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  • Writer's pictureDr. Stephanie Shelburne

Self Care/Farm Care/World Care: "Having It All" Redefined

In today's modern world, there is an elusive ideal that many of us dedicate our days and hours to chasing—that of the harmonious yin-yang of living where we succeed professionally, whatever that means, while effectively nourishing our inner being, cultivating fulfilling relationships, and still have plenty of time and energy left over to dedicate to crafting a more sustainable world.


While stopping short of calling the idea of 'having it all' a myth, I will say that the ideal that is frequently dangled in front of us like a carrot on a stick is as intriguing as it is deceptive and as life events would have it, I've come to understand that the pursuit of the 'all' demands not only a redefinition but a recalibration of my entire system, indeed, our entire system.


Once Upon a Time, Wellness Routines Defined My Days

As a self-employed Wellness Practitioner and Educator, my days were once filled with carefully crafted healthful routines and regimens. On awakening, I could ease into the morning with luxurious stretches, a long hot shower that included the ritual practice of abhyanga (self-massage), indulge in a leisurely prepared breakfast that gave a healthy nod to the language of slow food. It was easy to make time for meditation, in fact, my every breath coincided with moments of meditation, my world was rich with personal practice and nourishment for my body, mind, and soul.

In my professional world, my work itself was a form of spiritual sustenance—dedicating hours to the benefit of others through teaching, body work, spiritual counseling, and nutritional guidance. The fulfillment of 'work' felt reciprocally nourishing. My introverted being felt continually quenched by the interplay of deep individually-focused work and solitary personal time.

And then as life would have it, change loomed large.

Becoming a Farmer, Doctor, and Caretaker in a World Unfazed by My Requirement for Self-Care

Today, I find myself in a new narrative, one that is attempting to blend the roles of farmer, doctor, teacher, and caretaker. My mornings are no longer marked by leisurely stretching and sensory indulgent showers, instead I jump from the bed as dawn rises and begin the hasty ritual of feeding and tending the many inhabitants of the barn and fields.

The metaphysical and spiritual care I once proffered in quiet counseling sessions and massage rooms, now materializes in the physical and often ruthlessly tactile world of the farm. This is a world that does not yield to the gentle mindfulness I have spent decades crafting but demands my attention with frequent urgency. It is not unusual for me to be oblivious to time, day, or date as I move with quick responsiveness from task to task, and then at the end of the day falling exhaustedly into bed. Life on the farm is a full contact sport!

Rethinking Priorities and Rituals

Initially, as I found myself attempting to adapt to the potential overwhelm of my new life and new responsibilities, I admit I exacerbated the stress by harshly judging my inability to maintain my historically fluid way of being and what I perceived as a 'healthful' lifestyle.

Then one day, in a particularly connected moment with one of our horses, it occurred to me, that the 'all' of 'having it all' isn't one-size-fits-all or singular.

It's an amalgamation of adapted self-care practices and radical priorities deployed at any given moment. In that moment, I found a peace in my belly that I have never before experienced, despite all of my carefully crafted routines of old.


Healer, Healing, Nurturer, Nurtured

I realize now and more every day, from a deeply embodied perspective, that life has a reciprocal nature. While it may not always feel fair or even, it is always deep and rich and filled with what I call a 'terrible beauty' that nurtures and heals while calling forth healing and nurturing for another.

The concept of self-care is still rooted firmly within me, however, I now realize that "self-care" transcends the personal. The 'all' I seek these days isn't merely for myself but for the world I am nurturing, whether that be a radical and immediate schedule change in order to midwife a newborn lamb or ensuring there are quiet moments to nurse an injured hen.

Self-care now has become a constant and deeply unique ritual, a tending to my self without the frills of a formal routine. It's choosing to breathe deeply as I mend a fence or fix the tractor, to savor the solitude and stillness amidst the ever present cacophony of the barn, or to take a momentary pause of wonder at the vastness of the night sky as I wander back from final rounds of the farms nightly routines.

Most importantly, I am aware that today’s most valuable act of self-care lies in the relinquishment of perfection, in the acceptance that tending the self can exist in a variety of different forms and in the very flux of life.

Interconnectedness as Self-Care and Having It All

Self-care doesn't have to be about lavish routines and regimens. It can instead be about those things that we are able to do for ourselves and others with conscious and careful love. Our holistic well-being doesn’t hinge on any particular idyllic scenario but on our adaptability to the transient harmony that surrounds us and our ability to experience the reciprocal nature of interconnectedness.

Additionally, "Having it all" isn't about quantity, it's about quality and perception. Imagine, if you will, a world where 'having it all' means embodying a state of harmony with the natural ebb and flow of life's cycles, where success is measured not by societal standards but by the depth of our connections—both to the self and to the world around us.


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