The Season Of No

I just started reading the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert and it has inspired me to get back to my writing and carve out more time for myself and look at my life in a very different way. Now that I'm 40 and terribly wise and terribly adult (cough), I can look back on my life through the decades (Dear God! Am I really that old?), and I can reflect on the themes of each decade.

My 20's was the decade of "Sure! Why Not!" 

Sometimes even, "Sure! Why The Hell Not?!" There was a lot that happened during my 20's that was a result of me thinking or saying, "Sure, why not?!" A lot of it provided the backdrop to many great memories. Looking back on it now, some of it fills me with incredible panic and fear and I thank God it all turned out OK in the end and some of it makes me long for those days again. Mostly because I didn't have kids back then so I was able to take a nap whenever I wanted. I long for the days of extra sleep, getting a good night's sleep, sleeping in, napping whenever I needed it, not getting woken up in the middle of the night by a baby who needed to nurse and just sleep, sleep, sleep in general.  Sleep, glorious sleep. However, I don't think I actually slept that much in my 20's. I am now regretting that I burned the candle at both ends so many days and nights. What was I thinking?!

My 30's kind of fell into the theme of, "I probably should..." 

Or "I guess I should," or "I really should because they did that nice thing for me once and don't I have to repay them even though I have to make great compromises in what I need or my family needs to help them?" Or "I feel like I have to even though I don't want to."  You get the idea.  Martyrdom at it's finest. There were many things I felt very obligated to do in my 30's, and I did them most of the time. Things for other people, things because of other people, things I didn't really want to do but felt like I had to. Mom's Club things are coming to mind as well as lots and lots of volunteer work at school.  Even when I was sick as a dog and incredibly run-down from being pregnant in my first trimester.

Now that I'm 40, I'm starting a new chapter. This is the decade of, "No." 

A polite no, but no nonetheless. Polite yet emphatic. How that will actually end up looking I'm not sure, but I'm no longer going to put myself into the position of feeling obligated or put out because I don't want someone to think bad of me. Even if doing the thing makes me feel bad about myself. I'm not going to risk letting my children down or my husband down or myself down because I don't want to let a stranger down. How ridiculous is that? Yet it happens. I'm no longer going to feel like I need to please other people just for that person's sake, even if I care deeply about them. Whether that person is a stranger, an acquaintance, a parent on the PTA, a friend, a family member, a fellow mom in a mom's group, a therapist whom I'm paying to help me vent and work things out, even someone who has done something nice for me in the past and wants a favor from me, whoever. I am no longer going to feel obligated to do something for someone regardless if it works for me, fits in with what my family is doing or going through at that time. And that needs to be ok.

Actually, I'm giving myself permission that it is OK, and it doesn't need to be OK with anyone, because it's already OK with me.

Sorry for the overuse of italics during my ah-ha moment of clarity there. But if you've ever been a people pleaser, like I was raised to be, then you are totally nodding your head in agreement with me right now. You might have even blurted out a, "hell yea! Me too!"  If you did, please let me know in the comments that I'm not on this journey alone. And neither are you.

I'm giving myself the permission to be more selfish with my own time and desires because I know deep down that it will make me a better mother and a better person in the long run. I'm not doing anyone any favors by getting run down and depleting everything I have inside of me just to do someone a favor or even return a favor, or to protect someone's feelings or to make sure someone still likes me and doesn't think bad of me. A therapist told me once when she knew I was doing too much for too many people (including my own family) and not taking any time for myself to recharge, "Put your oxygen mask on first, Mama. That's the only way you can help your children and be a better mother and wife is if you put your mask on first."

I'm still figuring out how to do that.  I need to find the balance of taking care of myself and taking care of the kids and getting everything done. As a stay-at-home-mom I really feel the need to carve out my own time or else it just doesn't happen. I will post about it as soon as I start doing it. I also look forward to reading more of Big Magic and putting her thoughts and ideas into action. I love Elizabeth Gilbert (author of many books, Eat, Pray, Love, The Signature Of All Things, etc.) Please let me know how you do it for yourself. What does taking care of yourself look like to you?  Comment below!

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