Nothing says I love you like a friend who is willing to tell you the truth. Even if it stings a little.
Rewind to about a month ago. I was having coffee with a friend, willing the caffeine and conversation to give me the energy I needed to push through my unending ‘to-do’ list. Slumped over into my second triple macchiato of the day, (and it wasn’t even noon) when she asked me how I was doing, I unpacked my emotional baggage right there at the table. I never seemed to have enough time between the pressures of work, caring for aging parents, and trying to keep up with the house, the laundry, etc. etc. and oh yea – trying to spend time with my husband. Marriage does require some attention too. No, I haven’t read Dr. Laura’s book, The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands, but the title says it all.
I shared with my friend that I was exhausted, both from lack of sleep and emotional stress. I was trying to be the best everything I could be, but no matter how much I did, I always felt like it wasn’t enough. Worst of all, I couldn’t remember the last time I had laughed. And that wasn’t like me. I love to laugh. I had lost my joy. And it felt like I was losing my sense of self. I don’t like to let anyone down, so I was saying Yes to everyone…everyone except myself.
My friend smiled and nodded while I unloaded. As I let out a big final sigh, she said, “well I’m exhausted just listening to everything you are trying to do.” Then, she leaned in and ever so gently whispered, “and what are you doing for yourself?” I stared at her for a long moment. Long trance-like pause. I couldn’t even blink. That’s how tired I was. She kept gazing into my eyes – my soul actually – good friends have that crazy ability. As she silently searched my eyes for an answer, tears began forming in the corners, eventually making their way down my cheeks. She leaned in further, and put her hand on mine, “Laura, you are so good at giving other people advice on how to care for themselves, but you aren’t always good at taking your own advice.”
Ouch. The truth hurts.
I started to protest, but I don’t have time. I stopped myself. The truth is, we all have the same number of hours in a day. I was always telling people how important it is to schedule some of those hours for their own self-care, but I wasn’t doing it. What a hypocrite I am!
My friend read my mind – again! How does she do that? “And don’t you dare beat yourself up about it, just start doing it,” she quipped, raising her cup in a toast. “Here’s to practicing what you preach.” She sipped on her latte and winked, “I took your advice a long time ago on this subject, and it works.”
Hmmmm….She did look well rested.
Fast forward to today. I made a simple commitment to myself during that coffee shop moment of truth; I am going to take one day a week to unplug and just take care of myself. For me, that meant unplugging from work of any kind. No professional work; no housework; no yardwork. No work! Sunday was the logical day of choice for me to unplug from the demands of life in an effort to recharge my body, my mind, and my soul. I dubbed it “self-care Sunday” and shared my intentions with my husband, asking him to join me. He was as bleary-eyed as I; he needed a self-care intervention too, so he was totally on board. “Let’s do it”, he smiled.
We decided it would be our day together, or apart, if that’s what we needed. So far, we have spent most of our self-care Sundays doing things we both enjoy, and it has not only breathed new life into our relationship, but into us individually. In the past month, I have experienced a self-transformation as I have kept my commitment to myself. Our first self-care Sunday, we went to Disneyland. I realize that’s a bit grandiose, but we wanted to start off our self-care commitment with a bang, and there’s nothing like honoring your inner child as a way to reconnect with yourself. Disneyland still is the “Happiest Place on Earth”, in my opinion. I have other happy places too, like the beach, a hiking trail, a mountain stream, and even the hammock in my backyard, to name a few. I love adventure, and finding new places to explore brings me extreme pleasure. I think because it allows me to tap into my curiosity, and my sense of play. There is purpose in play. Have you ever noticed how much more children laugh than adults? Play brings us joy and rejuvenates us! We were not meant to work non-stop. We need to play. We also need to rest. We need self-care; both play and rest are a part of it.
Hope whispers, it’s okay to take time for yourself.
I still have the same pressures today that I did a month ago when I cried into my coffee with my friend. BUT – I am managing them much better simply because I am taking the time to rest my body, my mind, and my soul, on a regular basis. And – I have my joy back!
The other day I had the pleasure of visiting a colleague and friend, who had a baby two months ago. The connection I had with her – the conversation, the laughter, and holding that beautiful baby reminded me again how important self-care is. Gazing into her beautiful, peaceful newborn’s face, I was reminded what is truly important in life. Relationships. A core value I have carried in my heart for as long as I can remember, but I had become so depleted physically, emotionally, spiritually, that I couldn’t recognize I had lost my focus on relationship because of my lack of relationship with myself. We cannot connect with others when we aren’t connected to ourselves. When we are too tired from lack of caring for ourselves, we cannot care for the relationships that mean the most to us because we have nothing to give.
Are you stressed out, burnt out, or just plain worn out? If the answer to that question is yes, then maybe you could use a self-care intervention too. Plan a self-care day right now, and send me a note about what self-care looks like for you!