Selfish or Self-Care?

It’s Monday yet again. It comes with infuriating regularity. Although Monday and I will never be friends – except perhaps after I win the mega-millions lottery – recently, Mondays, for me, haven’t been so bad.

In life, we have two choices.  We can devote our time to activities we love, surrounding ourselves with, if not exactly low-stress endeavors, at least endeavors that do not prompt the need for an impromptu intervention … or we can devote our time to fighting against things we hate.  Which is better?

Until very recently, I devoted my time, energy, and whole heart into a cause I am passionate about: animal advocacy.  What I’ve learned is that the nightmares never end, figuratively and literally.

I loved what I did, and I’m still active in the animal advocacy world, but I found out that devoting myself to it exclusively led to high stress levels that affected me physically and emotionally.  I stayed with the job, subjecting myself day in and day out to nightmare scenes I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, and for a lot less money than I realistically needed to survive.  I was tirelessly devoted to my job out of loyalty and dedication to the cause, letting myself suffer financially and mentally for far longer than I should have.  At last, I had no choice but to change jobs.

Now, I work with food.  Yummy foods.  I work for a food broker, managing a variety of vegetarian and vegan lines.  I find my sleep is a little better; the worst thing in my nightmares about my new job is the rumored Great Carrot Revolt coming in the fall of this year.  My job is interesting, and I am surrounded by what I love, food.  And did I mention, I work with food?

It’s only been a couple of months since I left my animal advocacy job, and while I can sleep a little better now, there are situations and images seared into my brain that I will likely carry with me for the rest of my life; thank the Gods that be that my mental library of horror is no longer being replenished daily. I have no regrets about leaving the job behind, but I do struggle with a little bit of guilt for leaving the cause.

It’s a much better situation that I am in now, of course, and I find myself looking forward to going to work instead of wondering what fresh level of Hell I will be walking into every day.  Discussions about food are, hands down, much more satisfying than discussions about defenseless animals trapped in unthinkable situations.  Still, the guilt is there, an itchy spot in my brain that I can’t quite scratch.

I’m very busy every day, with a different set of jer … ummm, associates to deal with. But the worst abuse I face now is someone trying to launch a new line of snack packs with no understanding whatsoever of their target audience.  No longer do I face veiled, and not-so-veiled, threats from low-lifes who regularly exhibit sociopath and psychopath tendencies. No longer must I explain to a well-meaning donor that the world does not, in fact, rest on my shoulders and no, I cannot control everything and everyone. No longer am I faced with images that could very well be in a Clive Barker film … and not in a good way. 

Oh, the work is challenging, and I am in a management position meaning I have a lot of responsibility and must be on top of my game … BUT our meetings at my new job revolve around food, and who doesn’t love food?  We are all enthusiastic about our jobs, and our days are filled with delicious excitement, not horrible dread.  And still, there it is again; a twinge of guilt.

I no longer argue with the belligerently ignorant in our midst over why leaving an egregiously crippled animal to starve is animal cruelty, and I don’t have to explain, with pictures, video, and tales from the field, for the umpteenth time why horse slaughter is a horrific fate for any horse and should be permanently abolished.  I can go home from work and just “be,” like a normal person, without collapsing into tears on my bathroom floor over what I’ve seen that day.

I will deal with my slight twangs of guilt in favor of a life I can enjoy.  I am proud of my past work in the advocacy group, and I know they will continue to succeed in the fight to protect the helpless … they are an amazing organization doing amazing work.  I still follow news, with a heavy heart, and get involved in ways that do not consume my life and scar my soul.

I know that some would say I abandoned the animal advocacy group, but I look at it as self-preservation.  Sometimes, you need to accept your past accomplishments and opt for taking care of yourself.  It doesn’t mean you stopped caring; if you ask me, it means you care too much.

7 thoughts on “Selfish or Self-Care?

  1. As an animal rights advocate. I know exactly what you mean. I speak out but have retired from the picket lines. I can’t stand to even think about what humans do to other animals and I can’t even watch a movie, or read a book with that kind of abuse in it. I can’t sleep after that either. Don’t feel guilty. The burnout rate and stress is normal because the horror is too great for anyone to take. I’ll never understand the hatred and cruelty that people are capable of. Never. You did you’re part. Thank you for that. I worked from outside because I wasn’t able to do what you did. I’m not as strong or brave. I can barely type this, just thinking about the terrible things that go on. Anyway, vegetarian food is the right place to be. I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life, my daughter and granddaughter as well. we don’t wear leather or use any animal products. Thanks again. No guilt. What you did was courageous and compassionate.

  2. I absolutely adore animals more than most humans, but I absolutely had to stop being a certified veterinary technician…so much so I am no longer certified. You would think working in clinics and hospitals wouldn’t be so traumatic, and for much of the time it isn’t. But there were always the times when it was or it would be heart wrenching to the point you’re in the bathroom crying your eyes out.
    I started because I wanted to help my animals when they get hurt or sick and I love helping other people with their animals as long as they actually take my advice. I still help out here and there. Vaccine clinics or questions (to which I always highly recommend going to the vet no matter what) as it’s not as emotionally draining.
    I can’t read about animals being abused or wrongfully treated as I am so effected by this horribleness I wonder about my mental health.
    I do not blame you or think you should feel guilty. There are other ways to help out that doesn’t cost emotional and physical well-being. Thank you for helping the ones with no human voices! ❤

  3. One can only fight monsters for so long before being in danger of becoming a monster oneself. We are conditioned to see ourselves as weak if we need self care, selfish if we ultimately value our own fundamental well being over that of whatever cause or crusade we’ve been told is ours.

    We need to be more choosy about which hill we’re willing to die on – those hills no doubt exist, but we need to make sure we don’t destroy ourselves in a process that might be better served by backing off and living to fight another day.

    There’s a phrase I love from running marathons – “In the first half of the race, don’t be stupid – in the second half, don’t be a wimp.” Life’s a long, long race. We have to pace ourselves to make sure we get into the second half where we can win.

  4. You didn’t leave the cause, Wendy. You merely gently placed it down for somebody else to pick up and fight with the same zealousness you did for so long and so hard.

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