I realized something important about myself tonight–and I do mean really important. I already knew about it, I mean I had knowledge of it but I really didn’t “get it” until tonight. I was struggling with that theoretical chasm between the human head and that place in your gut where you really understand something. The realization is something quite simple: I am doing a p!$$-poor job of self-care. Really poor. What’s is perhaps more important is the event in which I came to understand how pervasive this is in my life.

Let me paint a little portrait of my self-neglect, starting with my physical environment: There is a small wire basket hanging from my bedroom wall just inside my door, I use it as my “inbox” for mail and other items. It is typically full but right now weeks-old mail, most with the seal firmly intact, is spilling from every angle of this basket. It’s an eyesore and more. I lost sixty pounds–then I gained five back over the holidays (cheese, and chocolate and pie, oh my) and my workouts have gone from daily to 2-3 times per week, never mind the physical benefits though, I process the events of my life best during workouts. I am an auditory-kinesthetic learner and my workouts are part of what keeps me sane. Most days of the week my hair hangs in ragged waves (even more than usual), some of which spring forth erratically and uneven around my ever-present sunglass headband. When I actually do catch a glance of myself in the mirror–usually during a mid-morning restroom break, and the first time of the day I’ve stopped to examine myself– I find that I resemble and owl with some sort of neurological disorder. My only action is to straighten the sunglasses. The rest of the week my hair up in a half bun-ponytail complex that has become my go-to look for ‘presentable.’ The messy-sexy look isn’t so hot when you’re actually exhausted. In any case, I now have a semi-weekly ritual of de-matting my hair that involves pulling or cutting out curls-gone-rasta, some of which I am afraid I might need to start feeding, watering and housing. I do brush my teeth twice a day and I floss most days of the week, however even this has suffered: there is a two minute timer on my toothbrush that hasn’t been heard in weeks. Sometime soon the uni-brow will be complete. The list goes on…

What is amazing is that none of these things, even though I’ve been painfully aware of them for weeks, was enough to wake me wake up to the reality. Sigh. Some might think the event that turned my deepest soul on to the truth is a bit vain, but I suspect most people, especially women, will understand why.

This very evening I was relaxing as best as I could in a hot bath. Low, warm light gently filled the bathroom and the hot water, infused with Dead Sea mineral salts, penetrated my tired muscles and wrapped my joints in relief. Boughs of lavender-scented mist wafted around me and saturated my soul with a comforting sense of peace and slowness. I have become thinner and so I took the time to feel the luxury of extra room in the tub. Bending my knees to my chest to stretch my back, I then slowly set my feet on the tile wall just above the tub. I think I saw it before I believed it–the same way someone might see a pink giraffe on their lawn from the window and pass by, returning to the window seconds later when the mind had caught up with itself. I stared at my legs, then stared harder. A kind of horror began to creep over me as my weary mind strained at trying to remember. “Um…when.” “When was the last time? When, Jessica?!?” My brow furrowed. “Christmas? Christmas! No. Yes.” Christmas–December 25th–my morning shower before getting dressed and fed and to the airport to come back to SoCAl was the last time I could remember shaving my legs. I remember intending on shaving them, but then remembered that I traded shaving time for extra sleep or a hot breakfast. Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know for sure.

I felt my jaw slack and my eyes narrow as I glanced up and down my legs. But were they really my legs?!? What lay before me was most reminiscent of a prettied-up ape. A female lowland gorilla with Christmas-red toenails, polish chipped from daily life in the jungle. Yes, that was it, some evil scientist had snuck in at night and conducted a sinister experiment. Somewhere in the world in a tall female gorilla with amazing legs and a beautiful pedicure…and I have her legs!

No. They were really my legs. I looked wistfully at the hairy poles that were my legs, at my sand-paper feet with a month-old pedicure at their very tips, and I wished they were pretty. ‘Oh well, you know about it now, so shave them.’ I wondered to myself as I dragged the razor against my legs–felling the hairs more than shaving them–‘how did I let it go this long?’ The knowledge of my lack of self care grew then: I am always on that edge, never really having much margin into good, sufficient self-care, and I suffer for it. The second my life gets even a little chaotic my body and my well-being suffer. This, friends, is NOT abundant life. I am not saying that a weekly pedicure is what God wants for me, but I know that taking care of myself in a way that makes me feel confident and promotes my health is.

As I ran my hands along my newly-smoothed legs I felt sane and feminine. I love the way my legs feel when they are newly shaved, and I didn’t have memory of that for over a week. I smiled and felt a little proud of myself. Then it really hit me: “I am more than this and I want more for my life than this.” That’s what that little voice inside of me said. Let’s see how long it takes for that to make the journey across the mind-gut chasm. Hopefully the last lesson paved a good trail…

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