Growing up, I listened to stories my grandparents told of the great depression, the dust bowl and the history they lived as children. They fought in World War II and were young adults during the Civil Rights Movement. Life was hard. They fought for everything they had and worked to keep everything they earned. In that generation, taking care of yourself was considered selfish. But no matter how hard life seemed, they had community, neighbors, and a camaraderie as they all worked for the American Dream.
My parents were in the baby boomer generation. They fought their own battles. Desegregation was pushing it’s way through our country, then the Korean and Vietnam Wars became a part of their young adulthood. But their parents had begun to achieve a dream to give them a better life, so views changed. Self expression became a prominent part in this time period and it started a life of independence from one another.
By the time I was born in the late 70s, our society was still changing but was settling into a new normal. We had battles to fight, but they weren’t the wars we had known before. They were more political than physical. We pushed the war on drugs and battled stereotypes with diseases. Granted, I did grow up in the midst of Desert Storm, but it hardly seemed comparable to what our country dealt with in earlier generations. Maybe that’s because I was in Jr. High, but the impact on my daily life was minimal, if anything. What I do remember is that fear began to lock us in our homes. Kidnappings, murders, it all seemed so close to home. You never knew who was living next door, so we became vigilant. We installed burglar alarms and were taught “stranger danger” by our parents. We closed our doors and our communities began to disappear.
Now, as a mom, I see this new generation living life without the understanding of real hardship and all the while we discuss the need to care for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we need to care for ourselves. If we don’t stay healthy, how can we care for others? I just see how our lives have changed as we focus more on ourselves than on others. We have closed off the communities our grandparents lived in. Our neighborhoods are full of fences and closed doors. We used to take care of others in a way that allowed us each to also be taken care of. But now we have to stop and take care of ourselves because our culture has hidden themselves away. When was the last time you step outside and helped a stranger or a neighbor in need? Some do this a lot, while some don’t ever look beyond themselves.
I know from experience how important it is to pay attention to yourself, your health – mentally, emotionally and physically. I am on my own journey to gain back what I have lost in the years I neglected myself while focusing on my kids, as most mothers do. But I also see a need for all of us to step outside and find community and neighbors and live our lives working for the good of all, not just the good of ourselves.
As we begin our yoga routine, or sit down to read a good book in our happy place, as we meditate or find that spare moment to breathe deep and regain a bit of ourselves, enjoy that moment, it is important. But also take some time to step outside and begin to build the type of community we have left behind, a community that can begin to be a part of our lives and our renewal.