In these long months of silence and seclusion I came to the realization that the most important person in my story is myself. For so long I put everyone before me. My needs meant nothing so long as everyone else was happy and taken care of. The saying is absolutely true, that you can’t pour from an empty cup though. And I let my cup dry damn near all the way up worrying about everyone else.
As a result of putting everyone and everything before myself, I have permanent dark circles and am perpetually tired. I don’t think I will ever gain back all the sleep I lost in the name of doing for others, in the name of getting everything done.
I could innumerate all of the things that kept me from taking care of myself through my adulthood, but what it comes down to is I put everyone before myself. I did it out of love, mostly. I couldn’t imagine those I cared for doing without their wants and needs because I needed some ‘me’ time. It seemed selfish. I also couldn’t imagine anyone else taking care of my responsibilities. I had the distinct feeling that everything that got thrown my way was mine to handle on my own. I wasn’t content with just raising children and working though. . . No, I had to have hobbies and goals and dreams and aspirations. I wanted to learn and grow and be more than just that average single mom. The extra things I did beyond caring for my family. . . the extremes I went to in order to do this thing or that thing were in the name of being the best. It was a need to prove myself. It was a need to show the world that I was somebody worthwhile. Yes, I came from nothing, but I would be damned if I was going to let people’s expectations that I would stay at the bottom end up correct. I had to prove my strength and my brilliance and that I was a badass. Everyone needed to know.
But often I would be so tired that my heart wasn’t in the story I was reading to my child, or my attention wasn’t on the movie we were watching; I’d fall asleep despite efforts to stay awake and wake with a frustrated child looking at me. I would get annoyed at the drop of a dime for little reasons. It came to the point where I couldn’t put my all into any one thing because there were so many things that needed done, and I was beyond exhausted. It was more than just a physical tired. It was emotional and it was mental.
As the boys grew older I found time here and there for myself. I’d occasionally get an afternoon with a book or half an hour in the bathtub without interruption. It was few and far between though, and basically did nothing for the mental and emotional drain. Nine times out of ten if I had time to myself I spent it on one project I had going or another – blogging, gardening, etc. – which did absolutely nothing for the drain I felt. I would down an energy drink and smoke a cigarette and call myself fine.
It all came to a screeching halt though this last year. As I did all of this self analysis I realized that everything I was doing was for show – to show my kids I loved them, to show the world I was a badass. I mean, don’t get me wrong – I absolutely do love my kids, and I do want to show them that, every day. I do love to write and garden and read and go to concerts. But I definitely did not need to kill myself to do it all. That seems kind of counter-productive, doesn’t it?
And so this winter. . . I stopped.
I stopped trying to prove myself to everyone on the planet, and concentrated on myself. Last summer when I was sick I started to kind of see that taking care of myself was necessary, but the point struck home this winter and I dived into myself. I did still have obligations and things that needed done, I did still need to care for my family and provide for them. But if some chore didn’t get done or I didn’t write a post or I decided to sleep in instead of getting up to do this thing or that thing. . . the world wasn’t going to come to a screeching halt.
I stopped going and doing, I stopped trying to be it all. I could list all the different things I did to quiet my world, but it basically comes down to this – once my actual obligations to my children and brother were addressed each day, I just went ahead and did what ever the fuck felt right. Sleep, watch TV, meditate, call a friend. . . I fucking rested. I took time to pay attention to what I needed. Not what I thought I wanted. I want to quit my day job and become a billionaire writer living on some ocean coast, I want world peace, I want to go to all the concerts and plant the biggest garden and take my kids on fun adventures and be a good friend and be there for everyone at the drop of a dime . . . But I couldn’t do it all in one day, in this exact moment. And I couldn’t solve all the problems and make everyone happy, either – despite an inherent desire to do so. Really it seemed that I just kind of needed a nap and to let the world and the people in it sort their own shit out. I had a roof over my head and my bills were paid and me and mine were healthy and cared for. At the end of the day, that’s all I needed to worry about.
I still have a lot going on, and I still have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew and agree to more obligations than I probably should. But I’m also saying no more. I’m also resting more. I’m also having more fun and worrying less. It’s hard to recognize sometimes that I don’t have to push myself to my complete and utter limits. That doing it all and being it all isn’t always necessary. I can do less and rest more and still be the badass.
I don’t want to say that how I lived my life prior to coming to these conclusions was wrong- I have come a helluva long way from the bottom, my boys are fantastic and I’m content with this life of mine. If I had been more laid back, I don’t know that I would be where I am. All I’m saying is that I think I can chill now. What is meant for me will come my way no matter the pace I set. I would much rather enjoy the scenery while I make the journey than worry so much about the destination. I have nothing to prove to anyone as long as me and mine are happy, and that’s the point I’ve been missing my whole life. I know that I have the ability to move mountains. I know that if there’s something I want badly enough, all I have to do is reach out and grab it. What does it really matter if the world knows my capabilities? What does it matter if this person likes me or that person approves of how I live my life? I’ll say again what I’ve said before – I am the only person that has to live my life. At the end of the day, I am the only person living in my head, and only I have to deal with any regrets that may surface. Right now I don’t have any regrets. But what about when I’m 90? Will I wish I had taken more time for what made me happy instead of catering to everyone else? Likely. I’m just glad that I caught it now – when I still have time to live my life the way I want to live it.
And maybe this is selfish. But maybe it’s time people stopped expecting so much of themselves in the name of others expectations. Maybe it’s time we stopped keeping our own wants and needs quiet in the name of making others comfortable. Maybe it’s time to not he afraid of being a little selfish, if it means we are actually happy as opposed to just living up to others definitions of happy.
Happy Thursday folks. There’s no shame in being a little selfish.