My mom is basically a sweet, petite, gentle woman. She loves her grandchildren and is dedicated to exercise and healthy living. She volunteers in the community and helps out those in need. She’s really quite mild mannered.
Until she knits… or…. attempts to knit. Then there is a steady string of expletives hissed under her breath. The stitches are too loose and fall off the needles or are so tight she’d need a crowbar to pry them off. I think she’s finally packed in – she gave it up.
My friend Danielle is a brilliant architect and mother of four incredible, creative kids. She could be found plastering crown moldings with a baby in a sling or building a circuit board in between designing new plans for a major hospital. Her talents are vast and varied. But she can’t bake a pie to save her life – nor does she care to. She’s wisely chosen things to give up (or not even embark on in the first place).
At 93 years old, my loving grandmother looks at me, shakes her and says,
“I don’t know how you do it”.
This from a woman who lived through the depression and hand washed diapers for three babies with no indoor plumbing. And she doesn’t know how I do it?! This gives me pause for thought about how vastly different our lives are. Her role was traditional: take care of the house & the kids. Period. She knit, quilted, and had an immaculate home. But her house was smaller, there was no need to plan extravagant birthday parties, master five exotic types of cuisine, and run kids to nine different activities or host book club. The added responsibility of working 9-5 or being an entrepreneur wasn’t even in her realm of imagining. Even though my Gram didn’t have many of the luxuries I enjoy today, she also didn’t experience many of the pressures. I'm quite certain that if I laid out all that I attempt to accomplish in a week she'd give me a look of equal parts bewilderment and bemusement that says, "Have you completely lost your marbles?!".
As all of my regular followers know, I have a severe allergy to whining and complaining. Ditto for excuses. It’s easy for any of us to slip into lamenting “society expects us to be…." and “there’s so much pressure to…" . But at some stage we need to take ownership and responsibility for accepting and buying into those expectations and pressures.
Self-care means accepting that we can’t (sanely & comfortably) have it all, not all at once. We need to give it up. Give something up. Concentrate on a few things at one time. Whenever our reality falls short of our expectations, we end up disappointed. Disappointment gobbles up energy.
I know, because I fall into this trap too. I would love to be able to cook like foodiemomintoronto (she seems to crank out meal after mouthwatering meal) or the awesome Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh of Sweet Potato Chronicles. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be able to arrange flowers as beautifully as Lynda Felton of Covet Garden or paint like the extraordinary Carolyn Gavin? Maybe if I just pour more time and research into photography I’ll be able to be as shoot captivating landscapes like Christine Flynn?
I suspect I may have a touch of ADD or shiny object syndrome where I become easily distracted and want to pursue all of my passions at once. Learn to can & preserve? Oooo ya, sign me up! Play piano? Yes, yes, I’d love to! Host weekend wellness retreats? Sure – that sounds awesome, let’s do it! But then I remember I only have 24 hours in a day, seven days in any given week. The truth is, being great at anything takes time and effort. I’m of the belief that with adequate time and effort we can develop awesome skills and talents. But not all at once. So let’s get real. Let’s decide on one or two things we’d like to do well. Once we’ve got a handle on that, we can move on and pursue a new passion. Baby steps, one skill at a time.
Self-care requires conscientious limit setting, recognizing our own capacity for what we do and do not want to pursue. Start by making a list – a long, unedited, no holds barred list of all of the skills, talents, and passions you’d like to pursue. Let your imagination run wild. Allow yourself to dream. Learn to toss a mean lasso? Write it down. Blog on the beauty of bountiful gardening? Add it to the list. Master Nordic skiing? Put that down too. Dabble in watercolors? Add it. Once your list is complete, go back and cross of the things that seem impossible right now due to time, finances, geography or logistics. It doesn’t mean it will never happen, just not right now. Next, put a star beside the five items that you’d really like to tackle this year. Then, your final step (and the most difficult) is to pick two – just two and fit them in to your schedule. Without a plan to accomplish this goal it will never happen. It will remain a pipe dream, a wish. If you want it badly enough make time to pursue it. Then allow yourself to bask in the pride and pleasure of of having the discipline and fortitude to turn a wish into reality.
For the sake of your sanity and happiness, please practice the skill of giving it up. I’ll do it too. Give up those wishes and desires that we can’t accomplish right now. Go easy. Be kind. We’ll give it up so we can move forward.