Mental Health

Find Your Umbrella

Jennifer Butler Basile

This collection of items has sat on my dresser for the last year.  Plus a few weeks.  There was a rectangle of dark wood in the dust when I lifted it from its spot today.

It is a self-care kit I purchased at a holiday fair last year.

Our community has a fabulous youth task force that started in our schools and now focuses on the mental and emotional health of our youth at large.  Each year, they have a display at our district’s arts showcase, which is how I first learned of their work.

via Chariho Youth Task Force

In 2017, when they were launching their ‘Let’s Talk About Mental Health’ campaign, my heart sang when I saw these young people standing in front of their green screen of watercolor rain under a blue umbrella.  I, of course, jumped right in, my older two daughters sidling away as Mom started talking shop.

Finding my umbrella with two of my cooperative children / photo by Jennifer Butler Basile

Young people fired up and active about the cause I held dear to my own heart and psyche – I applauded their efforts, took their literature, and started following them.  The next year, I picked up their ‘Mental Health and Stress First Aid Kit’.

Last fall, I saw that they’d be selling ‘Self-Care Kits’ to support their efforts.  I went to this full-scale fair and bee-lined straight to these adorable bags emblazoned with affirmations.  Once home, I made my children well aware this bag full of goodies to destress and reward oneself was all for Mom.  I was even inspired to recreate the kits as Christmas gifts for two of my relatives depleted by selfless caretaking of parents.

I could see the value of these kits for these two women who sorely needed to take some care and time for themselves, I preached the virtues of self-care, I knew the therapeutic effects – and yet, my own gift bag sat unopened upon my dresser.

The idea of self-care for my-self has been in a box as well-defined as that dust-free square on my dresser.

I spilled the contents onto my bed today to take this picture.  Ironically, the impetus for their spillage was not to partake in their benefits, but to write this post.  It’s a long way round – and I don’t think I’m rationalizing too much – but writing this post, which could be considered ‘work’, was a radical act of self-care.  See, I was neck-deep in Christmas preparations today.  I baked three recipes worth of goodies, prepped two batches of dough for our weekly pizza evolution, and never got to the wrapping and other recipes still on my list.  I almost enlisted my eldest to watch her siblings while I continued on with my tasks instead of heading out to write.  I was so close.  I’m so tired with so much to do; so full of guilt for the things I should be doing.  After all, adults should pick the requisites and let the extracurricular fall to the side when time and circumstances dictate, right?  It’s only the responsible thing to do.

But there’s always something to be done and never enough time.  In my (our) frenetic world and with my unrealistic expectations and standards, I could never possibly get it all done.  Sure, there are certain things I must do before the holiday – but there is always tonight (or the wee hours of some night, as I usually roll) or tomorrow.  If I don’t put myself first at least some of the time, my needs and I will always come last.

And the spilling of that bag for this piece has led me to know its contents, to meditate again on the importance of self-care, given me a cup of tea and some quiet time.  And maybe just maybe reminded me that I’m worth it and need to make these times a priority.

Jennifer Butler Basile

Chariho Youth Task Force is a wonderful resource for exploring mental health – what it is, how to obtain it, and how to maintain it.  Explore these resources:



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