IN THIS TOGETHER ◽ MARRIAGE
Since you’ve been sharing your time by reading some of these tangents I’ve gone on, I decided there are some things that you should know about me. First of all, I’m pretty consistent. And by consistent, I mean consistently playing catch up. I play catch up with my kids and their chores, doctor’s appointments, work, my to-do lists, and laundry. Okay, that last one is a lie. I don’t even try to catch up on laundry. In fact, we have an entire couch dedicated to clean laundry that mocks my feeble attempts at success. But I digress… Other than that, I’m mostly friendly, unless I’ve run out of coffee. I am a people pleaser and I tend to apologize for everything until it even annoys me (I hate this particular trait, but I’m a work in progress).
Let’s see, what else….oh my children tortured me for about a decade by taking turns waking me up multiple times a night. They pretty much broke my brain and now I’m an insomniac who needs a dozen bedtime routines, medication, eye masks and earplugs to force a reboot. I can also survive solely on caffeine and carbs. Like, if I could take only three things to a desert island, I’d choose coffee, an endless store of bread and my magically-never-need-to-be-charged kindle. In fact, that sounds like what I might ask for on Mother’s Day. Also, my husband and I have recently decided that I am basically a plant. I need water (okay, coffee, but there’s water in coffee so that counts) and sunshine to thrive.
Too many gloomy days and I want to climb under the covers and wake up when it’s summer again. See? Plant. However, while my husband has an amazing green thumb and we have glorious green life all over our house, I am not allowed to touch them. In fact, I’m not really supposed to look at them for too long. I don’t know what it is, but if they sense me there, they just give up and die. They don’t even wait for me to drown them or to forget to water them for seven weeks. I’ve even managed to kill the cactus. More than once. What can I say? It’s a gift.
But speaking of green thumbs (not mine, obviously), I think it’s time to start taking the same approach with our actual lives. Now, full disclosure, I excel at stressing the importance of self-care and finding ways to carve out time to breathe and regroup….but mostly for other people (my own stuff, not so much.) Some of it is a misguided view of my childhood. I’ve talked about my mom before, and her ability to cook these amazing homemade meals, sew actual clothes, run all aspects of our family and household, seemingly with ease. As a grown woman myself now, I’m relatively certain that she is at least partly human (sorry, but no matter how old I get, she’s always going to be slightly superhuman to me). I’m sure that she cried in the bathtub and locked herself in the closet with a spoon and a tub of ice cream like the rest of us. But to me she was bigger than life and I have felt this internal need to live up to a little girl’s idea of how this whole mess is supposed to look. So I push it all back and focus on the stuff that doesn’t take the same emotional effort.
Ask me how this plan works out most of the time. Or better yet, ask my husband. I need gentle reminders to take some time for me. Usually those gentle reminders come in the form of my sobbing on said husband’s shoulder, completely melting down because I forgot to sign my kid’s homework folder (again) and I did the dishes instead of holding the other kid responsible for their chores, so obviously this will all result in our kids growing up and robbing a 7-11, emotionally stunted and never forming healthy human attachments. At this point in the breakdown, I get pointed in the direction of the bathtub with instructions to soak until I’m pruned and sane.
Why do we think, especially as women, that our needs are the least important?
The whole “put on your oxygen mask first” thing usually seems like what I’d tell other people. I’m not as kind to myself as I am to other people. I’m not as gentle or merciful with myself as I am with other people. But I don’t believe that’s what God had in mind for us. If you grew up in church, you probably remember hearing about how important it is to be selfless, giving, loving, and forgiving. All of these are marvelous things to be and strive for. But we forget the things that Jesus did. Like rest. Weep. Leave his friends to spend time on his own. If Jesus recognized this and took time to do what he needed to do to nourish his own soul, why don’t we give ourselves the same permission?
For some reason, most of us act like we shouldn’t have our own needs or maybe that they should just magically be met. We act like our exhaustion from trying to do all and be all and create all and is just our lot in life. Sometimes we wear that exhaustion as a badge of honor. A virtual trophy built of just how much we do and how great that makes us look on the outside. But I don’t want to just be the doer of all the things and the care-er of all the people. I want to build up my heart and my mind and my emotional reserves so I can be a better (preferably less tired) version of me. I want to intentionally create time and space to do what Jesus did so I can love like he loved. We can’t pour from an empty pot. So let’s create some time, not just for bubble baths or pedicures, but for the kind of moments that feed our souls.
“Some things are better not spread too thin. Your-self and peanut butter.”