My sister Jennifer and I are very close. We live thousands of miles apart, but we share a bond that really does transcend the distance. Like many working women, we have often commiserated with each other about how challenging it is to coordinate the various parts of our lives into something that resembles a balanced whole. I’ve met women who say it’s impossible, I’ve met women who say they’ve figured it out, and I know lots of women who are still trying to sort out some way to create a balance that works for them.
Often though, in the mayhem that is looking after business and family, and participating in community, what many women lose is the habit of self-care. We allow the many varied demands of our lives to crowd out the things we need to do to support ourselves. Over the years, I’ve called my sister on occasion, looking for sisterly support when things felt as though they were just too much. And more often than not, what I needed, beyond that non-judgemental listening ear; was a gentle kick in the butt; reminding me to get back to the things that feed ME, and allow me to carry on with everything else.
About once a year, Jen and I have a chance to get together, face-to-face. We flop down on the kitchen floor, the dogs snuggled around us, drinking tea (or something a little stronger) and catching up on all our “stuff” in person. In one of our last reunions, we realized that there are people around us who have created non-negotiable “me” time for themselves. These smart people carve out time that is not up for grabs by anyone but themselves. Bombs could be going off, babies could be being born, birthday celebrations could be happening, deadlines at work could be looming…. but through it all, if these folks made a commitment to themselves to do something – they keep that commitment. It’s a date with themselves that never gets cancelled because “something came up.” They honour the commitment – no matter what else is going on.
Something else we noticed? Because these very smart people regularly stick to their guns, honouring their commitments to themselves instead of allowing other pressures to take precedence, the people around them begin to accept those boundaries without question! People accept a “no,” instead of trying new ways to convince them that they’re need to look after this, that or the other thing. How cool is THAT?!
There were times in the past, I’ll admit, when I thought that this seemed a little selfish. What if people needed them? Couldn’t they see how inconvenient it was for everyone when they held true to their thing (insert playing hockey, going to yoga, playing with the band, reading a book… or simply NOT participating in whatever else was going on)? And then, as my family and my business began to grow and my responsibilities to the outside world grew exponentially, I began to see the true genius of this technique. Is it stubborn? Most certainly. Is it good for you? Without question! Is it easy? Not by a long shot… at least not for me.
For me, the world around me only seems to makes sense when I move. Sometimes that means blow-the-doors-off intense physicality. Sometimes that means an introspective, sensory, meditative kind of physicality. I need both. It’s not just a calorie-burning, muscle toning thing. I really need a clear and grounded connection to my body every day. Without it, my body stiffens up; I can’t think as clearly, I get depressed; I gain weight; and I find it harder and harder to give, because my inner well is essentially empty. But it’s sometimes easy for me to lose sight of those things in the short term when the world seems to need my attention RIGHT NOW. And it’s too easy for the short term to become the long term… and then life just doesn’t feel good.
But as I begin to incorporate and even celebrate this lovely, stubborn self-care strategy in my own life, I’ve started to find that balance feels a little easier to come by. I’m setting more hard boundaries around the time and activities that I need to not only survive, but thrive. And as I respect my own needs more, I am better able to look after the needs of my family and friends, my clients, by business and my community. And gradually, the people around me are recognizing that no means no. They are beginning to respect my time a little more now too – and that is refreshing.
What self-care needs have you allowed to be crowded out of your life? What could you claim as your own again? What are YOUR non-negotiables? Is there something inviolable that you can give yourself – activities, solitude, some wild adventure? Create a date with yourself. And promise never to stand yourself up. Get stubborn, get selfish – and see how much better you are able to serve in the long run.
I’d love to hear about the kinds of things you do to stay sane in a crazy world. What are your non-negotiables? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
And Jen… consider this your kick in the butt. Love you. xo