In our first international spotlight feature, we highlight a self-care community favorite — Wendy! This founding member has been on the SCS wagon since the very beginning, joining us from across the globe in Kyoto, Japan.
She’s a mama to a sweet 5-year-old, Noa, and in this touching feature Wendy opens up to tell us about the heartbreaking loss of her husband to cancer in July of 2019. She shares with us how she’s navigated this impossibly challenging time, and the tools she’s used to consistently show up for herself, her students, and little Noa on a daily basis.
A lover of skincare, travel, being a mama, teaching, and spreading the word about self care across Japan, Wendy shares some of her tried and true practices and best advice for getting started with your own routine.
Thanks for sharing your light with us today, Wendy. We love you… and Noa, too!
Location: Kyoto, Japan
I am a widowed, single mom to a spunky 5 year old living in Kyoto, Japan. My primary job is teaching English as a foreign language, but I also do some translation/editing work as well as design and make custom t-shirts, bags, etc.
I love reading and have recently taken it up again. I also love traveling, and have a list of places I want to visit with my daughter. Her first choice is New York and I am totally fine with that since I have never been!
We are moving back to the US by the end of this year and I am feeling excited and nervous, happy and sad, all at the same time. I know there are great things in my future and I cannot wait to see what 2021 has in store for my daughter and me!
What’s one surprising thing the SCS community may not know about you?
My first trip abroad was when I packed two suitcases and moved to Japan!
Favorite Books: Currently reading and loving “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle
What is an aspect of your personal history that is important to shaping who you are?
I came to Japan in 2005 to teach English, which I did in schools for 4 years. During that time I met the man I would eventually marry and have a family with. In December 2014 my daughter was born and a couple of months after she turned 1 we found out my husband had stage 3B colon cancer. After surgery and chemo his company moved us to Kyoto so he could have a desk job and that’s how we ended up here.
His cancer came back around the end of 2017. Thankfully he was well enough to work until early May of 2019. I was his caregiver until he decided he needed to go to the hospital on the final day of June. I was holding his hand when he passed away just after midnight on July 13, 2019.
I chose to remain in Japan for about a year in order to be here for various ceremonies which take place around a death, but never imagined 2020 would end up being what it has and raising a child on my own with no family around during quarantine was definitely one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Wendy’s Self-Care Journey
What initially drew you to the concept of self care?
Knowing that I had to do something. I saw a post somewhere saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” and that really resonated with me.
When did you start and what did that look like for you?
Probably after I started following Danika on Instagram and she talked about her self-care checklist. I started doing my own version of the checklist off and on.
Do you have a regular self-care routine?
Recently, I have both morning and nighttime routines. In the mornings I do my skincare routine which I consider self care for sure as it’s so relaxing to me. After that I like to get some water and sit down to journal a bit and write down 3-5 things I am grateful for.
At night I do more skincare and go to sleep doing a meditation on Headspace with my daughter. I am also lucky that because of the time difference I get an SCS class every weekday with two on Friday 🙂
What are some of your go-to self-care practices?
The ones that you know serve you best… breath work, journaling, writing down some gratitudes, connection, and rest are definitely my go-tos.
What is the biggest area of growth that you are working on at the moment?
Accepting that I don’t have to control every single little thing. My daughter especially helps me remember this.
What is one struggle you’ve transformed into a strength?
After my husband passed away, I really struggled with being a single mom. My daughter and I fought a lot those first couple of months and I remember thinking I couldn’t do it alone. I don’t know that it is a strength now, but I have come to accept my role as a single parent and haven’t had such negative thoughts about it in a long time.
What lights you up? When do you feel at your highest and/or most inspired?
Seeing my daughter loving life or seeing her being kind to people. When I am teaching and my students, especially smaller kids, get over their shyness and try using English with me. Talking to fellow moms here in Japan about the things we talk about in SCS and encouraging them to take time for their own self care.
Wendy’s Self-Care Tips
What tips would you give someone new to self care?
Just start somewhere. Even a few minutes a day will make a difference!
Do you have any hacks/micro-habits (5 mins or less) that you know work for you and could recommend to others?
No social media for first hour in the morning; plugging my phone in in a different room; staying hydrated (I feel a huge difference on days I don’t get enough water)
What do you do or tell yourself when you need a little boost?
I try to find things I am grateful for in order to change my mindset
Any Self-Care Society takeaways so far?
That I (and all of us) are pretty freaking awesome! Talking to myself like I would talk to a friend helps with negative self-talk. Slowing down to breathe helps me feel better almost instantly and also works on my 5 year old!
Wendy’s Future Bio
Wendy Okabe is an educator in all aspects of the word. She teaches science in public school by day, teaches English via online platforms a few times a week, and teaches women in Japan about self care practices a few times a month.
She is a published author having released a book written in both English and Japanese about her experience loving, losing, and mourning as a foreigner in Japan. She is currently writing her second book, which will also be published in both languages, this time sharing her experiences in her self care journey.
She travels to Japan with her daughter yearly and they also try to take at least one trip within the US each year as well, sometimes in their mini RV which they refurbished as a project together.
Wendy loves reading and journaling. She and her daughter live an active life and love being outdoors as much as possible. She never imagined she would be where she is at 45, but she is the most vibrant version of herself that she remembers ever being!
Anything else you’d like to share with the self-care community?
Self care isn’t selfish, it’s a necessity! I always go back to that quote that first got me interested in self care, “You can’t pour from an empty cup!”
Thank you, Wendy, for sharing your story with us today. Such a touching tribute and today we honor you, your husband, and the beautiful future that you’re creating for yourself, sweet Noa, and everyone you meet.
For more Wendy, be sure to connect with her on Self-Care Society (@wendy.okabey), to follow her (always) incredible insights and regular self-care tips. You won’t be sorry <3