When I was little I would watch as my mom painstakingly painted her fingernails. I looked on in envy at the way she seemed to never get polish on her cuticles and the way the paint flowed out into a smooth, bright pop of color.
I tried to copy her, choosing electric blue and lots of glitter. But when I tried to paint, it always ended up a mess.
She just smiled and reminded me that she had years of practice under her belt. I’d get there one day.
Now, I am REALLY good at painting my nails. I typically choose dark colors, lots of midnight-almost-black blues and maroons.
But it’s spring now and so I pull out my bright, corally red and go to work, slowly and carefully. I start with a nude-for-me base coat to set the stage for that smooth finish. I go over the top with one or two coats of that happy almost red and finally finish it up with a high gloss top coat. I sit very still, usually watching HGTV while I let the thick layers of paint dry and harden.
Today, I’m wearing all black and grey, but my nails are a pop of happiness.
As I stare at my nails, I’m still in my sweaty yoga pants and performance fabric v-neck after a session of Kettlebell Express at my YMCA.
I love how I feel after that class. My legs and arms are shaking, but I feel energized and the best kind of tired. For those 30 minutes of hard work my mind is focused only on the movements our instructor is demonstrating. I’m paying attention to my body and making adjustments when things feel tight or weird.
I leave feeling refreshed and ready to take on the afternoon.
I worked out a lot growing up. I played softball from age 5 through high school. In between seasons I was in the weight room and running during gym class. I would drive an hour across town to get home from afternoon practice in the middle of Austin rush-hour traffic and feel tired and satisfied with my effort.
When I went to college no one made me work out anymore—it was up to me to get to the gym and try to figure out how to keep myself busy and in shape. I didn’t do a very good job. I would oscillate between intense cardio and weight sessions for a few days and then do nothing active for a few weeks. I still ate whatever I wanted and got into a cycle of stuffing myself with food and then exercising to try to make up for it. I forgot how to move my body and fuel my body in a way that felt good for me.
In seminary, my roommate and I would go for runs and walks and do plank challenges. We cooked at home a lot and I found the same sort of rhythm and energy I missed from my days of playing sports and sitting around the dinner table with my parents.
Now that I’m done with school and married, it’s up to me to set that rhythm. I joined the YMCA and started trying out classes. I LOVE kettlebell express. I am also learning to love grocery shopping and the discipline it takes to actually cook a meal rather than pick up take-out.
Instead of focusing on how I look, I’m learning to focus on how I feel and how little things like painting my nails and sitting still while they dry can refresh me for days to come.
I’ve written before about my push for productivity and how I often find my worth in the things I produce, rather than for simply being. These little habits, painting my nails and swinging kettlebells, is helping me slow down and it encourages me to make space for other opportunities to care for myself—like cooking.
God delights in us, not for what we do, but for who we are. I think it is important for us to take a few moments here and there to delight in ourselves, too. For me, that means taking the time to brush on a few coats of bright polish, or challenge myself to get out there and move around a little more.
What are some ways you take time for care and delight throughout the week?