What’s more important: spending focused, fun time with your kids or doing their laundry? Being there for your partner or cleaning the house? Taking care of yourself or running one more errand?
When you lay it all out in black and white, the answers seem obvious. But how do you live your life each day?
For the past few months (well, to be perfectly honest, most of my life), I’ve been leaning (more than I’d like to admit) toward the second part of each question. Instead of beating myself up about it like I used to, which never did any good anyway, I’m applying my ongoing mindfulness practice to it.
When my kids want me to spend time with them and I respond with, “as soon as I finish the dishes/laundry/email/whatever,” I notice it with curiosity. There I go again. Then I ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen if I stop what I’m doing and hang out with my kids?” Answer: nothing. So I spend time with my kids. And I watch my children’s eyes light up. And that’s the best reward I could imagine.
Work First. Fun Last.
I grew up in a house where all the chores had to be done and the house had to be spotless before we could play. Or else. And that’s how I’ve lived my life for decades since I left home.
For the many years I’ve been with my husband, I’ve erroneously interpreted things he has said and done as something my father would have said to me. I’ve told myself that my husband will be mad at me if I don’t get all my chores done before doing anything I enjoy.
Funny thing is, when I actually spoke to my husband about this, his true feelings couldn’t have been further from the truth. Once he saw where I was coming from, he would say things like, “The world isn’t going to end if you don’t clean the house today. Let’s go for a walk.”
My mindful self laughs whenever my monkey mind starts to take over again. Like when I cancel a massage appointment (again) because my monkey mind can’t seem to find the time for it.
Listen To the Whispers
Over the past few months, the pressure I’ve put on myself to “get it all done” has been too much and my body has been letting me know. I’ve had to make choices about what will and won’t get done, gently acknowledging that the world won’t end, and no one will really care if many of my “to do’s” don’t get done when I expected.
Since entering the next female rite of passage called perimenopause about a year and a half ago, my body has been sending me messages that it’s changing and I can’t keep demanding the same crazy pace from myself. Whenever I push myself too hard, I’m slapped down with a massive feeling of fatigue that I’ve never before experienced.
I keep trying to power through it, but I know I’m only doing myself more harm. I’ve been using work and wine to muffle the voice of my True Self that’s telling me to slow down and take better care of myself. From prior experience, I know that if I don’t listen to my body’s whispers, the whispers will get much louder until they have to whack me over the head with something serious. I’d rather avoid that.
Trying To Slow Down
One of the things I’ve not done for a while is write. I love to write and find it healing, but I chose not to make time for it because it didn’t seem “productive enough.” With my mind going a million miles a minute, sitting down to focus on something creative from my soul seemed almost impossible. I found myself coming up with a slew of excuses, the biggest one being that I was too tired.
I took a week off of work to try to slow down. I planned to write each day. Unfortunately, I spent most of that time doing chores and other work around the house along with checking email at work – just in case.
Near the end of that week, on my way back from taking out the trash, I stopped to untangle the hammock hanging under the trees in front of our house. As I started to walk away from the hammock, my True Self whispered to me, “You know, you didn’t put this hammock out here just so you could untangle it every now and then. Lie down and relax for a minute.” And I did. It was wonderful.
The past two weeks were busy again. I felt like I could barely keep my head above water. To take advantage of the three and a half hours of commute time I have each day, I listen to books and podcasts. Over these two weeks I listened to Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof You Can Heal Yourselfby Dr. Lissa Rankin and Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by Dr. David Perlmutter.
Mind Over Medicine is about how powerfully we can heal ourselves of both minor and chronic, life-threatening diseases. Grain Brain shows how our carbohydrate-dense diets are eroding our brains and killing us. Both have helped me to see how I can make lifestyle changes to improve my health, energy and happiness.
Getting Back On Track
Today my husband gave me the gift of a quiet day at home alone. He said he would do it under one condition – that I “get some work done.” When he said that, my heart sank. My mind immediately defined “work” as one of the many home improvement projects that we’re in the midst of. Fortunately, he quickly clarified that “work” meant writing. I almost started to cry with joy.
He’s an abstract painter who has been putting projects ahead of his painting so he’s quite familiar with what I’ve been feeling. He knows how much I love to write. He knows that I have to see writing as an important job in order for me to prioritize it. So he helped me to do that today. He’s amazing.
Putting together the pieces of what I’ve learned or been reminded of over the past few weeks, I have a new plan for how to approach my day – a new plan to restore my energy and vitality and to approach each day more in line with how I feel physically, mentally and emotionally.
My underlying theme is acceptance of how things are without trying to force things to be otherwise. My body and mind are changing. I can’t force them to be what they’ve been. It’s time to learn a new way of being.
Here’s my plan:
- Consciously notice the innumerable things I’m grateful for throughout my day.
- Write every day – before opening email.
- Significantly reduce the wheat and sugar in my diet.
- Increase my daily intake of veggies and good fats.
- Continue my daily yoga and meditation practice.
- Get a monthly massage.
- Walk most days.
- Focus more on the important people in my life and less on the chores and “to do’s.”
I’ve been thinking more about what I want my life to have meant to others when I’m gone. I think about the role model I’m being for my children. I think about how I can best offer my gifts to the world.
When I look at the big picture through these lenses, whether or not I get to “inbox zero,” have the dishes and laundry done or the house completely clean start to have much less significance.
Listening to my True Self and prioritizing from my values and heart are what really matters.
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