Caring for Yourself

Reiki healingAs a cardiologist in New York City who specializes in women’s health, Suzanne Steinbaum is constantly looking to motivate people to take better care of themselves now while it would make the most difference. I was delighted to teach her to practice First degree Reiki.

I. Don’t. Care.
by Suzanne Steinbaum

There is a collection of little books written by Maurice Sendak that I have been reading to my son, Spencer, since he was small. One of the books, called Pierre, is about a little boy who only responds to his parents with the statement, “I don’t care,” until, of course, he gets eaten by a lion.

And, then, lo and behold, Pierre starts to care.

When I read this book to Spencer, I emphatically pronounced the statement, “I. DON’T. CARE.” in a blunt staccato, to mirror the vacancy behind the statement. The little boy wasn’t even listening to his parents, let alone considering how he felt about anything. “I don’t care” came out of his mouth without even thinking.

Pierre reminds me of a lot of people I know.

Many people are funny like this. They say they don’t care about what they eat, about whether they exercise, about their health. They think things will be just fine.

Caring and stress

However, from what I see, I think people do care. A lot. The problem is, people tend to care about the things they can’t do much about, and to not care about the things that could make a real difference in their lives. Just like Pierre and the lion.

Here are some of the things I see people caring about:

  • too much traffic or bad weather,
  • behavior of other people they can’t control,
  • their jobs.

This kind of “caring” — the road rage, a rain-stained tie, an obnoxious customer, a demanding boss — is really just stress, and that’s bad for your health.

What people so often don’t seem to care about are those things they can control — that extra soda, or side order of French fries that came with the healthy egg white omelette, or the missed workout session at the gym, or the happy hour that trumps Zumba class, or the will to stop eating potato chips and get off the couch.

Those are the things that make a difference, and if the lion in Pierre’s story can teach us anything, it is that a health crisis (whether a heart attack or a stroke or becoming a lion’s dinner) may just take advantage of us when we default too often to “I don’t care.”

Clarifying your priorities

I have learned from talking to my patients that teaching people to prioritize what they care about is of utmost importance.

If you don’t understand the gravity behind your life choices, if you “don’t care” how you treat yourself, then your blood pressure may start to go up or your blood sugar may start to go out of control or your weight may go too high.

You may not even notice these things until you are in the lion’s mouth, or lying on the surgical table, about to undergo coronary artery bypass grafting.

I am all for not caring.

Don’t care when it rains, and don’t care if your hair gets wet. Don’t care if you are stuck in traffic, because it might give you a moment to breathe. Don’t care if you have to stand on line for the movie, as it might allow you some extra time to talk to your friend, partner or child before going inside. Don’t care about that irritated person who is probably just having a bad day, or the boss who has his or her own issues that have nothing to do with you.

Caring when it matters

Don’t care about the things that don’t matter or the things you can’t control. Instead, care about you and the people you love. That’s the short list, and it’s all you need to know.

When Pierre said, “I don’t care,” he didn’t know that the lion was about to eat him.

If you don’t care, eventually the lion will get you, whatever that lion might be. So don’t care with all your might about what doesn’t matter, and when it comes to what does matter, then care.

Care with all your heart.


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2 thoughts on “Caring for Yourself”

  1. What an amazing message. I find myself doing the self talk often when stuck behind slow cars on the highway etc and finding the positive in, shall we say annoying situations. I’m actually getting really good at it, but I usually say “I don’t care” and “I am who I am” (probably a cover up) when it comes to my weight, even though I know I do care. And because of this attitude I have become quite overweight this Winter. Suzanne’s message has really hit me, thanks Suzanne. I’ve been looking for the trigger to avoid saying “oh this one wont matter” but it did. All I need to say is “I care about my life” – and then listen to myself lol. I know I will get there. Thanks again Suzanne for your profound message so aptly explained.

  2. This is a great message, and especially coming from a cardiologist – I see similar messages from inspirational speakers all the time, but it just doesn’t strike home the way this did! Thanks for the beautiful share – I am one of those who often crib and worry about this or that. I also immediately follow up with Reiki hands somewhere on myself :-) but seriously, I will practise letting go harder now.

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