I’ve started to rest instead of push through.
I don’t know if it’s my age (a “young 39,” as someone said to me yesterday??) , hormones, or something else, but my body doesn’t do things just because my mind tells it to anymore.
My body is in revolt against my hyperactive mind.
I’ve heard the “oxygen mask” analogy dozens of times and I’ve written about it myself.
“Put on your mask before assisting others.”
Also, its cousin: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
It sounded reasonable. I just didn’t really believe it.
Denying myself rest felt like a deeply personal decision, one that didn’t seem to me like it had to affect those around me one way or the other. As long as I kept showing up, it shouldn’t matter to them how I actually felt.
Then, Monday night happened. Monday night at about 5:15 pm I had 45 minutes of time to myself. I could have worked. I was planning to work.
But that thing I said above about my body happened. It kicked in after I talked to my friend Justine about boundary-setting.
I realized I had no energy. Dinner was in the oven. So I did nothing for 45 minutes. I stayed off my phone and let time pass.
When my husband arrived home at 6 with the kids, he was exhausted and flustered. He was coming down with a cold. He’d worked a crazy day, left late, barely made it to daycare pickup, made a second stop to pick up our older son, fought traffic, and arrived home later than he was expecting.
He hadn’t had a break in hours.
After dinner, I told him I could give Morgan a bath (usually his job). He took me up on my offer.
Morgan skipped off to the bathroom. Literally. He was in one of those wondrous good moods we toddler parents document with dozens of videos. I ran the water, wriggled him out of his clothes and diaper, and into the bath he plopped.
He picked up a bar of soap. He pinched it, exploring its texture. He rolled it in his hands.
He made a cartoonish biting and chewing noise, smacking his lips.
“Challah! I eat the challah!” he said.
“Oh,” I said. “Yum!”
I usually hate to play pretend with my kids, although…
I loved to pretend when I was a kid myself.
He cradled the soap in his palms and lifted it toward me. His eyes gleamed.
“You want challah?” he said to me.
“Yes, please. I’m starved,” I said. I took my own cartoonish pretend bite.
We passed the “challah” back and forth a few more times. Morgan took a non-pretend bite of soap. Twice. But he spat and rinsed and seemed none the worse.
Then he covered the challah with a washcloth and played “Where did the challah go?”
“Where did the challah go?” Morgan asked. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
(Side note – Why is it so cute when a 2-year-old does this: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯? I think it’s among the top 5 cutest things a 2-year-old can do.)
We found the challah. We giggled a lot.
I’m telling you this story because Monday night could have gone differently. If I had worked until 6, our kids would have had two parents who hadn’t had a break in hours. Two parents who just wanted their kids in bed, no matter how cute they were being.
Everybody’s workin’ for the bedtime. Heaven knows that happens a lot of nights.
Sometimes our kids, exhausted from full days of their own, are also just trudging toward bedtime, and it’s OK.
But on Monday night, we didn’t have to trudge. My kids were both in a great mood.
Thanks to me giving myself that 45 minutes of calm before they got home, I also had the energy to assist one of them with his metaphorical oxygen mask. To connect with him on his level. And to enjoy him!
I had the energy to assist my husband with his oxygen mask without resentment, because we didn’t both need a break.
I’m telling you this story because I want to encourage you to give yourself time. You won’t find the time, I’m afraid. You’ll just have to claim it.
So claim it. I get it now. It’s not just for you.
Although if it were just for you, that would be a good enough reason.
Maybe you need to rest, like I do.
Maybe you need to write (also like I do).
Also like me, maybe you are not giving yourself permission to claim time to do both or either of these things.
If that permission just came from always believing that I deserve what I need, I wouldn’t always give permission to myself.
I don’t always believe I deserve things.
But now I see permission can come from at least two different wells.
One well is the well of self-worth. Like I said, my well of self-worth is sometimes too dry to sustain permission.
So it’s nice to discover another well. The well of… cause and effect, I guess. (It’s a working title.)
When I rest, I get harmony and love and connection in my life. I provide my kids with the same.
When I rest, I give others permission to rest. (Like my exhausted husband.)
When I don’t rest, I cut off this possibility, for me and for them.
When I write, I open up all kinds of possibilities for connection.
When I write, I give others the permission to spread ideas of their own.
When I don’t write, I cut off the possibility for connection.
I thought it was secretly selfish to say something like, “Taking care of myself allows me to take care of others.”
I’m learning it’s just common sense.
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