The weight on your shoulders

March 30, 2016 § 7 Comments

I was halfway through my teens when I switched into self-sufficiency. I don’t think it was conscious, but if I look back now, I can see where it all began. I can point out the day when I had to start being more independent, more self-reliant, learn to do things for myself.

Self-sufficiency isn’t a bad thing, of course. But like everything, it has its shadow side.

Self-sufficiency is like a backpack you carry around with you. It starts off being manageable, and it’s full of useful stuff. As you go through life, you add more useful stuff to it. Incrementally the weight of that backpack increases, so you don’t really notice how heavy it’s become.

So you keep on filling it up, and you begin to notice that your knees are starting to hurt a little, and your back isn’t happy.But there are mountains to be conquered, so you keep walking, and you keep adding more stuff to your backpack. You squeeze things into the corners. Maybe you even find a way to stack them so that they don’t fall out.

And then the day comes when you can’t lift the backpack anymore. You can’t even get it onto your shoulders while you sit on the bed. Because while you’ve been looking after yourself, you really haven’t been looking after yourself.

Self-sufficiency is not the same as self-care.

Self-sufficiency makes the bed every day, and only allows you to crawl under the covers when you’re falling asleep on your feet. Self-care tucks you into bed when you’re tired with a cup of tea. It draws a hand softly across your forehead, knowing that if you rest, you’ll work smarter, not harder, tomorrow.

Self-sufficiency says ‘yes’ when it should say ‘no’. Self-care knows that ‘no’ is a full sentence. And that if you can’t say ‘no’ without guilt, then your ‘yes’ doesn’t really mean much after all.

Self-sufficiency is proud. Self-care is kind. It knows where the boundaries are, and lovingly enforces them.

Self-care isn’t a backpack at all. It’s not something you carry. Self-care is something you keep in your heart.

It’s small and it’s light, and it’s easily lost, but without it that backpack is impossible to carry.

 

 

 

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Come out and play

February 5, 2014 § 4 Comments

Yesterday I sat in my life coach’s office and bemoaned having every evening free.

I know, I know. And it’s a particularly odd thing to bemoan given that I spent the best part of last year consciously putting down things that brought me no joy. I was completely and utterly burnt out, and stepping away from all of those irksome things allowed me to move a little closer to remembering who I used to be before I was someone’s mother or wife, or daughter, or sister, or friend. Or employee.

I like to be busy. At school I always did two to three extra-murals a day (none of them being sport, however) and I continued that pattern into adulthood. Not having a schedule is an alarming thing for me. I like structure – it helps me to feel in control, and that helps me to cope with my anxiety. If there were an Olympics for worrying, I’d be at the top of podium for every event.

“But I’m wasting time!” I wailed. (I do a lot of wailing at Judy Klipin, who has the patience of a saint.) “I spend far too much time buggering around on Twitter and playing silly word games!”

And do you know what Judy said? She shrugged. And then she pointed out that my playing on Twitter had brought about valuable friendships, work, and artistic collaborations that I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams. And it had brought me joy and a lot of fun. And that all of those things were good. So perhaps it wasn’t such a waste of time after all.

And as usual, she was spot on.

That was a revelation in itself, but it also got me thinking. And I realised that it’s actually okay for adults to play. Perhaps that’s obvious to you, but I always feel like I should be doing something productive with every moment of my waking hours. And I’m not really sure why that is, or when I stopped playing.

But perhaps it’s time to give myself permission, and stop feeling guilty for having some fun. I’m allowed, right?

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