Failing Forward and the Other Side of Self Care

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Ciao a tutti, it’s Tuesday and I’m trying to get this quick blog out the door before I hit the ground running. The ‘new girl’ honeymoon is officially over and I have wall to wall meetings all day. I’m not complaining. Busy days are fast days. I’ll take it.

Before I get going on self-care, I kind of want to do a carry over from yesterday’s blog about self worth because I had a really great conversation with Louis I want to share with you guys.

I was updating him on all things Chicago, and we were talking about those people in our lives who frustrate us with their perpetual victimhood while never actually doing anything other than complaining about their circumstances or criticizing other people. Louis and I are, ‘humble yourself and fail forward’ kind of people. Put on an apron and work, because you never know who you’re going to meet scrubbing toilets. We met each other schlepping French food and bartending. We never thought we’d meet our best friend hating our lives between ‘real’ jobs. I tripped and fell into another career answering an ad for a part-time job because I had kids to feed. Just yesterday, HuffPo reached out to me for an interview based on some random snarky tweet I posted a month ago.

My point is, you can’t get married to your preconceived notions of what you think something is. Life is a numbers game of effort and luck. So you fall on hard times, have three degrees, but the only job available is at the grocery store. Don’t get bogged down in what people think, or how far you perceive you’ve fallen. Focus on what doors this can open for you. You never know who you will meet or what natural skills you will unlock along the way. My day job is a culmination of grinding for non-profits, writing articles for a nickel a hit, and answering an ad to run the social media and host events for a hair salon part-time.

Never turn down an opportunity. Let people think what they want to think. Your response to someone preoccupied with your life when they don’t pay your bills or have a key to your house should be, “Aren’t you busy?” You can then follow it up with my favorite, “Get a job and suck a dick. Because if you’re doing enough of that, you don’t have time for anything else.” But, then again, I’m the worst, so maybe not the best example.

Wait! I take that back. Someone called me, “personable” yesterday. Then everyone died laughing.

Anyway! I turn 40 next week. Can you believe it? As is customary during this time of year, I always talk about the importance of the other side of self care; your health. Self care isn’t all journaling, bubble baths, and manicures. Self care is also making sure you’re looking at your health and keeping up on preventative care.

Every birthday and half-birthday, I do the rounds for my health. Dental checkup, full physical, gyno exam/mammogram, fitness assessment, and dermatology. I also do an annual review with my mental health practitioners to make sure we’re all on the same page and everything is still effective.

Now, I have preexisting conditions like thyroid disease and uterine cancer, as well as inherited risk factors for other things that make these checkups important, but I want to stress that these conditions were caught early BECAUSE I’m a nut about annual exams. My thyroid disease was caught at 22 during my physical. My uterine cancer was caught during my routine pelvic exam. I was completely asymptomatic. I just thought I was tired from life.

I am so preachy about this, because while I know healthcare is a disaster in this country, and ridiculously expensive even if you have coverage, there ARE resources out there for you to keep up on this stuff if you’re patient and plan ahead. You can get your dental exams and cleanings at a dental school. Gynecological health care can come from Planned Parenthood. There are state and county health care resources available if you’re patient and willing to navigate the system. As frustrating as it is? GO.

It always amazes me how people shrug off preventative health care as being too expensive, but don’t even bat an eyelash at blowing $300 on crap at Homegoods. That ugly Michael Kors purse you have to have that will soon be collecting dust in your closet would pay for your dental cleaning and exam WITHOUT insurance.

I don’t know… teeth or a purse?

All of the other popular self care things out there are great, and very necessary for a balanced life. I do a bubble bath, tea, and journaling every night. But a bath bomb isn’t going to cure cancer or high blood pressure.

So the next time you’re justifying a Target binge by saying, ‘self care!’ check in with yourself and make sure you’ve covered ALL of the bases. The best thing you can do for yourself is to put your health first. If it seems scary because you haven’t been to the dentist in ten years and you think you’re going to get yelled at?

You won’t. Most people put things off and they will appreciate you having the courage to take charge of your life.

Today, make a list of the last time you’ve made your health a priority and make an action plan to take charge of it today. It’s the best kind of self care and you’re worth it.

Hasta la pasta, homies.


Jennifer Gulbrandsen