Every now and again, reminders of all she has given come streaming back. The clouds clear and small reels of life are revealed. Late nights waking with a sick child—all the worry and fretting. Hours searching grocery aisles for healthy lunchbox options, dinners and random ingredients. The laundry… hours and hours and hours of laundry. She can still feel the unforgiving bleachers below her aching back after years of cheering on her son’s teams. All of it (and so, so much more) done with complete devotion and selflessness. No complaining, just the realities of being a mother.

Lately, when these moments visit, there is a self-love that percolates like a French coffee press. Every time it rises to the top, she seizes the opportunity to tend to herself. Sometimes, it’s a small gift, like a new purse that would have never been purchased while taking care of a family. It was frivolous! Now, the supple leather gives under her fingers as she inhales the earthy, woodsy scent. A simple indulgence that thanks her for all she willingly sacrificed. Other times, she opens her laptop and starts filling a digital grocery cart. One item after another and not a walk down a crowded aisle required. She doesn’t even need to get out of the cozy pajamas she’s in. The next day, the bags of groceries appear at her doorstep. A smile spreads across her face—now this is a true treat to self! Amongst the bags of goods is the enormous Globe artichoke she ordered—a childhood favorite her mother made—Italian stuffed artichokes.

“It’s a simple gift to herself to cook a meal for one. Every bite a kind offering to her heart.”

After rummaging through some old boxes, she finds the recipe her late mother hand wrote on the back of an envelope. First, she cuts off the top of the choke, then gently opens the tight leaves to allow space for the Italian bread- crumbs and Pecorino Romano. Overstuffing each leaf, she then stews the bulbous vegetable in chicken broth, garlic and olive oil. Patience is summoned while the smells of an Italian kitchen flood the room. She plates the piping hot artichoke and sits at the kitchen table, solo and content in her thoughts.

Italian Stuffed Artichokes

This was NOT a dish she ever prepared for the family; the children would snub their noses. Now, she slowly savors each peel off the stuffed leaves, fondly remembering her mother’s tiny kitchen table. It’s a simple gift to herself to cook a meal for one. Every bite a kind offering to her heart.

The feeling of tending to herself almost becomes an obsession. What else? she thinks. It’s the dreaded garbage day. The worst day of her week. In the wee hours of the morning, she lugs the cans down her long, icy driveway—cursing and vowing it to be the last time. After surviving the treacherous terrain, she opens the laptop again to research “garbage haulers for cars.” A click of a button and four days later, she’s attaching the new contraption to her car’s hitch. The following week, she glances in the rearview mirror with giddy joy as the cans roll behind, down the steep driveway. On a whim, she purchases the digital keyboard she always dreamt of playing. While practicing, she sees her scraggly nails for what feels like the first time. So she pauses to file and paint them a fresh color. After admiring her work, she burns some Nag Champa and explores new music at volumes uncomfortable to most.

With each little kindness, her inner peace and gratitude grows. She wonders if these acts of self-love could have been done all along while running a chaotic household? But that’s neither here nor there, because she is living in the present and feels a responsibility to remind others of the importance of self-love and care. Buddha said it best: “You yourself, as much as anybody in the universe, deserve your love and affection.”