The other day I read something on Medium that really resonates. Although awkwardly titled, "How to Trick Yourself Into Being Kind to Yourself" hit home for me on a number of levels. The gist of it is that we can all try a bit harder, dig a little deeper, today in order to help ourselves tomorrow. Whether it is just maintaining a bare minimum when depressed, or being motivated to exercise and eat right even when we'd rather not, framing the situation as a "won't I be glad for this tomorrow" scenario helps keep us on track even in moments of weakness.
On the surface, I have been doing this for sometime without even thinking about it. I have been doing much better at tidying the kitchen before putting the kids to bed. I know how I dislike waking up to a mess so it has become a matter of routine to do the dishes, sweep the floor and tidy the living room before we go up for baths and stories. The boys also know their roles in helping and it has made life so much more pleasant. Unconsciously, I have made a routine of tidying today, though tired, to start the day off right for myself tomorrow.
In other ways, though, I have failed to invest in myself, whether it is today or in the future. I have slowly allowed myself to become that tired looking mom we all know--the one whose home is reasonably tidy, her kids are polite and clean, the bills are paid the lawn is mowed the list goes on, but in her ability to look after everyone else she has neglected to look after herself. Possibly her clothes don't fit, her hair may be disheveled or simply pulled back for practicality. She may have nothing to say because she has lost her voice and opinions and interests in her quest to make everything good for everyone else.
This didn't happen overnight. It is a slow erosion and small sacrifices are made so naturally that they go unnoticed, at least at first. By the time they are felt it is too late and the opportunities that come along where she might renew her interests and reinvent who she once was...those opportunities often go unanswered out of fear, or something comes up, or it is not convenient to make it happen.
It pains me greatly to say that I am that woman. I've allowed thirty pounds to creep onto my frame the same way I've allowed my interests and intellect to creep out the door. Losing your identity is an insidious, silent chipping away at your spirit.
Of course I am happy with my life. I have two happy children--having happy children is all any of us really wants, isn't it?--I have a caring common-law husband, a helpful family that I am close to in spirit and proximity. I have friends, real ones, that understand me. Life is good and I am grateful and this is not a stay-at-home-mom rant. But having all of these things and losing myself in the process? That is not fair and it is not even necessary. It is just something that I have allowed to happen.
Frugality can do that. Living in the country can do it too. My mom is the only person that has watched my kids, save for a handful of afternoons at a friend's house. My mom is busy and overworked and I don't want to add to her workload, no matter how much she loves to help with the grandkids. So here I sit.
But I am realizing that, for the Future Me, I need to step out of my well rehearsed role of martyr-mother. I do NOT want to look back on my life and see a path littered with opportunities I didn't take, stories I didn't write, experiences I didn't have because it was easier to stay home and do the work that needing doing. I will always take care of my family and animals. I know that. I am not throwing everything overboard for a life of glamour and adventure. I am simply making myself part of the conversation again.
Even before I read the Medium story I had begun to schedule myself some writing times, usually in the evening. It's not a perfect scenario because I am often too tired and worn down to properly focus. Sometimes I just fall asleep instead. But I am working on it. I have even worked in a bit of afternoon time and it has been massively productive.
Most importantly, for me at the moment, I have begun to exercise in earnest. I am tired of having a belly hanging over the jeans handed down to me by a friend. I am very tired of looking frazzled and worn and spent. That is not how I feel on the inside. Inside, I am brimming with life and curiosity and possibility. I want to look like I care about myself. Right now I know that I look like I put everyone else's needs before my own. Because I do.
Scheduling time to write and exercise has made me more efficient at completing all the jobs I like to get done. Leaving the dishes pile up for 3 days does not help my situation because then I am tired and frustrated in a dirty house. But if I want the time to write and exercise, I can accomplish quite a bit. I know that I can get the dishes done and floor swept and house tidied in only a few minutes. The Future Me needs me to do that. Investing in myself, giving myself time to exercise, read, write and grow, is very much a part of caring for the Future Me too. I have to do it.