How to Be Wonder Woman

 Wonder woman

 

 

For years I tried to uphold the Wonder Woman myth, convinced that I could continue to work at full steam, not held back by motherhood or menopause or anything else that flew in my way. But when faced with the reality of life with psoriatic disease—chronic pain in my hands and feet, aching in my bones, and fatigue that was sometimes so crushing, I couldn’t walk from my house to the end of my block — I almost gave up on creative work. The revisions to my manuscript felt overwhelming, the blog felt like a ball and chain, and I didn’t have the energy to teach, much less hustle up students.

 

How was I supposed to raise a teenage daughter?

 

But  I’d given up on pieces of my life before and later regretted it,  frustrated because I’d failed to meet or even pursue my goals and dreams. I had to figure out how to simultaneously rest and take care of myself while continuing my creative work and contributing to my family.

 

Here is what I’ve learned from the necessity of my illness. Here is my recipe for becoming a new type of Wonder Woman:

 

1) Extreme Self-Care

Self-care was never at the top of my agenda. Since I was a college freshman, pushing through exhaustion fueled by heavy does of caffeine, was my modus operandi. But when my acupuncturist told me my body was cold and depleted, I recognized the need for real rest. In the past few months I’ve learned to check in with myself continuously and listen to what mind and body require.

 

Instead of a to-do list in the morning, ask yourself what you need to do to take care of yourself. And continue to ask the question throughout the day as you move from one activity to another.

 

Maybe you need to put your feet up after doing chores. Maybe you need to move and stretch after sitting at your desk. Maybe you need a snack or get a glass of water to keep your body fueled and hydrated.

 

Extreme self-care is about awareness, another form of being awake and paying attention to what your body is asking for in the moment. Not ignoring your acidic stomach, or stiffness in your neck, or whatever it is you put off because you’re too busy.

 

2) Extreme Patience

 

Extreme patience means keeping your eye on the long-term result, staying with something no matter how slow and frustrating the process may be.

 

When I was diagnosed with psoriatic disease, I hoped the drugs would bring immediate relief. The first meds helped the pain in my feet, but they tore up my stomach. The next option could be taken intravenously, but could potentially compromise my liver function. There was no magic pill. When I met with my acupuncturist, she told me she thought she could help, but I would have to be patient. My situation was complicated and we’d have to address one issue at a time, move slowly to see what helped.

 

Practice extreme patience in one area of life and it transfers to others.

 

Patience with the healing process led to patience with the daily grind of writing and revising my manuscript. It let me see that my blog needed time to evolve and become authentic. By the way, extreme patience and extreme self-care lead to patience with family, friends, and co-workers. Trust me. Do these things for yourself and the people around you will be grateful.

 

3) Slow way down

 

Focus on one task at a time. Take pleasure in the work at hand. Choose two or three agenda items a day at most. Stop running so many errands. See what you can live without.

 

4) Create Partnerships and ask for help

 

Just as I was about to bail on teaching this fall, my friend and fellow writer/practitioner, Robin Bradford, stepped up and offered to help. When I told her I was too tired to promote and market, she recruited for me and made the class go. Tracking Wonder teacher, coach, and consultant, Jeffrey Davis, advocates for doing it together (DIT) rather than doing it yourself (DIY). One is draining; the other is energizing.

 

It is not easy for many of us to ask for help. But when you bring people in as creative partners, it benefits everyone and it’s makes the job more fun.

 

 

5) Be clear about your priorities, about what matters

 

For me being Wonder Woman means creating something of lasting value in the book I’m writing, serving others in my capacity as teacher and coach, providing ideas and inspiration for women artists on my website, and being attentive to my husband and daughter, awake and present for the life we share.

 

What’s your definition of Wonder Woman? How might you accomplish all of your goals and dreams while taking exquisite care of yourself? Let me know in the comments box and I’ll incorporate for a future post.

 

 

 

 

 

 


7 thoughts on “How to Be Wonder Woman

  1. Sharyn DImmick

    Beautiful, Saundra, and wise. My situation with J. is forcing me into extreme self-care and, my experience, like yours, is that it does help with patience. You and I are once again on parallel paths for different reasons and I am thriving under a regime of better self-care.

    Reply
  2. Carolyn Prescott

    These are helpful guidelines. They run counter to the prevailing ethos, which distracts us with false efficiencies and the myth of multi-tasking. Thank you, Saundra.

    Reply
  3. Beth Howard

    My definition of Wonder Woman? You … just you.

    Thanks for distilling your wisdom into one brilliant and helpful post. For most of my life, I have been busy … really busy … rushing from one thing to the next, often late and seldom giving my full attention to anything or anyone, including my husband and three sons. I was active with my body, but I wouldn’t call it “self care.” As I hit menopause, I began to get heavier and heavier.

    Jimmy Buffet wrote in a song, “You treat your body like a temple. I treat mine like a tent” and I could relate. My priority became to care for my physical body, which (somewhat unfortunately) did not mean more yoga classes and massage. I needed to get moving. I had watched my mother come pretty much to a halt by the end of her days and I knew deep in my heart that I had inherited her “sit-on-my-ass” gene. I was happy reading, writing, meditating … happiest with sedentary pursuits.

    At age 56, my self care involved hiring a personal trainer who would help me to get moving. I learned what it was to work-out at my maximum heart rate, which, believe me, was a LOT harder than I’d ever worked before. She told me that the heart is the easiest muscle to train and it turned out to be true. I began by walking, then walking fast and eventually running (slow.) Now at 59, I weigh less than I have in years and I am in the best cardiovascular shape of my life and I’m strong.

    As you’ve already noted, the self care spills over into everything. Using more energy also translated to having more energy for other things, those goals and projects which I never quite had the energy to tackle. Some of those were writing projects, but others included: cleaning closets and the storeroom; tackling minor remodeling projects and staying on top of yard work and home repair. And all this while traveling away from home more often.

    Now, I only use lists to focus when I am feeling overwhelmed. A wise teacher told me, “lists can be tyrants,” and for me they were. I would keep rewriting them and facing my inability to accomplish anything. Now, if I use a list, I never put more than five things on it. I work on those five things and don’t add anything more to the list, or make a new one, until I’ve finished the list I’m working on. Basically, this translates to doing what you’ve already revealed: I slow way down and I do one thing at a time, until it’s done (except for yard work … which is never done!)

    So for now, I am continuing to make physical exercise my priority and letting everything else fall into place around it. Thanks for another great post. I’m glad that you are taking care of yourself. Your wisdom feeds me in a wonderful way!

    Reply
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  6. Nancy Seibel

    This is a fantastic post. Thank you for speaking back against the pressures we face from without and within that make it so hard to slow down and practice extreme self-care. We’re allowed. An you are Wonder Woman for sharing this with the rest of us. Thank you!

    Reply
  7. caroline

    The lesson I’m learning and how I’m currently defining Wonder Woman is practicing being soft with myself. That means regular yoga; which means alone time; which means I can swim through my inevitable fire and be with my aching heart; which means I come out the other side softer; which means I’m more attuned to my children; which means I can hold space and respond to a tantrum like a nightingale; which means I don’t take out my crap on my husband; which means our home is kinder; which means I’m starting to know what LOVE truly means.

    I loved being part of #continuouspractice, but I’m terrible at taking photos and posting them, and I need to prioritize (yoga ^^^), so I’m glad to stay connected this way. By the way, your tip on patience helps me to not throw my own tantrum while reviewing linear equations while studying for the GRE.

    Thank you for your words.

    Reply

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