It recently dawned on me, as I added a scheduled phone date with an out-of-state friend to my Google calendar, that life has become hectic. My color coded calendar revealed to me that this was the first green event that I’ve added to my calendar in a long time. If you’re not a Google calendar user, let me explain… This calendar has the capability of linking up with whoever you share it with, allowing all parties to add events and reminders, so that everyone is aware of upcoming dates that may or may not require them to be a part of. As many of you know, my husband is a realtor, a very busy realtor. Google calendar allows us to stay abreast of plans that we have collectively and singularly.. so long as everyone keeps their end updated (cough, cough, Babe!). This prevents him from scheduling showings when Raygan has a theater production, or allows me to block out a date/time well in advance for birthday dinners and such. Overall, a solid, well organized calendar keeps us all where we need to be and usually avoids double booking.
We color coordinate each event that we put into the calendar, so that when we glance at the month ahead we already know who needs to be ready for said event. I say “we” color coordinate, but I’m not sure Robert really knows how to use this function, so his default color is blue. Let sleeping dogs lie, am I right? Raygan’s color is yellow, my color is green as mentioned before, and our family color is orange.
As I clicked the done button to schedule my much anticipated phone date, the green event hit my calendar. I took a quick glance at the rest of the month ahead and noticed that this one green block of time swam in a sea of other colors.
This reckoning really shouldn’t have been as sobering of a moment, as I have felt the effects of the constant busyness and the doing for everyone else around me, but it sure put things into perspective, seeing that lonesome strip of green.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love to take care of my family, my animals (to include our newest puppy, Rollo.. Help me, Jesus!), my friends, my community, and my home. Taking care of others literally fulfills me in a way that nothing else can. But as the old saying goes, “you can’t pour from an empty cup”, and lately my cup has felt a deficit.
When I started this blog last year, I had set goals and intentions to share glimpses of our lifestyle to help encourage and inspire those who took the time to read it. Besides the fact that I plainly didn’t have the extra time to sit and write on a daily basis, I also felt restricted by the fact that our lifestyle wasn’t up to the par that I had set for it.
In August of last year, I started seeing a holistic doctor about some chronic issues that I had been dealing with for several years. I will spare you the details of the issues, but after the gamut of medical doctor’s testing with no productivity, I chose the alternative medicine approach. I am not condemning nor condoning the holistic approach, I still believe it to be a healthier choice, but the regimen that we agreed to try did not agree with my body. I spent several weeks severely fatigued, violently ill, and ended up in the E.R. looking for any help to ease my discomfort. Apparently, my body was not a fan of one of the pills that I was taking, but who’s to know that until the deed has been done?
Like most mothers, when I’m wounded physically or mentally, I default to survival mode. I make sure everyone and everything has just enough of my time and energy to keep them all afloat. Dinner still gets put on the table, in whatever fashion that looks like. Everyone gets their underwear washed, though it may have to be brought to my attention that they’re in need. The pets get fed and watered but not much else beyond that. School days are bare minimum, if at all. And my own needs and desires are pushed to the back burner, in hopes that one day I’ll recover the stamina that it takes to give every aspect of my life my full attention and commitment.
The problem is, when I’m not feeling well and things don’t get done, I stress. I am an avid planner. My family can vouch for this. Whenever it comes to family vacations, birthday planning, or holiday get togethers, I am known to have them planned out to a tee well in advance in order to make the most of our time. What can I say? I enjoy being organized and prepared. I am the kind of person who functions best by having a solid to do list and I find it incredibly satisfying to see items checked off one by one. I can’t tell you how many times I have written down a proposed daily schedule for myself, planning out every hour from the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night. Don’t worry, I usually stick an hour of “free time” in there somewhere for good measure. Reading this aloud makes me realize just how neurotic this must make me sound, but simply put, I set high expectations for myself everyday.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.Proverbs 31:27
I mean, it’s written clear as day in Proverbs 31, the gold standard of what a wife and mother should be, right?! Trust, I stay away from the bread of idleness. Heck, I don’t even eat literal bread.. unless it’s yeast and gluten free (which is hard to come by).
When Proverbs 31 first comes to mind, the negative connotation that comes along with it (for me, anyway) is something to the effect of, “Her house is always spotless. She makes 3 square meals a day made from scratch and cleans all the dishes afterwards. She wakes up before everyone else and goes to bed after everyone else because she is so full of energy and motivation to keep working and doing for family that she can hardly sleep!” “Anything else my dears?”
