Self Care for Beginners


I’m one of those people who for a long time had no real idea of what self care was. As a child, I saw my mom raise the four of us with strength and power of a mother who truly cared for her children. I never saw her really relax or have fun unless my father took her places and forced her to. What I saw was a woman who only rested at night or when she was too sick move. She was/is a wonderful wife and mother and I wanted to be just like her.


Since that is the only thing I knew, I patterned my own life that way. My boys and husband always came first. I made sure they had everything they needed: groceries, clean clothes, new things when they needed them, fun things to do and play with. It was and still is my goal to keep them happy and well cared for…just as I was as a child.


When my husband would fuss that I needed to rest or do things for myself, I always laughed it off, saying, “I’m fine. Besides I need to do….” He had to start forcing me to do things for myself and seemed so happy when I did. I always appreciated that he forced me to… afterwards, of course. But then I’d drop back into my regular routine of taking care of them at my personal expense.


When my husband became ill, it was important to me to be involved in every part of his care. I went to all of his doctors’ appointments, learned his meds and dosages, etc. I knew more about his care than he did. We won’t even get into my advocacy for him. And I didn’t forget the boys…I gave them all the time I could spare. I also worked and took care of our home.


See a problem here? There’s no mention of anyone caring for me. Many of my friends would tell me I had to care for myself but I had no idea how to or when to do that. So I just didn’t.


I was headed for a physical and a mental break and didn’t even know it.


When Tony died I had no idea what to do with myself. No idea at all. I tried catching up on rest and time with my boys when the dust settled. But one could only rest so much and my boys had learned quite a bit of independence  from the years of me splitting my time and energy so much.


No one really needed me like I was used to being needed anymore. I had no idea what to do. I never even considered doing things for myself. Only selfish people do that, right? 


One morning in the shower I began to feel sorry for myself. I became resentful of people who had loved ones doing things for them. Really resentful. Then I started telling myself that I must not deserve to be cared for because no one even cared enough to check on me. Tons of self pity followed me for months.  

What I hadn’t figured out yet was that there was someone who needed me more than anyone ever did…me. I needed me.

Finally, after a day of solitude at my favorite beach, I had an epiphany: no one is going to care for me until I care for myself.


I need to care for myself. But how?  My biggest problem is that I feel if I’m not doing things for other people, then I have no right to think of myself. Ever. I need to learn this self-care thing, then incorporate it into my life, because I am worthy of it. That’s the first thing to do: convince myself that I do enough and that its okay to take time for myself.


So I am at the beginning of my self care journey. The good news is, without realizing it, I already do a few things that are all about me:


Spending mornings at the beach, just me, my chair, my water ( or glass of wine) and my Kindle. Dipping my toes in the ocean while I pick up shells and sea glass.


Spending a Sunday afternoon in my pajamas binging on “Law and Order”.


Instead of going right in house after work, walking over to the pool and dipping my toes for a few minutes.


Going to a movie I want to see for a change, and thoroughly enjoying myself while eating a giant, overly buttered barrel of popcorn by myself.


Just laying in bed, thinking about nothing.


Listening to a comedy routine and laughing myself silly.


The only problem is, I hadn’t looked at these things as self care and inevitably spent some of my supposed self-care time thinking about all of my responsibilities, or why didn’t I bring my kids, or how much this is costing, or why am I laying around doing nothing? No, that’s not how it works. I’ve learned to mentally kick myself and go back to self-caring.


In fact, I’m sitting here right now finishing this blog up and contemplating my next chore.This self care thing – for me, it’s a work in progress.  But I’ll get there, because I need to.


I have to keep telling myself that I’m enough and what I do is enough. I’m entitled to self care. 


We are all enough. And we deserve to be cared for, first and foremost by our own selves.


Cheryl Barnes was born in Atlanta, Georgia and after several moves with her family, settled in Indianapolis, Indiana. She attended college at Indiana University Bloomington, majoring in Public and Environmental Affairs Management. While she attended college, she laid eyes on Martin “Tony” Barnes and was completely lost. They became inseparable and were married on December 24th, 1991. After five years of marriage, their first son, Malcolm, was born on New Year’s Eve, 1991. After Tony obtained his Master’s Degree in Social Work, the family moved to Orlando, Florida. Tony worked as a counselor, while Cheryl got her dream job working at Walt Disney World. Two years later, their second son, Miles, was born in July 2004. Cheryl left Disney and took a job in accounting at a property management company. Everything seemed to be going well for the family and Cheryl made plans to attend nursing school. However, in July 2011, Tony was diagnosed with end stage renal failure caused by lupus. For the next three years, Cheryl cared for her husband while taking care of the boys and working. Tony’s health deteriorated as a result of several complications until he passed away on August 29, 2014. Thus began her new journey as a widow and solo parent.
Cheryl was devastated at the loss of her beloved Tony, but continued to work and care for their sons as she had before. As a way to work through her grief, she started writing, at first, only for herself. But, being encouraged by others, she began publishing her blog, “Widowness and Light.” Along with writing and being involved with several widows groups on Facebook while raising her boys, she works as a training bookkeeper at an association management company.
She plans to go back to school and obtain a Master’s in Social Work so that she can help other widowed persons cope with their losses. She is also working on a book about her grief journey.
Her hobbies are reading, attending Orlando Magic games, yoga, going to the beach, and just chilling with her boys.
Additionally, she is also the founder of Black and Widowed: A Unique Journey, a Private Facebook group and a contributing author of the book, Widowed But Not Wounded: The Hustle and Flow of 13 Resilient Black Widowed Women.
You can also reach Cheryl through her public Facebook page, Widowness and Light, which is based on her widowed journey.