by Jess, Diary of a Mom
I tried hard to explain it to Luau last night.
“It’s so odd,” I told him. “In so many ways, I feel so incredibly close to this woman, and yet we’ve never met. We’ve never even spoken!”
He’s heard this refrain before – I’d not be surprised to hear him add ‘ad nauseum, dear’ – my amazement at these friends in the ether – after so many years, these true FRIENDS.
But today, it was one of those friends that made all the difference. So I tried to explain.
“She took a risk,” I said. He didn’t respond, waiting for more. He knows his wife. “An emotional risk. She stepped right over boundaries, somehow knowing that she could. She TOLD ME what to do. She sent me a velvet-gloved btch slap, signed with lots and lots of love.”
I stopped for a moment, hoping the import of this was getting through. “I don’t know how to tell you what it means to me that she would do that.”
“Oh, yes, it was very nice of her to take the time,” he said.
No, damn it! It was much, much more than that. I wasn’t going to give up. I needed him to understand why this mattered so much. I had to find a way to explain.
Friends and teachers and mentors come in so many forms. And sometimes one of them is simply willing to say, “I think I have something to teach you.” That’s not easy. In fact it can be really, really hard.
I told him about the e-mail that I got over the weekend from my friend Carrie. I told him how when I’d first read it, I was caught on my heels. I told him how I’d begun to make excuses. “Oh,” I thought, she just doesn’t see how much I DO take care of myself. Well, of course she’s worried; I don’t show the world that incredibly selfish side of me that spoils myself rotten! For heaven’s sake, I just don’t write about all of the things I do for myself!”
I began to list them in my head – the clothes I buy – the cars, the shoes, the cosmetics, the sunglasses, the shoes (yes, I said that twice – trust me, I buy myself a lot of shoes). “She just doesn’t hear about all of that,” I thought.
I forced myself to stop. To just STOP. I’d made a list of all the things that I do for myself and the list was comprised completely of THINGS that I BUY for myself. Ouch. BUYING for myself is not DOING for myself. Wow.
I spend an awful lot of time trying to ensure that my girls grow up knowing what matters. I teach them that THINGS don’t matter. Of course there are things that we need and things that help make life awfully comfortable, but what kind of mother am I if I set the example for my kids that they should value THINGS over themselves?
I constantly tell them that making TIME for those that we love is the greatest gift we can give one another. But what about making time for ourselves? If we value ourselves, then don’t WE deserve our own time too?
‘Yes!’ said the wake-up call from this dear friend who saw past my line of crap and gently, lovingly made me confront what’s underneath. No matter that we’ve never met, nor even spoken, she knew. She wrote,
… it’s okay not to know. It’s okay not to be “up” and “on.” It’s okay to be pissed. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to be tired. It’s okay to try your hardest and have it not be “enough.” It’s all okay. What is not okay is to ignore yourself. You will pay the price (dearly) which will inevitably “cost” your children. The social worker was right, “Take care of yourself first.”
I think that’s what I’m called to reiterate.
Take it from me … The price of not looking out for yourself is too high. Don’t pay it.
Those neck pains? Address.
The fatigue? Treat.
The tired of being tired, tired of being up and on. Listen to that.
And don’t forget that the love. you have for others, must be extended to yourself, too.
Reading it again just now I was brought to tears. Yes, Carrie, YES! I can’t be the only one who needs to hear this. I just can’t, can I?
I went and took a tour of a gym yesterday after work. It’s quiet, relatively private, out of the way. I stopped off after work and took my time walking around. The world did not implode in the time that I was gone. My children did not forget who I was because I came home a little later than usual. I will be joining that gym today.
An hour a day. ONE HOUR. One 24th of the day, I am giving to myself – adding it on to my work day. I’m downright giddy – energized.
You will neglect yourself. You will suddenly realize that you haven’t stopped moving. You’ve missed the gym. You’ve taken care of everyone but you. You will forget how important it is to take care of yourself. Listen to me. If you hear nothing else, hear this. You MUST take care of yourself. You are no use to anyone unless you are healthy. I mean that holistically, my friend. HEALTHY. Nourished, rested, soul-fed. Your children deserve that example.
My internal guide had fallen silent. She was preoccupied with three thousand other things. I needed a reminder. I needed a friend to say, “Enough.”
ed note .. thank you, carrie for graciously allowing me to share our conversation. i am so grateful for your wisdom and your friendship.
Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband Luau* and their beautiful daughters – ten year old Katie*, an utterly fabulous typically a-typical fifth grader, and eight year old, Brooke*, a loving, talented, hilarious third grader who has autism.
She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and supportive community of parents, friends, adults on the autism spectrum and some random people in her life who cared enough to hit ‘Like’ and probably now wonder what they got themselves into.
This post was originally published on her site and re-posted here with permission.