Yikes…ever notice how busy-ness can creep up on you? I’ve just finished two weeks of having *something* going on every night, and I’m exhausted. I mean, tired to the bone, walking-and-waking-dead pooped. And the fatigue is not just physical – it’s emotional and cognitive. Busy-ness, although marginally productive in the traditional sense, sucks the life out of me. I’ve figured out that I’m the kind of person who needs “me time” – alone, with no kids, no husband, no friends. It’s not that I don’t want to be around these people – they are the most important people in my life, and I love and care for them. However, after data collection/research, peer counseling training, nursery work, meetings, running kids everywhere, there’s just not much left to give. So…

Tonight I’m on strike. I’ve been invited to a scrapbooking event, which I’d normally enjoy for the social contact and the creativity boost, even though I don’t “scrapbook” in a traditional sense – too cutesy for me. I said “no.” It was hard for me to do, as I’m not the most assertive person in the world, especially when it comes to taking care of me. In our last peer counseling class, we covered assertiveness, and I kept thinking, “I need to do more of this – with everyone.” So, I told my friends that I appreciated the invite, but that I was very tired and would not be able to make it. I feel kind of bad, because I missed the last one, too – my in-laws came into town that night – but I need to care for me.

So, why is it that I feel bad/selfish for doing so? Well…”selfish” was the label of choice my mother slung at me whenver I insisted on caring for myself. If I didn’t do what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted it, I was “selfish” and “bad.” Unfortunately, I’ve internalized that and now think it every time I insist on caring for myself. I figure that I at least recognize it now and can counter the message with some positive thinking. (Thank you, cognitive-behavioral therapy!) So now, I tell myself, “You are human, too. You have needs and desires, just like any other human being, and it’s NOT wrong to consider yourself. It’s not wrong to value yourself, or think that you’re worthy of care.”

Women in general seem to suffer from the burden of busy-ness in our society. If we’re not huge successes in business, we feel pressured to be the perfect stay-at-home mother, with immaculate houses, perfectly clean and dressed children, with several clever crafts on hand to keep them busy while we make dinner, bake bread, sew their adorable, fashionable, little clothes, and plan the PTA bake sale. All this while managing the local girl/boy scout troop, carpooling the little darlings to soccer/baseball/gymnastics/cheerleading, and reading up on developmental milestones and how to help your children be better than anyone else’s. BLECH!  All this emphasis on being the perfect professional woman, perfect employee, perfect mother, perfect wife/partner…it’s busy-ness in another form and is life-draining, not life-sustaining. Sustainable living should take into account, in my not-so-humble-opinion, emotional and mental elements as well as physical.

I confess – my house is a mess. In fact, I’m lucky it hasn’t been condemned. Laundry Mountain continues to grow, even while I excavate small loads. I’ll have to strip-mine it soon. Iron? That’s a vitamin, right? (Oh yeah…there is that appliance-thingy gathering dust in the closet.) Dinners come from the microwave (except when the in-laws visit – that’s when I really feel the pressure to be perfect and actually cook.) My kids sometimes wear the same clothes two days in a row…and yeah, they come from Wal-mart. (No, not Children’s Place, Baby Gap, or Macy’s.) So do mine – I don’t make money staying with the little kidlets. There is no homemade baked bread (at least not on a regular basis – I make it when I have time, feel like it and want it.) Developmentally-geared and cutesy crafts? Forget it…more like a coloring book and crayons (at least those that haven’t  been eaten or stomped to smithereens…) 

But you know what? Perfection is no longer any of my “busy-ness.” I’m not perfect, and I never will be. Yet, somehow my children are happy – and they are generally clean (at least as clean as a toddler and pre-schooler can be.) Aidan and I played “Balloon Catch” today – he was all smiles and giggles. Rebecca got in on it, and we played “Monkey in the Middle.” They are growing, they get fed (even if it isn’t homemade,organic, and fresh-grown/picked/juiced) and they seem happy. They come up to cuddle with me, they ask for Mama and they give me hugs and kisses. And, I’m happy – generally. When I let busy-ness take over, that’s when I’m not happy. And including “me-time” is not just respectful to myself, it’s necessary for my to function.

So, what’s the point of yet another rant? Ladies, we don’t have to be perfect. In the business world…we do our best, but we can’t do our best if we’re killing ourselves in the process. At home…we do our best, and somehow our families survive. I’d much rather have a happy, well-adjusted me and a happy, well-adjusted family than a perfect house, etc.  Taking time for ourselves is not only good, it’s necessary. Even if we veg out watching “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost” while eating Ben & Jerry’s (or, my favorite: a bowl of ice-cold melon, mandarin oranges and grapes – YUM), taking time to decompress is necessary to maintain our sanity. We are so good at helping others, at succeeding, at living up to everyone else’s expectations – isn’t time we develop our own?

For what it’s worth, I’m not talking about the hundreds of self-help/self-improvement “programs” or books – read/use them if they nurture and help you. But if you find yourself feeling a load of shoulds descending on you, ask yourself, “Is this really helping me? Is this really going to help me BE me?”  (Think of Albert Ellis’s comment, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” ) Someone else’s idea of what is good may or may not fit – use your sense of what you need to help you out here. In therapy with my clients, I tell them to listen to their inner therapists – the part of you inside that wants you to be happy, fulfilled, and has your best interests at heart. Even that part of you has been called bad, selfish, unworthy, or anything else negative – it’s part of who you are. Now if I can just take my own advice…

Some of my favorite website resources: (These may or may not inspire you; I don’t leave these sites feeling like I’ve got a case of the “shoulds.”)

Jennifer Louden’s “Comfort Queen” material (http://www.comfortqueen.com/),

SARK’s material (http://www.planetsark.com/) – she has an excellent piece this month on treasuring girls

Small Steps to Health – the source of those commercials where people find “lost” body parts, such as double chins, “love handles,” “spare tires,” etc: (http://www.smallstep.gov/index.html)

The Foundation for a Better Life – inspiring source of billboards, posters, and other public messages that are life-affirming: (http://www.forbetterlife.org/)

For the Little Ones Inside – an affirming site: (http://www.forthelittleonesinside.com/)

The Spiral Muse – for women’s well-being: (http://www.spiralmuse.org/)

Creativity for Life – to help get you inspired, fired-up, and ready to live life: (http://www.creativityforlife.com/index.php)

Another Girl At Play – Women artists’ biographies and links: (http://another.girlatplay.com/)

So…play, enjoy, let go of perfection, just be. It’s okay – it really is. (or so I keep telling myself. )

Advertisements