Fill the Well

June 23rd, 2010

I have a friend whose well nearly ran dry last summer. His family had to curtail water use until rainwater could restore the aquifer. There are times when I feel like my friend’s well. This happens when I go too hard, take on too many responsibilities, and don’t take time to restore myself.

Lest we forget, a life committed to being engaged is a life that values the care of one’s self. When we are spiritually, emotionally and physically balanced we are far better equipped to engage with life and others. We’re able to give the most when our own well is full. This means we need to find time each day, week, month, and season to immerse ourselves in those activities that restore our sense of wellbeing. Consider this thought experiment: If you had fifteen obligation-free minutes right now what would you do? Power nap? Read? Take a short walk? Think of what you might do for an hour, an entire day, or weekend, if you could release yourself from commitments and obligations. These pastimes don’t need to be extravagant. A “stay-cation,” in which you stay home, can be incredibly restorative—if you protect your time.

Taking time to fill our personal wells is a discipline in that it requires us to be proactive. It’s like making an appointment to see a doctor, only we’re making an appointment with ourselves. In some cases you may find it restorative to have others join you in your appointments. This isn’t a problem, so long as the time is rejuvenating. Some people, including me, require small and large chunks of alone-time for optimal wellbeing. I go on a fishing trip with some friends for a few days each year. This brief retreat offers the perfect combination of solitude and togetherness. I come home fresh, more grounded, and ready to engage with life’s many commitments.

For a host of reasons we often neglect to make such appointments. We think we’re undeserving and just too busy care for ourselves. Or we may think that doing something for ourselves, such as reading a book for an hour with a cup of tea, is selfish. But we must not confuse self-care with being selfish. Self-care is what we do to be more fully human and alive. In this state we resemble more closely who we were made to be. Selfishness, in contrast, is insatiable and interested only in what will better my welfare. In the end, self-care is a gift to ourselves and to those we care about.

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