I’ve noticed something this year. Many women are simply not taking care of themselves, myself included. I see it in their eyes. I hear it in their voices. They call me with stories of exhaustion, worry and plain old frustration. I’m there for them. They are there for me. There is one thing missing from all of the support they and I give and that is a permanent solution. That solution is self-care and the inclusion of boundaries in their lives.
My friend Julie sent me this picture just one week ago. I was sick and instead of just saying “get better” she nailed the real issue right on the head. “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.” This quote by Parker J. Palmer stunned me but didn’t really impact me until just today. Did I mention that Julie is also a healthcare provider? She has seen me for over twelve years dealing with sicknesses that were definitely brought on by lack of self-care. Diabetes, viruses that won’t go away and shingles. These are brought on by a lack of self-care, a lack of stress management and tendency to worry about things that are not even mine to worry about. OK Julie I think I have finally got the message! I’m going to print out my own blog post (this one) and put it on my refrigerator!
I just returned last night from a couple of days in Florida with my children. On the drive home from the airport I had a very mild moment of anxiety. My children were sound asleep and I was about seven miles away from home. All of the sudden I couldn’t see the road. My vision started to fail me and the road became a series of images that flickered instead of remaining steady. My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. In a moment of panic I searched for a place to pull over but there was road work taking place and the shoulder was blocked. I didn’t feel like I could make it to safety, and in that moment I realized that if I didn’t pull it together I was going to lose control. I was on the brink of a panic attack and called home to hear my husband’s voice and thank goodness for Suri because there was no way I could dial the phone. He didn’t answer. I was on my own. So I started to make my mind go blank instead of thinking about the situation and I started to breathe. Slowly I began to feel like I had more control, I calmed down and got home safely.
I attributed the experience to night driving until the moment I woke up this morning. My chest feels tight and small pin pricks of heaviness are invading my brain.
What the hell is going on? It’s summer!
It is stress and even more importantly, a lack of self-care and stress management in my life. Each one of my children are facing major developmental changes. One child turns 21, one child turns 13 and one child turns 10 this year. Each of them are so very different and the sibling rivalry and clashes are at an all time high. I feel like I’m living in constant referee mode. My husband has some projects at work that have literally taken him away from me for the last year. He is mentally and physically absent most of the time, even when he is home. He and I have aged greatly as a result. Our bodies are unhealthy and our minds are even more so. I give too much of energy reserve to everyone and I don’t save one drop for myself. Not one drop.
I’m worrying about shit that just doesn’t matter. Are you? I’m tired. I wonder if while on vacation, my mother and father noticed that I have turned my reactions off most of the time. While my children are torturing each other, I often take my gaze and look elsewhere. This is not because I don’t care. I do this because I feel like I’m a hamster in a wheel, breaking up the same damn fights, teaching the same lessons and repeating myself over and over and over again. I do the same with my husband. He talks about one thing. One thing. One thing. It’s work. Then he talks about work again. And again. I listen. Sometimes with half an ear, sometimes with my entire heart. Hey and my eldest had a party in my house while I was away! I read him the riot act last night. He can have friends over and oh by the way, he is responsible for every single one of their actions. No he cannot claim ignorance that plastic cups are in our hot tub floating or at the bottom of the tub. Oh and hope you enjoyed that party because it was the last one and you owe me money for my missing beer.
Calgon take me away!
I know what I need. Boundaries. I need to set them and I need to give myself the love and courage to live with them. Here are my own realizations that I am just now writing down and will post on my own damn refrigerator! I need to work out and get rid of stress. Staring at the walls and drooling doesn’t work.
- My friend’s problems are not my own. No more CONSTANT internalizing and worrying about their shit. This is not because I don’t care. I do! I just can’t keep a constant level of their stress in my heart. I have my own life to fill up my time. I will be there for my friends but I will not carry their load on my back.
- My husband needs to leave his work at work. No more churning the family up over and over. He needs to get on the treadmill and release his own stress or better yet work in the yard or fix something and get his mind off of the crazy! I will not feel guilty about having him parent more with me.
- My kids need more fun time with me. My relationship with them needs to be full of more happy times and not just being a referee. Seeing them smile and enjoy Florida was amazing. We need more times like this at home!
- I may not text you back and if I do it may be hours later not seconds. It’s Ok if you do the same. If I want an immediate reaction I will tell you or CALL you!
- I’ve already started living more and more “away” from Facebook and social media. This will continue. This is not how I enjoy my friendships. I enjoy my friendships through laughter, dinners, hiking and rides to Middleburg, not through “likes” on the internet. I don’t want to see the constant self branding, passive aggressive digs or rants. That’s negative energy. Thanks but no thanks.
- No more worrying about stupid shit. So the laundry isn’t done. Oh well. How the hell did I get to a place where I care so much about doing laundry? Seriously I have issues.
- More laughter. Much more. More time with the friends that laugh with me!
- I will bring more perspective into my life. See number 7. Life is really good. I don’t need to have stress reactions or anxiety based on stupid crap. I can only be responsible for myself.
- I will take positive action and do things for myself while enforcing these boundaries. Like now. I’m getting onto the treadmill.
Happy summer! Treat yourself to some love and perhaps some boundaries.
I feel better already!