When was the last time you bought yourself flowers? Maybe your housemate/husband/girlfriend/wife/kid/best friend buys you flowers but perhaps there are other desires/needs you have that aren’t readily met by the people close to you. Just because your loved ones don’t buy you flowers (insert whatever need/desire), doesn’t mean you can’t have them. You can do it for yourself.
I came across this novel idea when encountering a good friend who’d just bought herself flowers for Shabbat. “My husband’s not gonna get them. I’m getting them for myself,” she remarked with a cheeky sparkle. Appreciation of yourself becomes necessary when your ‘supporters’ don’t support you the way you’d like to be supported. In modern marketing language; “You deserve it,”. This is true, not because you need to buy the product they’re selling, but because you’re a hard working (whether paid or unpaid) person who gives without an expectation of return. And a little appreciation goes a long way.
Those flowers my friend bought increased beauty in her home. They also reminded her that she wanted to create more beauty around her and was nurturing herself and her physical environment. I encourage you to make a list of your needs and desires, either today or in life in general. This is a worthy undertaking. Identify your unknown needs as a step towards fulfilling them. Our lives are enriched by knowing and meeting these needs and desires. I ‘need’ to eat but I ‘desire’ it to be organic, raw, vegetarian, nutritious, delicious and kosher for example. In our society, ‘needs’ are given a lot of space, but ‘desires’ are frowned upon as a luxury. Our religion makes space for us to have desires. We are encouraged to channel them in legal, ethical ways but not to abandon our desires. I wonder if we could look at our desires as extensions of our needs, a way to ‘hiddur’ or ‘beautify’ our needs the way that we could a mitzvah (good deed).
Some of our needs might need a reality check. In the current climate, we may desire to know whether our jobs will be safe, whether we will be healthy, whether we can trust our authorities. But our need for upmost security may not be attainable. Yet, we can be open to new employment, do our best to be healthy and put our faith in those we believe in. We can move toward meeting our needs. My daily ‘to do checklist’ is pretty massive. Some of the items include: stretch, meditate, pray, washing (clothing and body!) exercise, emails, make, eat and clean up food, having a social encounter, swap some time with a co-counselor, get kids through much or these activities, do paid work and more . . . Some days, meeting my needs in all these areas means that my ideal 30 minute stretch session is a 5 minute one and a ‘social encounter’ is a mini phone catch up with a friend whilst driving to the supermarket. (My newest, favourite strategy is to have a warm drink and not do anything else at the same time)
We may look for compliments from others – though those of us who are mothers know that most of our ‘best work’ goes unseen and unappreciated. But I have taken on a habit of patting myself on the back and not relying on others to tell me I have done well. What else do we look to from others? Support. It comes in all shapes and sizes: a foot rub (a machine can do that), a smile (look in the mirror) a ready made meal (love Uber Eats/Deliveroo), a conversation (talking to yourself is a fun thing to do!), reassurance (tell yourself you’re ok) and so many other examples that we may have ‘outsourced’ in the past but can give to ourselves.
There are some desires and needs that our hard to meet on our own including being held. (Though giving yourself a hug does go half way to this end, or tag-teaming with someone to take over the kid shift.) What recent times have shown us even more strongly, is that we need and rely on each other. But we also need and can rely on ourselves. I’m in the business of people connecting together. But in Spiritual Care, the chaplain works as a witness to the patient/client befriending themselves and drawing on their own inner resources.
If your inner resources are lacking, it’s time to get to the mental, emotional and intellectual gym. You can ask yourself: what do I need to do to care for myself? For example, if one of you need compliments, pretend to be an outsider and say what they might say about you. If you desire touch, take a hand or foot massage class. If you need to veg out , you can ‘parent’ yourself and learn to give myself a break.
We are fortunate to be close to people and to have professional services to help us meet our needs. Add yourself to the list of resources from which needs and desires are met. Take the pressure of those who lives with you. Add capacity, not pressure to yourselves. So whether your desire is for flowers this Shabbat, a new dress, a reassuring touch or a night off, give it to yourself, let your partner off the hook and grow in your self-love.