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On the morning of my 43rd birthday at 5:30 sharp, I was awoken by my dog throwing up. Great start!

After clean-up, I climbed back into my bed and thought about what it might look like if I tried this year to be as kind to myself as I try to be to everyone else. What a thought!

I started by telling myself happy birthday and considering how to make that sentiment more likely to come true. I thanked God for the incredible weather, that my kids would be home, and that I would have meaningful time sorting groceries with at least one of my favorite people at the food pantry.

Then I did something that I have been doing for many mornings past. As I slowly stretched my very functional muscles, I noted that, sure enough, the insulation that softly cushions all those muscles was still there. That was more clearly confirmed by a glance in the mirror on my way to the shower.

But this birthday morning, I stopped and did something new. I looked squarely at my uncovered form in the mirror and thanked God for making the female form to begin with. It is one of the lovelier things in creation after all.

Then I laid out a comfy tunic to wear to church that would not completely hide the fact that I have added some curves of my own to God’s original design. Actually, maybe this is God’s original design and it’s our culture that has been photoshopping away those extra curves. Regardless, I told myself, “This is who I am at this moment. I am not who I was. I am not whoever I will be. And this moment is good!”

I put maple syrup in my coffee because it makes me happy and black coffee does not, and I did not record the calories in My Fitness Pal. I thought of the care I put into feeding my family and of how I try to respect their time and wondered how I might do the same for me. I know and have known for a long time that my inability to care fully for myself is a great detriment to them as well as me.

But time is tricky. It presents actual limits, and it does not offer us a pause button. Deep caring for me takes considerable time and space because time and space are my primary needs! I need adequate sleep, oceanside walks (haven’t had one since last summer), time to write, time to think about what I write, time to listen carefully to music, naps following nights when I’m awoken to write at 4 a.m., lots of quiet, time to exercise, time to prepare real food to eat, time for authentic conversations. So, when in the heck am I supposed to vacuum the house and bathe my dogs? Anyone? And when I do not vacuum the house or bathe the dogs, I feel like I do right now – typing with my eyes wandering once a minute to the fluffy little ball of dog hair at my feet.

The time management “solutions” I have encountered recently were in creative self-help books written by men. And, no offense, but these particular men seem to be easily afforded blocks of 8 hours a day to do their work with no concern for children, animals, laundry, meal preparation, or potential phone calls from the school nurse. They can be “ruthless” with their time and their personal worlds still magically operate – either because they are unattached or their good fairy wife is behind them quietly juggling all the balls leaving them blissfully undisturbed. I’m sure these talented fellows would have plenty to say about my oversimplification of their existence, but I do not find some of their methods very applicable in this stage of life.

So you see that this writing exercise has solved little. I still don’t know how to completely care for myself the way I care for others. But I can begin to change my internal dialog. And if the rooms in my house are never all clean at the same time, or if I never get a chance to record in a studio or write a book, or if I am never “bikini ready” like the magazines all scream at me every May, at least the words I speak to myself will be kind. That kindness is with me no matter what comes my way.