefully visit the bathroom and pack her little backpack with snacks and journal and water bottle for the 5 hour ride to Leon. Get her through luggage screening and up to the platform with 10 minutes to spare. She was so happy and kept thanking me over and over.
Have you ever done this before? Self love in the third person? What was your experience?