07 July 2006

Self-indulgent? self-care

I've been turning over and over these thoughts again and again in my head over the last few weeks, but I'm not sure this is going to come out right...
I've been thinking about the desire for better self-care and wondering if it doesn't perhaps have a tendency to be self-indulgent in a way that is kingdom-irresponsible?
This last month I read again the book Living More with Less which was published by the Mennonite Central Committee several years after the acclaimed More with Less Cookbook. Doris Janzen Longacre authored both books and both are chock-full of information about living responsibly in the world with the resources God has given us. They are not fun to read. I feel my face burning and my gut sinking as I read about the excesses of modern life. I wear a scarlet letter from the first sentences.
Living More with Less reminds the reader that there are a hundred things that we can do every day to be more responsible stewards of our resources from reusing scrap paper and aluminum foil to switching to cloth grocery and lunch bags. There are also less benign suggestions in these books, such as giving up some protein because we have a disproportionately large amount of protein in our diets as first-world citizens or foregoing beauty luxuries because those things aren't available to other people throughout the world.
The idea that part of our role as Christians is to stand in solidarity with victims of injustice appeals to me on a very basic level. I just can't buy into the argument that we here in the first world have all that we have because God has ordained it to be so. It's pretty clear to me that the Bible commands us to worry about and act for justice. And since "justice" is such a laden word, I mean that it is pretty clear to me that God asks us to recognize that the world is not the way that He wants it to be and to work to change it. And the Mennonite assertion is that this begins with each of us and our own actions in how we relate to our families, friends, fellow believers and strangers. Justice is worked out in how I spend my money, drive my car, treat my kids, interact with store clerks, etc. Pretty smart, those Mennonites.
So -- here's my dilemma -- am I being a responsible citizen of the Kingdom in my pursuit for self-care? Is it a good use of my resources to spend money on extra virgin cocount oil or all-natural all-organic face cream? Or is it "worth it" to buy toothpaste without additives that costs twice or three times as much as others or multi-vitamins that cost more than our prescription medicines for a month or essential oils that head us into the hundreds of dollars?
I think, for us, the answer is no. Not right now. Spending the small amounts of expendible cash entirely on us, even if it is in the name of "better health," is not a good use of our resources. And frankly, until we are able to give the amount we wish we could to the places that work actively for justice in the world and still have extra left over every month, I think the answer will be, 'no'. And that's gonna be a while.
There are certain things for which we are going to continue to spend extra money. We're still buying organic milk, though now Annalivia is the only one drinking milk, and we'll continue to get farm eggs from Dennis' aunt because that's helpful to both our family and hers. We're going to continue our recent trend of eating more and more fresh veggies and fruits, but probably only while they are in season, at which time we'll revert to frozen veggies.
And I think we're going to cut back on some things. For example, we're going to be eating less meat (sorry, honey). We're probably not going to go overboard on supplements. The refined coconut oil is not cost-prohibitive and is really good for our skin and cooking, so I'll continue to use that. And I'll continue to take my coral calcium and folic acid while gestating and nursing, but organic/ all-natural shampoo and hair gel and makeup is not in my future, I think, when it costs such a great deal that could be spent elsewhere. Nor is coconut oil as a supplement or any more Perfect Green Foods, at least not during produce season. We're just going to have to do a better getting real nutrition from real foods.
And we're also going to do some things differently. Next summer our goal is to be in a position to house a large freezer someplace in our dwelling. We plan to plant a large garden and live mainly on veggies next summer and freeze away for the fall and winter months. We're also going to be cutting our own intake back a lot and focusing on basic nutrition: vegetables and fruit, carbs and protein in the purest and least expensive form I can find them, which probably means eating a lot of beans and rice in the fall. As you can tell from our photos, we consume way more than our allotted share of this world's resources. Really, that's the first place to start.
In the meantime, I'm going to pray for wisdom in readjusting my attitudes about providing for my family. I am an abundant person and tend to go way overboard with, well, pretty much everything. I like to have the best, though I'm realizing what is best depends on who is doing the judging. I particularly need help in re-evaluating how I see feeding my family. Lots of heavy food has indicated lots of good love to me in the past and I have a tendency to communicate my affection for my beloveds with ridiculously complicated, expensive and calorie-loaded dishes. Longacre's call in Living More with Less to adjust entertaining and hospitality to be more about companionship (and yes, I know the etymological foundations of that word) than cuisine is very much resonating with me.
And finally, though it probably won't make me any more friends, I think I'm going to remind folks very gently that there is a difference between self-care and self-indulgence. And focusing on self, self, self, often leads us down the path of self-destruction, even as we seek self-preservation.
Well, that's enough of my ramblings for now. Bet you're all glad I'm back from vaca, eh?


Anonymous said...

Hey Deep-in-thought Lady, I'd LOVE to dialogue w/ you re: what you're reading/hearing & being directed by Father to change. (And didn't want to hi-jack your blog) :) :@

Anonymous said...

April, please, when your tooth isn't aching and you're able to think clearly (I never can with a tooth ache!) do some research on protein while pregnant, PLEASE? This may not be the time to decrease your protein by leaps and bounds. I'll be praying that you'll know what is needful for you and your family! ~d :@

Anonymous said...

while many are pondering your situation and offering good care-giving commentary, i say just do what seems right and stop trying to be super mom, wife, chef, pastor, friend, and steward. it will most likely even out if you are responsible with food, menu, and money.
ps: if you are going natural on the toothpaste, i recommend "Tom's Natural Toothpaste, from Maine." Good stuff. -vicar jes.

April said...

Thanks, friends, for your input and votes of confidence. I should note, Dawn, that I'm not really thinking about decreasing protein in our lives, especially not right now. That's one of those suggestions made by the books that are a little more extreme than we can do right now. We are, however, going to be decreasing animal protein a bit. We eat FAR too much meat -- sometimes for literally every meal in a day.
As a gestational diabetic, protein is THE nutrient of substenance right now, so, no -- no big protein dips for at least the pregnancy/nursing months.
I'd love to talk to you more, though. Feel free to email anytime -- mcstew at insightbb dot com.

Leigh Ann said...

This is a great thought provoking post. I need to get that book. The part about spending lots of money on good things (like the oils, etc.) really speaks to me. Sometimes I feel guilty because I don't spend all that money for the same reasons that you mentioned. Feel like a bad mom or something. But I have to remember just because something is good, doesn't mean it's the best for me.
Thanks for the thoughts,
Leigh Ann