Sunday, February 9, 2014

Be Good To Yourself

I don't have to try to keep busy - busyness has found me, so I have no excuse to be bored, EVER.  Between doing stuff in the house toward getting it ready to put on the market, the ups and downs of my mother's recent cancer diagnosis, job hunting, and just general LIFE stuff, it's finding balance that has become a bit of a trick.  

I'm not a driven person, and I like my down time as much as anyone.  I'm not going to say that I'm busy every minute, because I'm not.  I'm just trying to balance myself, so I get stuff done and still get some space and do some things for myself.  Life is a long haul, and this year will be hard on many levels, so no break from last year.  If I don't take care of myself, I won't make it through.  Or, I'll make it through as a total train wreck, which isn't a good option.

My counselor, after listening to the latest events in my life last week, asked me how I was doing, and what I have been doing to take care of myself.  I'm glad he asked that, because I have not been good at doing that in the past.  I've gotten better over time, but it's still a very valid question.  What am I doing to make sure that I can face my challenges, get some rest, accomplish my goals, meet the needs of my kids, and still have some down time and fun?

I'm no guru, but here are my basic strategies for keeping it together more often than not:

Prioritize.  Do the most important stuff first, whatever that is at any given time.  Is it more important to clean the kitchen, or to talk with one of my kids who needs my attention?  (It depends, and sometimes I can multitask, like when Safety Guy wants to talk cars - he doesn't mind if I do stuff while we chat.  But if one of my kids needs me to focus on them, that's the top of the heap of what must be attended to, and I do that first.  Dishes can usually wait!)  Make a short list, if necessary, for each day, of a few things to get done.  If you finish the short list, do a few more things.  A long list is a discouragement.  A short, FINISHED list is a victory.

Be honest.  If I'm used up, maxed out, and ready to blow a gasket, I have to say so to whoever needs to hear it.  Nicely, but firmly, sometimes I just need to say, "Please stop doing that."  Or, "I have to take a break from this."  Or, "I can't really talk about this right now - can we revisit it later?"  Or, "I need help."  (That's the hardest one of all for me to say.)

Be realistic.  Not everything is going to get done.  Not everyone is going to be happy at the end of the day.  Mistakes happen, and so does crap.  Sometimes "Oh well!" is the best thing you can say when something derails your plans for the day.  Very little in life is worth losing my temper over, or getting hyper-stressed about.  It doesn't mean I don't care; it means that I choose what to really care about, and some things are just unimportant or can be delayed or adjusted. 

Make the best of it.  I do NOT have the life with all the answers, I have to work with what I've got.  Some days are great, some days are okay, some days truly stink.  Whatever each day brings, I need to handle it with care and try to make it better however I can with what I've got at hand.  I guess that's the definition of grace, really.  I hope and pray that whatever comes my way, I can be a vessel of God's grace to whoever needs it around me (and to myself, which I often fail to do).  

Pray.  I struggle with this sometimes.  (Okay, a lot.)  Faith isn't easy for me.  But many years ago I read a wonderful little book, 'The Practice of the Presence of God' by Brother Lawrence.  He practiced what I would consider a form of meditation, or mindfulness, being aware of God all the time, in every circumstance.  I would like to be better at that.  If the Lord knows everything and everyone, then nothing surprises Him, and I can talk to Him at any time.  Sometimes I can manage that in the moment of crisis or struggle, and sometimes I have to visit Him at the end of the day with a list of concerns, questions, praises and sorrows.  But I try to pray.  

Make time for myself.  Sometimes that's time on Facebook, where I have family and many friends.  Sometimes that's working on a project (quilting, art, gardening - whatever I'm drawn to in order to relax).  Sometimes it's a nap, or going to bed early or sleeping in.  When I can, I need to allow myself "time off" from the press of other responsibilities.  Those other things will always be there.  They aren't going anywhere.  If I take a break, I can come back to them refreshed and ready to tackle them.

There's nothing new here, nothing fancy or having a catchy buzz word or a hashtag.  Just simple common sense.  Maybe it will help you too.  I hope so, if you need it.

Words of wisdom hidden in a catchy song:  Be good to yourself.

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