I read an interesting article today. I just happened upon it, but something in the title caught my eye. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was something about determining when to keep pushing yourself and when there a need to allow yourself to rest. Those of us who are driven individuals have most likely trained ourselves to keep pushing, don’t give up, be relentless in the pursuit of….whatever, you can fill in the blank on this one. That’s certainly the story of my life. I’m not a quitter. Giving up is a foreign concept to me. It doesn’t fit. It doesn’t feel good, and it certainly doesn’t feel natural.
For as long as I can remember, I have believed passionately about something. There have been so many challenges: difficult pregnancies, raising my children to be caring, loving individuals, surviving on one income while I stayed home with the kids. These were challenges that I gladly met head-on with passion, deep conviction, and determination. I pushed myself as a musician and was proud of the results. In more recent years, my career has been my focus. Building this program has been my passion. My career has consumed much of my time and energy. There have been many, many hurdles and struggles, and loads of stress, but also I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Most of the time, giving of yourself freely and pushing yourself to jump over those hurdles, scale the walls, and navigate around the roadblocks life often sends our way is usually rewarded with an inner sense of accomplishment and pride. Pushing through to the other side is not always easy, but getting to the other side is usually worth the effort. But what if there really is no other side? What if your efforts are fruitless? What if what is on the other side is NOT really worth the effort? How do you know? When is it time to stop pushing?
These past two years have been hell. PURE HELL….all caps! My world has been flipped upside down time after time after time. I miss my dad so very much. He was my source of strength and my refuge in the storms of life. I think of him often, and I still feel his presence. Just tonight as I was watering the flowers, I came around the side of the house and a vivid memory came flashing back. I could remember so many times coming around that corner to see my dad walking up my driveway, a big smile on his face. Thankfully, even as my eyes filled with tears at the memory, I still felt the warmth of Dad’s smile.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my most recent (and emotional) appointment with my therapist. Two years, I have been going to her. She knows me fairly well by now. Yesterday she asked me why it is that I can be so passionate, driven, and caring about so many things, but not about myself. Yeah, why is that? I have pondered that question all day, and I realize that she is right. I am exhausted and emotionally depleted. I am drained and tapped out, yet I keep going full speed. I often work long days. When I come home, I don’t relax. I do more. I rarely sleep more than five hours at a time. I don’t eat right. I don’t exercise regularly. I am the last in line in my own life, and that’s is because I have given myself no value. The concept of learning to love yourself sounds so selfish to me, yet isn’t that what I would want for my own children or anyone else? Why would I wish good, wholesome mental health for everyone BUT myself? As T would say, “That’s fucked up!”
This isn’t going to be easy, but I am going to start with baby steps. What I am going to do is stop pushing and start resting. I don’t mean that I am going to give up on what I have to do, but I need to examine if what I am doing is truly necessary or if it is simply something that I am imposing upon myself as a necessity. I don’t have to be all things to all people all at the expense of myself.
I had lunch with T today, and it was lovely and relaxing. He called and asked me to meet him for a burger, but I suggested something else. We met at a deli and got sandwiches to go. We took them to the Rock River and spread out a blanket in the shade of a tree. We sat and talked and laughed while we ate our lunch. We watched the pelicans flying around the steel dam. At one point T said, “You’re really happy being here, aren’t you?” Yes, I was. For the first time in days, I felt peaceful. I wished for time to slow. I wished that I didn’t have to go back to the office, but that was a good hour.
It is the exhaustion that is kicking my ass, and I have been denying it for too long. I am completely, totally, utterly exhausted. Yet I keep on going. I keep pushing and pushing. I am depleted and drained. I am spent. I don’t have one more thing to give unless it is absolutely essential. Truly, I am afraid. If I don’t begin to take care of myself, there will no longer be anything left worth caring for. It’s time to fight for me. Soul-suckers, vampires, buzz-killers, and those who are not essential to my well-being are no longer going to get an ounce of my precious last reserves of energy. All non-essential activities are banished from my life until I am once again well and strong and healthy.