First, it's not an exaggeration to say that the last two weeks have overwhelmed me. I've had too much work to do, too many places to go, too many external factors to deal with (including Mr. Wonderful losing another close relative and the accompanying stress), etc. In short, I've been pulled in too many directions. When that is the case, I can't give my full attention to anything or really recover when moving from one item to the next. So, I've been running myself ragged -- emotionally, physically and mentally ragged.
Enter this weekend, when Mr. Wonderful and I were scheduled to spend the weekend away relaxing and rejuvenating. We succeeded on some level, certainly, but I also think the travel-related stressors and the recent loss of his family member exacerbated the exhaustion. Anytime I tell myself that I'm exhausted I remember that he is dealing with more day-to-day stress and struggling with even more exhaustion, but two people who are barely making it on different levels going out of town together is a recipe for both relaxation and unwanted stress, because neither has all that much to give.
I had not one but two total meltdowns this weekend. I haven't taken the time to take care of myself before trying to take care of others since the beginning of the year. And 3 weeks of running on empty means eventually the engine will break down. And break down I did. I totally, totally lost it. I screamed, cried and collapsed in a heap of exhaustion. For the first time Mr. Wonderful seemed to understand that, while I really am struggling to keep it all together for him and be supportive of him, I'm not perfect. He offered to step up his empathy for and support of me, and that I appreciate. But he went beyond that and told me that he wants me to be happy. He was genuinely concerned, apologetic and giving -- and all in a way that I know it won't be temporary.
Nevertheless, making sure I'm calm, grounded, centered and secure is not his job. It's mine.
Apparently learning to love myself is going to be harder than I planned. But it starts with doing what is necessary to achieve the aforementioned feelings of security, purpose and peace. I've been telling other people (namely the moms I love) that you can't take care of others until you take care of yourself, but I didn't realize that I was failing at doing that myself. I definitely had no idea how to execute it on a day-in, day-out basis, and I didn't, I don't think, understand my personal need for it. But now I do.
There are two primary things that I need in order to really be me and to truly love myself: to rest and to give. Now, I know that sounds simple, but it isn't. It's incredibly complex. And I wasn't quite sure to how to wrap my mind around those concepts. Until, that is, I read their definitions. And then it all clicked.
Here, for instance, is the definition for rest:
- REST (v): cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself or recover strength.
(n): an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity.
Did you catch that? You can't do less; you have to cease doing altogether and do nothing. And why is that key? Because without it, you can't relax (or, in other words, enjoy anything); you can't feel refreshed (something that lately I've struggled with); and you can't recover your strength in order to do well at what you attempt or offer others assistance (which is why those involved in things like sports and the military take a step back -- if they don't, they don't the strength to go back out there and succeed). And how do I incorporate rest into my life? Well, the definition actually answers that question as well: I have to plan to rest by scheduling periods of time where I don't engage anything stressful or do anything strenuous.
What a novel idea!
The definition for give is equally as instructive and impressive:
- GIVE (v): freely transfer the possession of something to someone
(n): the capacity to bend or alter in shape under pressure; elasticity
Okay, so I'm sure you caught it that time. I have to freely give of myself -- not view it as a means to an end. What a concept! And in order to do that I'm going to have to have the capacity to remain grounded and stay myself under pressure. I have to stay connected to the part of me that values empathy and views everything from a wide lens perspective. I have to stay connected to serving others and giving back. And how will I do that? You got it! By freely giving of my time, energy and money, and by taking care of myself!
My words for the year, then, are rest and give. They go hand in hand, no matter what definition.
All of this is harder than it seems. It means scaling back, accepting and admitting that I can't do some of the things that I want to do, and being strategic both about when I rest and what I give. And I have to view these things as necessities, not options.
I hope you're having a good 2012 thus far, and I'm glad you're here walking this road with me.
#351 - 360: The most recent posts on this blog, written by a couple who minister to the homeless (namely: KIDS) in the Atlanta area. Every post hits me differently and blows my mind, calling me to action. I strongly encourage you to read and support their efforts. I think you'll be blown away...
#361: The lyrics to "That'd be Alright" by Alan Jackson, which strike me as overwhelmingly relevant to what I'm currently trying to do. (My favorite = "If everybody everywhere had a lighter load to bear and a little bigger piece of the pie, we'd be living us a pretty good life. That'd be alright.")
#362: This 60 Minutes video regarding the epidemic of homelessness in the U.S. in the wake of the recession. (For them it isn't anywhere near over yet.) It's set in the town my parents grew up in and where my grandmother still lives. It broke my heart into a million pieces and reminded me of the rejuvenation that comes with giving sacrificially. (How amazing are the kids featured therein?)
#363: The lyrics to "Time Well Wasted" by Brad Paisley. Again, it taps into my only goals for the year: giving and resting.
#364: Wonderful weekend with Mr. Wonderful in a fantastic little bed and breakfast a couple of hours away. It was absolutely fantastic. We had good food (#365), great service (#366), ridiculous accommodations (#367) and a chance to get out of town and feel the freeom that comes when you go for a non-commute drive.