I don’t think of self care as service.
Firstly, I’d like to specify that—for this post—when I say self care, I’m talking about basic physical health maintenance—a healthy, regular diet, hydration, basic hygiene, enough sleep, so on. I’m not currently speaking only of luxury self care or of mental self care, and am mostly speaking of the day to day, not lifestyle overhauls.
Now, self care is valuable. The very basics of it are even necessary. On either side of the slash, with or without a dynamic, kinkster or vanilla—you need water and food and sleep and such to survive. To be healthy, you need enough of those things, regularly, and it needs certain healthful qualities.
That’s also reason number one why I don’t think of self care as service: I have to do it, with or without Mistress. It’s not an option. I did it before her. What I strictly need and what is reasonably healthy don’t change because of my dynamic.
My personal—not universal—definition of a service is something that Mistress would need or want, independent of me. Now, there are services I initially introduced her to, but now she’d want them independently.
Making her meals is a service. With or without me, she has to eat. Cleaning the house is a service. With or without me, she’d want a clean living environment. (And—as a side effect at the very least—this does mean that there’s food and a clean environment for me, too.)
Now, without me, she’d probably lower her standards of clean. She’d probably handle certain tasks in a way that was easier or faster, or neglect them entirely, unless there was someone else to outsource to. This happens on a small scale when I’m too sick to serve. But in her ideal world, she would still want those tasks to have been done, frequently and well, and there are plenty of others she would pick up doing herself eventually.
So, those are services she just wants done, period, with or without me. And I love providing service. It’s my full time job.
But, if I wasn’t in her life, she wouldn’t want or need my self care. Sure, as a kind person, she’d wish good self care on any given person out there, but it wouldn’t really have value for her. So it doesn’t meet my personal criteria for service there.
Let me give a disclaimer: I’m not naturally inclined to self care. It’s not a talent of mine, for various reasons, including the schizophrenia (which I blog and teach on). Left to my instincts, I forget self care, I procrastinate on it, I view it as a necessary evil, I shove it aside in the name of being a monomanic tortured artist workaholic. However, I don’t truly endorse that method, and so I try to rise above those instincts and take care of myself to get more done, using productivity systems and, well, Mistress ordering me to take a break already.
Aha, you might say. So she does want your self care. Well, yes. And I’m grateful for that. There are a few things to consider in that, though, besides her just caring about me.
One: not everything I do because of Mistress is a service. Yes, we view service as a key focus of our dynamic, but we also have other focuses and are generally M/s. To me, a lot of other things I do because of her fall under acts of submission, but not service. While submission and service are highly correlated concepts for me—but certainly not for everyone—they’re not exactly the same.
I think of acts of submission as anything I do because of Mistress. This could be obeying a once off order, doing a recurring service task that was assigned, obeying a rule (ever present) or a (somewhat situational) protocol, asking for permission when required, wearing my daily uniform, assuming my slave positions, so on. I exclude from this the things that I would do with or without her.
So, some self care acts are not acts of submission, either—things I do attend to well myself. But some—the ones I do only because of her—are, by my personal criteria, at least. That is an act of submission because it is not something I also happen to want—I am submitting to her will: having a largely healthy slave. And submission is important to me.
Another thing to consider: it’s difficult, if not impossible, to provide consistent, quality service without consistent, quality self care. My service declines when I’m too hungry, too tired, too dehydrated, so on. While I don’t think of self care as service in itself, it is a crucial step one towards service. For her, ensuring my self care is, if nothing else, a cost of quality service.
In my Anticipatory Service class, I have a section on learning new service skills. While learning the skill might not be in itself service by my criteria, you sure can’t provide that service without it. I view self care similarly.
Likewise, if you have a traditional job, self care and learning probably aren’t part of your job description, but you can’t do your job well without them.
And because I want to do a good job, I must value self care at least for that.
Say, virtually all of my (not super incidental) required tasks come from one of two places: my calendar, and my recurring task list.
I have rules about what goes on those. It must connect to at least one of the following: writing, being a kink educator, running Las Vegas TNG, going to butler school, being a slave (service or submission), or maintaining my physical health. I chose these areas based on their reflection of my personal core values list. I do plenty of other good things, but those don’t earn a place in the official systems.
And you saw my health listed in there: it deserves the priority because it feeds the other categories, including my service.
Now, being a slave also affects my self care in other ways. We’re high protocol and practice lifestyle sadomasochism. This affects my self care.
I need permission to go to the bathroom. (Sometimes she accompanies me and throws humiliation in there.) I need permission to shower, am required to do it regularly, am required to shave everything neck down whenever I do (unless I gain permission otherwise), and am required to report for an intimate inspection after. (Sometimes she uses this opportunity for watersports, soaping, cold showers, etc.) I sleep on the floor, nude, on a leash, with a set wakeup and bed time.
I love all areas of our dynamic, and sometimes they require self care, and sometimes they make it a challenge.
In the end, I want our dynamic to be about her, for her to get the best deal she can get—and sometimes that means putting myself aside, but sometimes that means overcoming that instinct to make sure she has a largely healthy, well taken care of slave.
I don’t think of self care as service—but it’s part of our dynamic, and it’s important.