Oberon, King of Faery
Photo by Paul Coppola
Last night, Kyeli and I went for a walk around our neighborhood park. We talked about how she’s been feeling stressed out because of her arms and her environment.
“I’ve been taking care of myself, but I don’t feel nourished,” Kyeli said. “When I’m done taking a break or doing something fun, as soon as I’m done, I feel more stressed out instead of replenished.”
“Aha!” I said. “I think you’re caught in an Oberon loop!”
Imagine that Oberon, the King of Faery, is in your house and wants to fight you. Sounds pretty stressful, doesn’t it? You try to do the dishes, and there he is, punching you in the kidney. You try to get some work done, and boom, there’s Oberon, slapping you in the face.
So what do you do? If you’re like me (and Kyeli), you say “Sheesh, Oberon! You’re stressing me out so much, I need a break!” And you go take a break, take a nap, do something fun and distracting, or otherwise engage in self-care.
But the problem is this: Try as you might to nourish yourself, you won’t be able to care for yourself effectively while Oberon continues to poke you and whisper in your ear. When you come back from your break, you’ll be more stressed out instead of replenished.
The illusion of self-care
Taking a break only gives you the illusion of self-care. The only real self-care is to get Oberon the heck out of your house!
In other words, if you’re stressed out about all the nails in your bed, taking a nap isn’t going to help, because you’ll be napping in that oh-so-naily bed. The true self-kindness is to pick the nails out of the bed.
Even if you feel depleted. Even if you don’t feel like nail-picking or Oberon-fighting or dishwashing.
The true self-kindness is to fix the problem that’s depleting you. Not to “suck it up” and do it despite feeling depleted. To honor your feelings of depletion, then to solve the problem because you want to feel nourished.
So that brings us to the tricky question:
How can you tell the difference between true self-kindness and Oberon avoision?
Pay attention to how you feel afterward. If you feel replenished, that’s true self-kindness. If you feel just as depleted, or even moreso, that’s Oberon avoision. Time to fix the problem instead of avoiding it.
So how’s Kyeli?
When last we left our intrepid heroess, she was walking around the neighborhood park, fighting Oberon. We walked home, and even though we were tired, we honored Kyeli’s need for nourishment by cleaning up the house a bit, making some plans to make her dictation less stressful, and setting aside a weekly “email hour” where I sit with her and help her reply to backlogged emails.
Oberon has left the building.