“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.” — Khalil Gibran
When my sons were younger, my world revolved around them. I believed that all “good moms” put their children’s needs before their own, and I still believe this . . . for the most part. After all, somebody needed to make sure their bellies were filled, their teeth were brushed and their little bodies were scrubbed, their homework was done, their ball uniforms were washed, their questions were answered, their fears were calmed, their imaginations were nurtured and their little cheeks were kissed as they drifted off into slumber–and more often than not, those responsibilities fell on my shoulders. But that was okay; that was my “job,” and I was happy for the opportunity and for the satisfaction and love I felt in return.
As my sons grew older, they needed me less, but by then a change in my career path had created new stresses and additional demands on my time and energy, and so I continued to put the needs of others before my own. But that was okay, too, because I was an over-achiever, a perfectionist, and–by golly–Super Woman; I could do it all. (And I’m guessing there are more than a few readers out there who have felt the same way.)
Now that my children are grown and gone, though, and I’m facing the end of my career, I have finally come to realize how much I have neglected my “mental well being” over the years. Oh, sure, I occasionally immersed myself in a good book, but even those stolen minutes made me feel guilty, and while reading provided a much-needed emotional escape, it did nothing to feed my soul or nourish my body. I could have been a much better, stronger, and calmer parent and educator if I had allotted a little more time for ME instead of overextending myself until I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, drained, and ready to punch a wall.
“All batteries need recharging. For most of us, however, the idea of taking time to replenish our energy seems like a luxury we can’t afford, or not important in the context of all the other things we need to do. In truth, it is only when we make our self-care a non-negotiable priority that we can put forth into the world the very best of ourselves. The quality of our relationships and our level of efficiency, clarity, and productivity skyrocket when we are approaching life from a sense of overflow and not running on reserve.”–Frankie Perez, http://www.facebook.com/MindGym
I can’t change the past, but I’m doing my best to change the present. I still get overwhelmed and over-stressed at times; I still work every week day (and more week nights than not), but if you show up at my house unexpectedly on one of those rare occasions when I’m not working, you still may not find me at home. There is a good chance, however, that you will find a week’s worth of mail scattered across the kitchen table, last night’s dinner dishes still in the sink, and a bedroom door closed so that you can’t see the bed I saw no reason to make before dashing out the door. If it isn’t too cold and the sun is shining, I’m most likely on my bike somewhere, pedaling against the wind, or I’m traipsing around the countryside, toting my camera and looking for the next great shot. In other words, I’m feeding my soul, relaxing and recharging–and I highly recommend it. The dishes can wait–and so can everything else.
And that is my advice to you: Stop putting yourself on the back burner–find something that feeds your soul and fuels your passion and make time for it. Even if you still have children at home and countless responsibilities demanding your time and attention, stop thinking of taking time for yourself as a luxury and start treating it as a necessity. You will thank yourself later (and I’m guessing everyone else in your life will, too).
I read somewhere recently that everyone needs to occasionally eliminate the word “should” for a day, and so I did this last Sunday afternoon and again this past Saturday. On both days, I knew I “should” stay home and clean house, I “should” finish the laundry and I “should” write a blog–but in each case it was such a beautiful, warm, late winter day that the wind was whispering my name, and my camera was singing me a love song. So I made a conscious decision to leave all the “shoulds” behind and go play, and within minutes my worries had drifted away in the breeze. Some of the pictures of my “playtime” are posted below . . .