Being my own babysitter

I’ve been a part-time babysitter off and on for nearly 20 years. As I ramp up towards opening my own business, I am picking up extra working hours here and there in order to have more startup capital as well as a bigger cushion once the bookstore is my main gig.

For that reason, among others, I’ve spent the last couple of months nannying a wee tiny baby. After feeding him his late-morning bottle, the only remedy for a crying jag, it at last dawned on me that I could learn a few lessons from him.

The baby’s instincts help him make sure the adults in his life take care of him. He cries when he’s hungry, whimpers and yawns when he’s ready to crash, and squirms when his diaper is in sore need of changing. He’s not able to meet his own needs, but he does a damned good job of making sure the rest of us do.

Which brings me to this: I need to get better at being my own babysitter, of taking care of m listening to my body. For years and years, I’ve plowed through lunch hour for any number of reasons. Maybe I’m hanging out with friends, maybe I’m working like a maniac and don’t want to interrupt myself. Mostly I just forget to eat. As a borderline-underweight migraineur, this is far from a healthy pattern, especially since skipping meals is one of my triggers (as is the case for many of us). Throughout school, I always chose ten extra minutes of sleep over packing a lunch and eating breakfast. Many days I’d devour a couple of Pop Tarts in the car on the way to school and not eat anything substantive until my 4 PM lunch. Having been too lazy (or tired, or both) to pack a lunch and refusing to eat the school cafeteria food meant 8 hours of waning hunger and energy during the day. No wonder I had to take a migraine-induced nap most days after school.

One would think that, at age 30, I’d have shucked this unhealthy meal-skipping habit, but that’s not the case. I realize too late that I’m hungry and often end up skipping meals or whipping together something far from healthy. On the flip side, I am constantly amazed at how great I feel when our fridge and cupboards are well-stocked and I eat three or more meals a day. I’ve often told Jim (my partner of several years), “Wow! Food is like fuel!” Understandably, he looks at me strangely—this is what happens when a thirty-year-old finally believes what her third grade health textbook said.

Through mindfulness practice, I’ve become far more in tune with my body; this translates into a healthier relationship with my migraine disease and other illnesses as well as a better barometer to judge how I need to take care of myself at any given moment. But I’m still not great at listening for my own cries, whimpers, and yawns. By watching this little baby each week, I humbly try to follow his lead and let myself and others know when I need to be taken care of.

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