Do you believe it is never acceptable to put yourself first? Do you feel guilty if you don’t jam forty-eight hours of tasks into a six hour period? Do you force a brave smile and try to meet everyone else’s expectations even though you’re so exhausted you’d rather curl up in a corner and wish the world away?
If any of the above describes you, perhaps you’ve just lost your way.
I’ve come to realize life is much like making your way through a treacherous swamp. Sometimes what looks to be the safest patch of green grass turns out to be a sinkhole and before you know it, you’re up to your nose hairs in despair.
Despair is dangerously toxic. Complete loss of hope is fatal.
After surviving an abusive childhood, I still struggle to navigate this swamp. Even now, heavily armed with a supportive spouse and wonderful children, despair sometimes creeps in and poisons me. Hope leaves me and I wonder if my parents had a point. Maybe the world would have been better off without me. Maybe I was the greatest mistake they ever made.
Then just when my head is about to disappear below the surface, a firm gentle hand nudges me onto safe solid ground. Be it God, fate or my guardian angel smacking me on the back of the head to get my attention, I’m pulled free of the soul-sucking quagmire, given a good shake to ensure I’m listening and settled back on the path. I’m always left with the distinct impression that I have work yet to do. And to successfully complete that work, I must do as follows:
Take care of my body. I know it sounds simple but to a sedentary desk diva who lives on coffee, junk food and maybe one healthy meal a day, this was a big step. I’m happy to say I’m a month into my membership at a local Curves (women’s only gym) and three weeks into a nutritionally balanced diet. I feel more energized than I have in a very long time. It’s amazing what the right food and exercising with good friends can also do for the mind. Please don’t tell my doctor. He’ll just do the I-told-you-so dance. The jokes on him though. The healthier I get, the less he sees me.
When I leave the day job and go home, I leave work at work. My workload cares less if I live or die. Why should I grant it the power to kill me?
Give myself permission to be flexible. It’s okay if I don’t write every day and churn out a novel every three months. I started writing to escape stress and leave something behind once I’m gone. I’m thrilled to have four books published and a fifth under contract. I adore my readers and appreciate their kind words and support more than they’ll ever know. So, it’s okay to let the stories ease into “being”. Stories can’t be forced. Quality over quantity.
Be still and listen. Sometimes the answers can’t make their way through all the day to day chaos clogging up my mind. I disappear into the woods, breathe deep and listen.
Realize what really matters. What happens if the house isn’t spotless every single day? What happens if all the clothes aren’t washed and the sink is currently housing a day’s worth of dishes? What happens if I don’t take care of all these things before I collapse into bed? You know what happens? Nothing. They’ll get done eventually. I love exploring old cemeteries and reading the epitaphs. I can’t remember a single one that said: In loving memory of her clean house, starched clothes and spotless china.
Above all –watch for others who may have lost their way. Maybe I can help guide them to solid ground. After all, sometimes even a simple smile can light up a dreary swamp.