What a stuffed llama taught me about self-care.

Labor Day weekend, I went to the outlet mall to catch some highly-anticipated sales. After almost shopping ’til I dropped, I stopped by a store I’ve recently come to love: Five Below. It’s a place you have to be in the mood to look, but everything is $5 or below.

I’ve bought some pretty cool things there in the last few months including a set of 20 fine-tip markers (for journaling), a bluetooth speaker, and a felt board. Okay, and some candy.

That night, I was looking for things to take with me on the beach vacation. During my browsing, I came across a giant metal bin of small plush llamas. Some were gray and some were caramel, and they all had little blankets stitched on their backs. They were so cute, and after picking one up, I discovered it was soft, too.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been trying really hard to declutter my apartment – donating boxes of old clothes to Goodwill and selling random junk on eBay. I’ve been making progress and it’s helping.

I went on this decluttering spree after listening to a slew of podcasts on minimalism, convinced that I don’t need things to make me happy. And while true, there’s plenty of things that I don’t need, I’ve also learned that indeed, some things DO make me happy. My apartment is full of memorabilia, whether its framed magazine covers of my favorite artists, or scrapbooks full of ticketstubs, those are things I won’t ever give away.

I’ll never be someone who only has a bed in her apartment or stops buying people gifts – I’ll make my effort to declutter, and perhaps focus more on buying consumables or experiences, but that’s probably about it.

As I stood there at the bin of llamas, I found myself in the midst of a self-care crisis. Ever since my dad passed away, I’ve made an effort to do ONLY things that served me – even if it meant it may not be the best decision.

For example, I stopped forcing myself to go to a dance class just to burn calories. Yes, sometimes I feel good after working out, but honestly, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes, I just want to go home and cuddle with kitty Blanche after work and that’s not something I’m going to deny myself.

When I went through my weird food phase – I told myself I would just eat whatever sounded good, even if it meant only eating fried cheese curds from Culver’s for dinner. During times of stress or grief, we must be kind to ourselves.

Earlier this year, I went through this same conversation when I was debating buying a cat stroller. Would people think I’m a loser? Would I look silly walking around my neighborhood with this stroller? And then I decided I didn’t care. If a simple $40 purchase made me laugh even once, and I wasn’t hurting anyone, then do it. And I did, and I’ve had many, many laughs while strolling Blanche around the neighborhood.

So, there I was, trying to talk myself out of buying this $5 llama, because I’m 33 and I shouldn’t be buying stuffed animals.

In the last year or so, stores have embraced mermaids and unicorns, and llamas, too – it is my personal belief that the world, in general, is in such turmoil, that we’ve turned to imaginative, glittery beings to distract us from all things grey and bleak.

My dad loved animals – especially farm animals – and goats and llamas made him laugh. I’ve stopped myself from buying many llama trinkets, from drink coozies, journals, t-shirts, and a phone case, there’s cute “no drama llama” stuff everywhere. Even one of my freelance clients had photos of a lama trek for me to edit, and I found myself getting a good chuckle.

And so, I decided to treat myself to a stuffed llama. Why not? No one had to know about it, and if it makes me smile, then what’s a small little toy going to hurt? I picked out a grey one, with a teal and pink blanket on its back, and magenta feet and ears. After much thought, I named her Laverne.

After a few weeks with Laverne, she’s become a good cuddle buddy. I know stuffed animals are often meant for kids, but when I thought about it, my dad brought a tiny squirrel beanie baby with him to the hospital. He liked having something to hold in his hand.

After surgery, he couldn’t have the beanie baby – everything in his ICU room had to be approved – so his girlfriend knotted a hospital washcloth for him to clutch. My dad was later admitted to a different facility, where I was told he pestered his roommate by tossing the squirrel over to his side of the room (very much something my dad would do).

Every year, my mom and I buy Christmas gifts for seniors in a nursing home who have no one to buy them presents. One of the most coveted items is a stuffed animal, and my mom and I spend countless hours trying to find animals that are just the right size for hugging and made of soft fur. I suppose a stuffed animal can provide comfort to just about anyone.

So, even though my appetite has picked up and I’m slowly getting back into my dance and yoga classes, I’m happy I bought Laverne. If that makes me a little weird, well, it wouldn’t be the only thing.

If it’s going to make you happy, and won’t cause harm, I say go for it.

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3 Comments

  1. Holly Hollis Stars

    Every year, my mom and I buy Christmas gifts for seniors in a nursing home who have no one to buy them presents. One of the most coveted items is a stuffed animal, and my mom and I spend countless hours trying to find animals that are just the right size for hugging and made of soft fur”……..this is the sweetest thing ever. Gives me chills. Thanks for being a good human. And someone gave me a stuffed llama recently 😉

    1. thebitterlemon

      Thanks, Holly!! Honestly, buying the gifts for seniors is my favorite part of the holiday season. For 3 years in a row, I bought items specifically for a woman named Barthenia. I never met her but I definitely bought her a blue velour zip up sweat suit and leopard slippers. I wanted her to be so fabulous all year. I was sad when her name wasn’t on the list anymore. But I love buying games and especially gloves and hats, and of course, the teddy bears. OMG. I have to see your Llama!!

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