I've had much on my plate these days: increasing demands on my time with work over the last several months (50-60 hour weeks have become the norm temporarily), some mind-bending life transitions, relational ups & downs, and facing a milestone birthday. On top of all this, I've been thriving creatively and have been struggling to give adequate time to pursue those things that inspire and quicken my heart.
All these things are causing me to pause and take stock: to assess where my life is at in relation to where I want it to be and to examine how my day to day activities and behaviors reflect what I truly value (the planner can be quite telling!). I can hardly be objective where I am concerned, but if I were an onlooker into my own life, I'd probably tell myself this:
- Work less hours and don't be afraid to take time for yourself.
- Say "no" when you don't want to commit to something and don't feel guilty or apologetic for it. People might think you are selfish, irresponsible, flaky, or rude. They will always have their own ideas of what you should be doing. But they're not taking care of you: you are, and you are in the best position to know what is good for you and what you need.
- Spend more time with the people you like and don't get miffed when they tell you you're working too much and that they're disappointed they don't get to see you as much as they'd like.
- No one else has all the answers; don't expect that you are an exception to this.
- Be kind and gracious to yourself; you cannot give others what you are not willing to receive for yourself.
- Take care of your heart and don't try to ignore or talk it out if what it needs. A wise man once said it is the wellspring of life, and you would do well to tend to it, feed it, defend it, and fight for it when necessary.
- Not every good thing demands your "yes". Learn to know what you can handle, and expect that in order to safeguard your heart and your wellness, you will sometimes have to say "no" to some good & worthwhile things.
- Be willing to stumble a little (or a lot) and to step into the unknown. No one who realizes their dreams does so without risk.
- Exercise patience with yourself: it does no good to get stuck browbeating yourself for perceived failures and shortfalls. Acknowledge them honestly and accept the lessons they offer as a gift. Let them inspire forward movement.
- Approach God with open hands, always. Allow Him to take away or give as He will, always trusting His goodness in whatever He does. NOTE: this will (no doubt) mean tears and heartache. Take this as gift also, it means you are alive and living fully.
- Enjoy life!! Soak in the beauty around you, laugh, and take the opportunity to indulge in simple pleasures.
A year or two ago, many of these things would have sounded selfish or like sentimental fluff to me. I am someone who loves to give and have been in the habit of extending myself without taking care to ensure that I was staying filled, healthy, and whole. It's a great recipe for burnout! I've heard it so often (and have probably advised others) that you must be responsible for caring for yourself before you can extend it to others. My personal beliefs are finally moving in this direction, letting go of those cement bags of guilt that have been hindering me from fully embodying this value. How I spend my time is now a better reflection of those things in which I place value.
I envision a ripple effect in my relationships. After all, I cannot approach God or any human relationship with integrity if I sabotage my end of the relationship by coming in ignorance of myself or by refusing to let go of self-defeating behaviors. By placing a higher value on self-care, I will be a better friend, daughter, and child of God. More fully invested in myself, I will truly be able to live life to its fullest.