While reading this scripture in the Bible, I couldn’t help but to question my understanding of it. Is this really what a godly wife looks like? One who devotes every waking moment to the needs of others, while subduing her own? And then I read it again, with fresh eyes and perspective.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.Proverbs 31:11-12
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises herProverbs 31:25-28
A woman must be in good mental, physical and spiritual health to take complete care of her entire household and the only way that she is able to is by first taking care of herself.
I know that “self-care” is such a popular trend now, as it should be. We are living in a time where constant stress and busyness are the norm and the daily hustle and grind are more harmful than productive. Self-care is different strokes for different folks. Elaborate week long get aways every month of the year is not feasible for most. Weekly massages, as good as they sound, might not fit into your budget or schedule. Hours of daily naps, meditation and bubble baths might not work for you either. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t options for you (and me).
Wake up 15 minutes earlier, spend that quiet time alone, drink some tea/coffee, get your head right before the chaos of the day awakens. Make some overnight oats, smoothie packets, egg bites, or some other kind of health savvy food ahead of time when it fits into your schedule, so that you can nourish your body at breakfast and get yourself properly fueled first thing. Carry around a giant water bottle and actually drink it during the day. Heck, refill the sucker when it’s empty and do it again! Go outside for 10-15 minutes, without your phone, breathe some fresh air and take in the sights and sounds. When the baby is down for a nap, do something you want to do. If a nap sounds good to you too, do it! If you work full time, use your break time to let your mind rest, not fill it with the drama and anxieties found on social media. Draw, write, bake, sing, garden, read, create. You do you! What does you look like? What’s something you’ve always wanted to do or learn how to do? Remembering who you are and doing the things that bring a smile to your heart is important. It doesn’t matter how much or how little time you have available to devote to it, just do it.
It’s proven science that being physically active is good for your mental health. Trust me, I know the feeling of not having the energy to even get a work out started. I know how it feels to be so overcome with exhaustion that the thought of exercising makes you want to cry. I know how it feels to have a schedule so demanding that in the off chance that you have an hour of time to kill, there’s a list of other things you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to do and exercise is at the bottom of that list. I also know that when I ignore all of the pity that my mind and body try to dish out to me and actually do some sort of physical activity, I always feel better… and the more I can convince myself to just press through, the easier it gets to stick to a regimen. This doesn’t always look like burpees and dead lifts. Often when I’m trying to get over the suck of starting a workout routine, I ride my bike, walk the dog(s), do yard work, rearrange furniture, organize the garage, anything to engage my muscles, pump some blood and increase my oxygen intake. Give yourself grace to start small.. just start somewhere, somehow!
Don’t forget about the third contender in the self care menagerie, your spirit man. Keeping your spirit lifted and steadfast is of the utmost importance. If you don’t have faith, then what do you have? Reading daily devotionals or chapters in the Bible are a great way to feed your faith. But if you can’t seem to find the time to commit to these on a daily basis, you can listen to a sermon podcast while you fold clothes, get into some worship music while driving from place to place, give thanks for every blessing great or small throughout the day. Stay conscience of the fact that when your soul is nourished, the rest will fall into place.
Now I know this all sounds mighty preachy of me, like I’m a self care veteran who can withstand anything thrown my way, but the reality is that I struggle daily to take my own advice. These are all just examples of the ways that I’ve learned to efficiently incorporate bits and pieces of restoration into my schedule.
One thing that I am a professional at is failing. I fail every day when it comes to giving 100% to 100 different things. I lose my temper far too easily. I let my exhaustion show through complaints and negativity. I fail because I hold myself to such a high standard that no one human being could possibly ever achieve in a healthy manner. Though I may check all of the boxes on a day’s to do list, I’m left completely spent at the end of the day leaving no energy or interest in quality time with my loved ones. What a sad realization, to know that the work that you’re sinking so much time and energy in to does nothing to nurture the relationships between you and the very individuals that you’re supposedly doing it for.
