Dilating my heart

optometry deviceThe “Self Care September” campaign is prompting me to personally look at self-care more seriously, including care for body, mind and spirit.

What started as simple preventative care for my eyes this morning opened up something new entirely for me.  To say I went for my annual exam would be a stretch, hearing the doctor note that it had actually been almost two years.  Rather than judging myself, I decided to do a little self-coaching. I noticed my inner critic jumping in to berate me for allowing it to go so long between appointments and point a finger at me who “should know better.”

Instead of allowing the inner critic to hold the mic, I got curious. I asked myself what not keeping up with preventative appointments is really about. On the surface, it seems that there’s always an excuse of something that is more important or maybe it’s just forgetfulness. Life’s busy, right? Other things get in the way. It’s easy for me to excuse away both the task of booking these appointments, and the reason why I let them slip for so long. I’d keep chewing on it.

Then he dilated my eyes so that he could get a better look at the inner workings of my eye and to check for any signs of degenerative issues. I left the appointment being able to see distances clearer with my shiny new contact lenses, but my near-sight was completely blurry, a temporary condition due to the dilation.

A parallel began to emerge in my periphery. Oftentimes, we are too close to something to see it clearly. We can be so wrapped up in a decision to make that we either cannot see all the options available or we just cannot see what is best. A behavior can be so second-nature that we don’t even notice it anymore. A belief can be so deep-seated that don’t even realize it is impacting our point of view. A value that we have can sometimes get twisted and used against us by our own saboteur. By listening and asking questions, a coach helps us take a step back, points out things that we may not notice ourselves and holds us accountable to the learning that supports our big picture goal or vision.

When I paused to reflect on my reluctance to book my preventative care appointments, I explored what else was there for me. I realized that I have some fear about what will be discovered by medical professionals and how those discoveries will impact my kids. So in a warped way, I have been trying to protect myself and my family from the unknown ailments I may or may not have. Not behavior I want to model for my children! Getting clear on how my value of protection has been subconsciously and illogically getting in my own way, I am more likely to recognize it when it comes up in the future and pay attention to what matters to me – in this case, taking care of myself is good for both me and my family.

That’s what having a coach has done for me. It has taught me to look closer at the big pieces and even the small, seemingly mundane pieces that make up my daily life. It opens up space to get to the heart of a matter, to look at, question and then make choices that serve my most authentic self in living my most enjoyable life.

What started as a routine eye check-up, ended up as an opportunity for some introspection and a chance to practice other aspects of self-care: redirecting negative self-talk, bringing clarity to something that has been under the surface since I became a mother, recognizing a self-defeating behavior, and bringing awareness to future chances to make better choices. Do I know today that I will from this point on be “Johnny-on-the-spot” with making check-up appointments? No. What I do know now with this awareness, when I am sent various text message and email reminders, I will be more likely to take action right away. When I am asked at the end of an appointment whether I’d like to go ahead and book the next one, I will. (Another value of mine is flexibility…that one got in my way here!)

So much is possible when we widen the lens. Next time you are stuck on something, try taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. Ask what is really important to you, and notice what you see in your periphery.

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