The quest to make time for ME
Life! What a ride. Rarely does it slow down. Regardless of where we call home, opportunities to take a much-needed break, even sporadically, can sometimes seem impossible to find. We might want to allow ourselves time to stop and smell the roses but there always seems to be something to get done, something important to think about, or someone in our lives to worry about. Honestly, it’s worth asking some valid questions.
“What’s the absolute worst that can happen if I allow myself to take time out every so often?
Will the roof on my house explode? Doubtful.
Will they (my family!) turn my house upside down? Possibly, but it most likely won’t be that bad.
Will the entire world turn into a horrible mess as aliens descend and take over all of our home? OK, that’s taking things a little too far!”
You get my point!
We can be ambushed by daily tasks that might include business meetings, job responsibilities, kids, playdates, medical appointments, school, and simply taking care of the most important people in our lives. When juggling many tasks, we often lose sight of one significantly important person in our lives. YOU and ME.
Remember my blog about an empty cup of tea?), I’m 100 per cent guilty of putting the needs of everyone around me before my own needs. This includes taking the slack for other people and running myself ragged in doing so. “But that’s OK, I’m doing the right thing by others”, I tell myself. I’m not proud to admit it’s what I do best and, with much practice, the skill has grown stronger throughout my life. It has become so deeply ingrained, it’s how I’ve come to identify with myself. I enable others to pile me up with responsibilities that I’ve offloaded to try and give myself a break.
Frustratingly (for me anyway!), I’ll never complain, ask questions, never say a word. “That’s right, you can walk right over me,” is what I’m allowing without even realising it. And while I may not voice a response, not for a while anyway, rest assured the frustration will build until one day it will come blurting out. It always does.
While my intentions are noble, putting the well-being of everyone around me before my own ends up being bad news for all of us. The outcome is predictable; sooner or later, the worst finds its way out as my mind comes to a screaming halt. Life can feel unbearable as my mind has its own childlike, hissy fit, trying desperately to convince me that nobody cares about what I want and need. The silly part is this is a voice I tend to believe. And I sadly acknowledge that the people who know me the best, my family and close friends, tend to feel the force from my internal battles as I struggle to stay afloat.
Trying to change old habits
Despite my best efforts, putting myself before others doesn’t come naturally and I’ve been unable to stop pushing my own needs down to the bottom of the list. Guilt has a lot to answer for here. It’s challenging to do something for myself when doing so leaves me filled with a strong sense of guilt, selfishness and being insensitive to the needs of others.
“Repeat after me”
“Taking time out, time away (alone or with another person) from the daily grind, to do whatever makes us as happy is essential for the benefit of our mental health. It’s not indulgent or selfish, and guilt should definitely not be a factor. Think of it this way, a bit of time-out may actually be a life-saver.”
If only I could learn to practice what I’m preaching! As I approach the end of three weeks of school holidays, I’ve sensed the point of burnout looming as I continue my quest to fight back. Clearly, little has gone to plan throughout these holidays as I’ve been stuck at home with two sick children by my side 24/7. Each day dawns with fresh challenges to navigate. Did I mention I’m trying to finish a book? And despite not actively seeking out current news, scrolling past the incoming barrage of the latest COVID-19 related news is an arduous task in itself. This ongoing uncertainty paves the way for extreme anxiety. With all this penetrating my facade, foreseeing a way out of what feels like a catastrophic mess, life is not something I’ve had the drive to figure out.
Taking time out, a short break from one’s responsibilities should never be considered spoilt, indulgent or greedy. This is a belief I’ve always held tightly about myself and something I’ve felt I’d be judged for doing. But my eyes have been opened to a new way of thinking, thanks mainly to photography. It’s a simple concept yet can feel incredibly difficult to do. Giving myself time to be with myself, doing something that brings a sense of anticipation, energises or even relaxes is an essential practice to get in the habit of doing — for myself.
From my perspective, one thing is a certainty. If I continue to ignore my own needs allowing the crucial things that bring empowerment and fulfilment to slip away in favour of fulfilling the needs of others, the outlook is bleak. All the roles I take on will end up being neglected, including the care of my children. If I feel happy and fulfilled, the people around me are more likely to feel the same. So why is taking time out for me so difficult to do?
Something critical has been missing
During these rather difficult school holidays, other thoughts have been menacing my mind, but I’ve felt unable to address them. My trusty camera has been Missing In Action (MIA), neglected and unloved because making time to go out, explore, and take beautiful photos, has moved down my practical list of “things to do”.
mM emotional “list of things to do” understands why; totally gets it. That part of my mind, the sensible and reasonable part, knows how important it is for me to be in the great outdoors with my camera. This understanding has induced a strong sense of inner conflict. The kids need me, so I need to be with them at home. Yet that other part of my brain butts in, and I know what my heart desperately craves; time out, uninhibited with the camera.
Looking back at times when my camera barely had time to cool down, my mood, my emotional well-being and my general outlook on life were transformed in new and exciting ways. I found a brand new place in the world, and I wanted to immerse myself in it, so I did. Burn out; I couldn’t have been further away from that place. I was too busy being captivated by photography, and my family could sense the change in my demeanour. Life had a better overall sense of balance, and this newfound interest was rapidly transforming into a valuable new skill set. Sounds too good to be true. But it’s not.
Take home message
Maybe you’re wondering, “But what does all this mean for me?” There is no hidden meaning for you to understand, nothing to figure out. Photography may not be your thing. The options available are vast. Regardless of what you choose to do with your portion of “Me time,” make sure it’s something you want, need and love. Ultimately, when we take care of our own needs, our mind is not in a state of disarray; life seems to happen without too much thought or effort. The mind ticks along unalarmed, giving us a clearer and happier outlook on our own lives and everything that entails. Now off you go, take some time for yourself, find something just for you. I’m off out into the sunshine to find something amazing to shoot, some photography therapy.