When I read through the passages of Proverbs 31 again, I see how this virtuous woman has found balance. Not only is she feeding her family, tending her household, rearing her children, supporting her husband, and everything in between. She is also confident, joyful, patient, strong, and full of peace because she knows who her provider is and she realizes that the outward appearance and performance pales in comparison to the feelings of love and security she’s found in taking care of what’s truly important. She doesn’t beat herself up when the dishes sit in the sink overnight. She doesn’t think she’s a bad mother because her child acts out. She doesn’t wake up dreading all that she has to do each day but rather rejoices because she gets to. She knows that in order for her cup to overflow goodness into the cultivation of others, she must first fill her cup with the practices that keep her grounded and at ease. She knows that when her own mental, physical and spiritual health are in line, then and only then, can she give her best self to her loved ones and the services that she provides them with. The husband and children praise her and call her blessed because she takes the best care of them that she knows how to, and isn’t falling apart from the inside out while doing it. She’s not perfect, nor will she ever be, but she’s righteous in her pursuits.
Saying “no”, asking for help, and leaving things undone are my toughest tasks. The twisted image of what a good housewife looks like, that social media or even our skewed interpretations of biblical standards, has us working ourselves to death… literally, I have felt like death on many occasions. I will force myself to do chores that I don’t have the time or the energy for before I dare ask for help, in expectation that if someone else does it for me, I will be met with griping and complaining and it won’t be done according to my liking anyway. I have let clutter and the undone cause anxiety and allow thoughts and words to escape that I didn’t truly mean. I have let the burden of the trophy wife mentality cloud my judgement. Has anyone else ever noticed how when they are already irritated that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong?! I swear my depth perception is lost in times of stress and I am more accident prone than any other time. Being stressed out (especially over nominal things) isn’t worth the heartache or the headache that it brings.
The truth is, our loved ones don’t care about the baseboards being spotless if it causes us to be a ticking time bomb built up with anger and resentment. If you have time for baseboards, you have time for you.. and I’d be willing to bet you’d be a much happier spouse/parent/person, if you chose to invest in you rather than the baseboards. As I have said in my previous post, creating a peaceful retreat is important, but so is your well being. Do what you can, when you have the time and energy to do it.. but when it comes down to choosing chores or quality time with your family.. hands down, choose the latter!
As I navigate through my own self care journey, finding small slots of time to cater to my enjoyment, I find that I am more willing to do the hard things (like the dishes) with a fresh perspective. I am more capable of finding the blessings in my work when I shift my focus from have to to get to. I am always able to give more of myself when I have more of myself to give.
So what does your self care practice look like? For me, I look for moments of quiet throughout my day. When the dogs are asleep, Raygan’s working on school, chores are done (or undone), I steal away for a few moments to just be alone. I have moments of prayer and reflection, gratitude and vision casting, and sometimes even just silence. My brain speaks and processes enough throughout the day, that forcing myself to turn it off for a few moments is a great relief. I have recently taken up learning how to play the Ukulele.. though I only get to play it for about 15 minutes every couple of days, it’s something I enjoy. I write literally everything that crosses my mind down on paper throughout the day, to gain the extra mental space and to help me remember things later on when I have the time to devote to them. I love to read. I have several books that I’m reading currently.. though time only allows short sessions in the morning before the household wakes up (which is typically mere minutes after I wake up) and in the evening when I get into bed before I fall asleep (which also doesn’t last very long). Nature is my sanctuary. Sometimes even a quick 10 minutes in the yard refreshes my joy account. Bird watching, trees swaying, my chickens foraging, feeling the dirt of the earth all bring me back to center and remind me how infinitely beautiful the world is and that my problems are a tiny blip on the radar in the grand scheme of things.
I bare my soul and write all of this to say, though life is demanding and there are many things begging for your time and attention, you must meet your own needs first. It’s not selfish, it’s not neglectful, it’s not avoiding everything else on your to do list.. it’s vital to your success and sustainability. Find the time, however short it may be, and fill your cup. Allow yourself to indulge in joyful moments. Not only will your welfare benefit, but those you strive so hard to take care of will notice that you smile more, that you laugh more, that you truly enjoy being the person you were created to be. You have permission to be happy!
**Thank you to everyone who has reached out and asked about the continuation of this blog. I truly have missed sharing and connecting with you. It’s my hope to keep producing some fresh content in the days ahead (writing is a form of self care for me). As always, I thank you for your support, likes, shares and comments. I look forward to hearing from you!**