I just got back from a weekend away camping. It is something my family and some of our closest friends try to do regularly. It is also one way I take care of my spirit.
We had perfect weather. It was warm enough during the day for the kids to play in the water for hours. It was cool enough at night for a fire and there were NO MOSQUITOS. I had long, uninterrupted conversations with friends, and for parents of young children, you know how rare this is. Two and half days with no shower, no make-up, smoke-filled hair, sleeping in a sleeping bag, eating hot dogs and s’mores, and feeling so very free.
This experience had me reflecting on the nature of self-care and what is truly renewing to one’s spirit. Of course this will vary from person to person, but I can’t help but find some consistent themes.
1. Remove the masks. Take off the make-up. Don’t update Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or any other social media site. Wear the hideous but most comfortable shorts your love. This is not so much about how others see you but consciously seeing yourself as you truly are. It is about lifting the constraints of expectations to allow your warts to show, to expose the pimple, to be the “untouched” picture of yourself rather than edited version you wish others to see. This untouched picture will also show the beautiful laugh lines, the way your eyes light up when you smile, and the way your body feels when you relax your shoulders. In removing the mask, we expose particularities that make me, me and make you, you.
2. Get with your people. Spend time with the people you choose. We all have people in our lives who suck the life out of us but for various, often good reasons, we remain in relationship with them. This is NOT who I am referring to. Spend time with people who remind you of who you are and make you laugh. Allow your people to learn the nuances of your particularities.
3. Bask in the light. I need to spend time outdoors in the natural sunlight, feeling the breeze on my skin, the sun’s warmth on my face. Permit the sun to show you the beauty of sun-kissed cheeks, the intricacy of a spider web, the grace of a monarch butterfly, the vivid orange of a mushroom growing on a dead tree, new life rising out of death. There is a lesson there somewhere.
4. PLAY! So many of us are in roles that place us in very serious situations. Many of us are surrounded by the weight of grief, addiction, and toxic relationships. Some of us have personalities that lend themselves more toward seriousness or rigidity. That brings us to the crucial role of play. Play is a spiritual discipline. Play begs us to put down our list of priorities, put down our “should”s or “must”s. Play begs us to experience the weightlessness of silliness and the warmth of pleasure. Play begs us to pick up the stick on the ground and lose yourself in a sword fight with your daughter. Play begs us to throw reason out the window and succumb to your son’s request to swim with your clothes on.
5. Sit in the dark. After the kids went to bed the adults gathered around the fire pit and we sat in silence looking up at the stars. As we sat there, we allowed the darkness and silence to permeate us. I felt the itch that can come with silence and I took a deep breath to acknowledge the itch but sit through it. The vast sky enveloped me and helped me take my rightful place in the universe.
In all these things, I allowed myself to be porous. I removed the protective gear and let God, through creation, restore me. May you take time to be renewed.
Kasey McCollum is a hospital chaplain in Denton, TX. She is particularly focused on grief support for families experiencing perinatal and newborn death. She is a contributor to the newly released book “Finding Their Voices: Sermons by Women in the Churches of Christ” by D’Esta Love. She loves to cook but loathes doing the dishes. When she isn’t working or playing with her children you will likely find her doing hot yoga or by the campfire with friends. She lives in Denton, TX, with her husband Casey (yes, you read that correctly) and their two children, Clare and Micah.