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I Never Thought of Myself as a Car Before

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“Be sure to take care of yourself”  “You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of you first” “Treat yourself” “Be gentle with you”. 
Right. Sure. The nebulous “self”. And where on the list of concrete requirements does that go? And how does a person do that with the way that life is these days?  Well, my life at least. And I’m hard pressed to think that my life is much different than anyone else’s life; at least my age group.

Without complaining, simply taking a quick inventory, the list of day to day things that require my complete attention goes something like this: 
Technology in everyday life enables us to immediately respond to; check on; look up; update; schedule; scan and manage everyone and everything. Since whatever it is knows this level of attention is possible, the ‘everyone’s expect to be the top priority.
Recently my parents have starting to depend on me more and more. Their needs are higher priority and more time consuming than that of ‘everyone’ and there is no downloading an ‘app’ to manage their needs in real time. They are more vocal with their feedback and their needs are more time sensitive than those of ‘everyone’s, though the latter don’t often care.

Children. I’ve got nothing more to add that people don’t already know about. Parenting is yeoman’s work. If there is any such possibly that there is an advantage caring for children vs. adults, it is this. Children have never been entirely independent or have had any idea beyond gaining control. Aging adults are harder in the respect that they know exactly how freedom feels and have already experienced independence. They are acutely aware when control is being taken away from them and they’ve had a lifetime to fear it. 
Where I live is no larger than that of the average person, possibly smaller and it still requires a lot of attention. Unless I accept living in dust-bunnies, soap scum, dirty dishes and disposable clothes I have to clean my surroundings.
Keeping up with current events
Doctor’s appointments
Monitoring food choices
Correspondence – devolved entirely to email
So, take care of myself, how and when?
Lack of time aside, how do I change gears and look at myself as anything other than the person who desperately needs an escape? Isn’t that me taking care of myself? Isn’t the decompression; the sleep; the nourishment (even if it IS to-go carbs.), basically taking care of myself? Isn’t appropriating down time focusing on me enough? 
Sounds good to me. Maybe throw in a couple walks and some entertaining reading before bed and yes, that’s probably what I’d tell a friend to do. For heaven’s sake, the list above is all about performing for others, what else is there for ‘self’ to do but go on autopilot when it can.

I guess not or I wouldn’t be creaking and crunching, have a muffin top and bouts of anxiety.
So, self. How do I define ‘self’? That’s a hard concept. What is “yourself”? What does it mean to “Take care of yourself”?
Your self or my self? Is that the self that belongs to you? Is it you as a commodity? Or is self your ‘soul’, ‘the sum of all of your experiences’, or is it even ‘you’ or ‘me’ as a whole being?
I’ll go with self as a thing. The thing that carries that ‘sum of all of my experiences’; ‘soul’ thing around.  Not the ‘inside’ but rather the ‘outside’. Self as a shell or maybe, for example, a car? Ok.
Can I take care of a car? Yes, that, I can do. It has specific requirements that I must take care of for it to last a long time. Aha! I probably financed the car and need it to last beyond the duration of the loan. 
Self. Specific requirements too; and, I’m not sure how long this life is going to be but I need the shell to be up to the job no matter how long.
Car. In order to last it needs the fundamentals: good gas; oil; belts; tires; permits and places to park.
Self. In order for ‘self’ to last in the best shape for the longest time, it needs similar input: healthy food; water; exercise; hygiene and rest.
So if ‘self’ is a possession, a prized and important possession, why isn’t the hibernation-carb-loading-couch surfing “escape” mentioned earlier the best choice for maintenance? A gentle, relaxed, hiatus from wear and tear feeds the soul, doesn’t it? I suppose if my ‘self’ was the car, an occasional escape to the garage might be good but not for too long on the lift. It makes sense that working parts of ‘self’ and car both need to move regularly or they start to rust and grind and eventually need replacing. I suppose people who have had knees or hips done will council me that keeping those parts maintained helps add to mileage.
So is ‘self’ now one more thing to put on the list again? Is it still the first thing to become the last thing addressed? How does changing the idea of self from person to possession make any difference if attention and action is still an obligation? Thinking about it, ‘self’ as something external gives it more weight on the ‘to do’ list. It’s harder to blow off when I think of taking care of some thing. Things have a span of time that they need to have maintenance performed. When I put self at the bottom of the list I choose to reprioritize because I think I can always make up that personal attention because I have access to myself all the time. So yes my list did get longer, but easier to manage.
Some people simply don’t need a paradigm shift. They find it easier, or have made ‘self’ a fixed priority in their lives. Those are the people who already maintain their ‘self’. But, for those of us who have had a hard time ‘carving out time for self’ or ‘putting self first’, maybe looking at ‘self’ as a structured and necessary possession, requiring scheduled maintenance, will be more difficult to take our ‘self’ off of our list completely.
It’s a use it or lose it ‘self’, and who wants to drive one that’s a jalopy at any stage of the race.


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