So much about self-care focuses on routines. Make time for this, that or the other – plan your mornings, plan your evenings. Sometimes, though … sometimes we just need to step out of that mindset. Leave behind all of our routines and try something new.
Humans, in my opinion, need variation — at least every once in a while. Some may need it more often, but we all need it on occasion. It jump starts our brain when the battery stalls. Makes us appreciate life again. Helps us grow.
Self-care, as wonderful as it is, can start to feel like a rut. I get up at 5, drink my lemon water, do yoga, eat breakfast and take supplements. I go to work, workout on my lunch break, and eat a protein-packed lunch afterwards. I have healthy snacks at certain times and come home to cook myself dinner. Read a little, meditate (although I’ve fallen off the wagon on that one recently), do my skin care routine and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
It’s a decent life. I ain’t going to lie, but this time a year — these claustrophobic, death mimicking winter months can make even a good life feel less than fresh. That’s for sure. My routine lost its freshness right around Christmas and developed a grungy funk by January.
What my soul needed was to shake things up. I tried changing my daily routine, but that didn’t cut it. I needed a shakedown — a de-stagnation of my life force.
Is de-stagnation even a word? I don’t know. I’m making it word because that’s what I needed. I needed to ditch my well manicured self-care routine.
One of the things I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten deeper into self-care is that I need to challenge myself more. Push myself harder when I exercise. Read more. Meditate more. I want to grow. Staying the same isn’t an option any more when you focus on yourself. What I knew was that if I didn’t get out of my routine for a day or two, I was going to start falling off the wagon more.
Lesson 1: Don’t be afraid to take a short break from your self-care routine. Done mindfully, it can actually help keep you on track.
Come January, I was ready to grow. So I did something I’ve never done before. I booked a short little vacation on my own. I used to travel for work alone all the time and thought nothing of it. It was work, I had to do it, so I did. Never, however, did I travel alone for me and I decided it was about damn time I did.
Now a logical person would have booked a trip somewhere warm and tropical, but I decided on New York instead. Go figure. I had been there once for work, but never for pleasure. New York, though, has always held a special place in my heart.
See, when I was a wee child, I wanted to move to New York and be a dancer. When I hit my teen years, I wanted to move to New York and be in a band. Then I was going to attend college in New York. All because, well you know,“New York City is the place where they said ‘Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side.’ ”
Yeah, well I’m not very wild these days — you read my routine. Still, New York is electric. It has that current running through it that other cities don’t have, ya now? It’s sexy and sleek and punk all rolled up into one. Anything could happen there at any given time. It’s an amalgamation of humanity, and that’s what I needed. I needed vibrancy — not peace and quiet.
When I got to the airport, I realized I hadn’t traveled in so long that I had forgotten how to travel. Somehow I got passed TSA without going through TSA and decided I needed to go back. If I could remember how I did that and wrote that little trick down, though, I’m certain I could sell it.
I had also forgotten what it felt like to take off and land in a plane. Most people don’t even acknowledge it, but maybe that’s where some of my mindfulness and presence kicks in. Taking off in one city and landing in another is one of the most exhilarating feelings in the world to me. God I love that feeling. Love it.
Lesson 2: Mindfulness, when practiced regularly, eventually finds its way into your way of being without making an effort.
I had no plan what so ever — there was only one thing on my agenda. I had a ticket to see a singer/songwriter/poet/artist that I like. Until the doors opened for that show, I was going to explore the city. And like every city I visit, I got lost. Completely and utterly lost.
How did I get lost in this world of mobile phone apps that tell us everything? My phone died. Completely and utterly died and my charger was back at the hotel.
I didn’t even know where I was. I walked for 3 hours in 3-inch heels in 30-degree weather.
And it was spectacular.
Everyone’s heard to make lemonade when life gives you lemons. For a few minutes, I’ll admit, I was sucking on that lemon with a puckered face. I was pissed about my phone. I had no idea which direction I was heading. And then I paused. I took a breath and told myself that I was just going to have to talk to people.
Once I relaxed, I got into the groove of it. I stopped and asked several people for directions, which I normally would never do. I got to see several different neighborhoods in the city. I walked right through the middle of some random fashion show on the street. I watched photographers taking photos of trash cans, stopped at falafel stands, and saw that weird steam that blows out from underground that you think only happens in movies. It doesn’t — it actually exists.
I saw old buildings with fire escapes. I adore fire escapes. They’re terribly romantic and nostalgic. They’re part of my ideal vision of New York life. Hot summer nights sitting on the fire escape talking to your neighbors, hearing the city life all around you. That’s part of what I wanted growing up.
I made it over to the Hudson River and walked along the piers — port cities are my favorites. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees out near the water, but I had never loved cold weather so much in my life as I did at the moment. When I hit the end of the pier, I turned and saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time in my life. It caught me by surprise. I didn’t even think about seeing it and had made no plans to see it. But, that’s what New York is all about, ya know? It’s what America is all about, and I’m so glad I saw it.
And yes, I made it to the show. It was out on the piers at night. City lights all around, reflecting on the water. Good music. Good conversation. Good food. It was an intimate venue where you sat with people you didn’t know. The performer was close enough to touch. The view was beautiful. I spoke all evening with a woman who sat at my table, and yet I never caught her name. I even met the artist — you know anything can happen in New York.
The entire trip was magical. It wasn’t just out of my routine, but it was out of my imagination. All those times I thought about moving there, that trip gave me a taste of what I had always imagined. It made those dreams come to life for a very brief moment. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
And you know what, I didn’t exercise once during that trip. Well, if you don’t count the three-hour hike. I ate exactly what I wanted to eat. I went to bed with my makeup on — or maybe not, I can’t really remember that part. But for a couple of days, I completely ditched my entire self-care routine. And now, I’m back at it better than before.
Lesson 3: Make breaking out of your self-care routine part of your routine from time to time if it will help you grow and refocus.
I needed the break as a readjustment. I needed to branch out and do something different just for a day or two. I needed to grow, and in all honesty, helping yourself grow is the best part of self care. It’s the whole point, really. And if you’re someone who absolutely must have a routine, then think of this way. Make getting out of your routine part of your routine from time to time. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Peace and love, y’all.