My SELF. The SELF. Inner SELF. "SELF magazine. SELF-ish.
As women we learn that taking care of ourselves is selfish. If we don't put everyone else's needs and wants above our own, we are awful people. We don't teach this to our boys. Most men seem to have no problem taking time for themselves when they need it. But us? Fahgedaboudit! If we're not doing SOMETHING productive every minute of every day, we experience crippling guilt.
I know, in my head, that if I go for many weeks without a moment to myself (as I just did until yesterday), eventually I will erupt. Especially during times of heightened stress. Like, say, when you find out your mortgage has gone up, immediately followed by your father-in-law having to go in for a high-risk angioplasty and stent surgery (coming up this Thusrday, and THANK YOU for your prayers and good wishes, btw, they are HUGELY appreciated!!!!!!! MWAH!!!) and your kids have been on vacation and as soon as they go back you have job interviews because you need more money even though there aren't enough hours in the day as it is and you will have to drive between 1-2 hours to teach for ONE hour before heading home in rush-hour traffic AND pay a $6 toll for the bridge as well as for childcare so maybe these new jobs aren't really worth it AND you've been told by one boss that, basically, you're not working hard enough even though you just directed the BULK of the production the kids just did (as well as running the light and sound cues) and was, oh by the way, a huge hit with everyone who saw it! And just because YOU don't screech and yell at people the way SOME others do doesn't mean you aren't WORKING!!!!!! ESPECIALLY when you have busted your patootie to get childcare for not only the class and rehearsal times, but for all these pesky little meetings that come up suddenly and where everyone else's schedule is somehow more important than yours even though you are the only one with kids!
Yesterday I had to get out. Get out of the house! Like that chick from "When a Stranger Calls" (the original one with Carol Kane, not the lame-o remake). Except I was the one who was "in the house!" I wasn't the hapless (um, dumb?), half-naked chick investigating strange clanking noises in the dark basement, I was the axe-wielding psycho. (OK, the axe was figurative. Because Me + Axe = ACCIDENTAL loss of limb. Probably my own. Or the 6th grade production of "The Wizard of Oz in which I played the Tin Man.)
I was at the point where Every. Single. Thing. was just GRATING on my nerves. Things that normally don't even register. It got to the point where I shot out from my chair (where I'd been sitting in front of the computer) and said "Honey, I HAVE to go out!" And Hubby, being the smart fella that he is (and having lived with me for almost 16 years) said "Go. I'll watch the kids. Take as long as you need."
And I did.
Because if I hadn't, if I'd stayed home or gone home too early, something bad would have happened. I don't know what, exactly, but it probably would have included many tears (mine) and the dog hiding under the coffee table.
The good news is that some of the guilt I mentioned earlier is starting to dissipate, replaced by common sense. Some. A bit. A teeny-tiny, oonsy-woonsy, wibbly-wobbly bit.
Hey, it's a process!
Because I USED to believe I didn't DESERVE time off. I wasn't making enough money, therefore I was unworthy. I certainly didn't deserve a vacation, especially if it was out of the kindness of someone else's heart (my in-laws earn A LOT of free vacays in Tahoe and Vegas, and they often bring us along. Why I should feel guilty about sharing a FREE room I don't know, except that, well. I'm an Irish Jew.) So even when we DID go on vacation, I always took care of the kids. It was never even a question, until recently. Like, why is it OK for Hubby to go off on his own for a day while we're in Tahoe or Hawaii but not for me?
It boils down to this: for many years I have let guilt and shame force me into a corner. I have made myself into the poor relation, the one who takes the scraps and is sickeningly grateful for every crumb. The leech. The one everyone invites along because they HAVE to, not because they want to.
But I am NOT that person! I'm not a leech. I'm not hapless or helpless. In fact, I think I'm doing a pretty kick-a** job in a very difficult situation!
Do I deserve a break every now and then? HELL, YEAH! Do I work hard? HELL YEAH! Is my family well taken care of, BY ME? HELL YEAH! Do I pay the bills? HELL YEAH!
So WHY?!?!?!?! Why do I do this to my SELF? Why do I treat me so badly?!?!?!
Especially knowing that, after taking a break, I will come back refreshed and able to take care of everyone again.
Without going Vesuvius on anyone's a**.
In some religions there is talk of the Self. A universal Self, the one we are ALL connected to. Hence the practice of Ahimsa, or non-violence. Because when you do violence to someone else, you do it to yourself, as well. I just sorta skipped the part where I did violence to others, and went straight to me.
Convenient, yes. But not very useful.
So here's another resolution: I will do my best to harm none, INCLUDING ME!
OK, and just after I typed that, I tickled LG and he banged his head on the desk!!!!!!!
Well, emphasis on "TRY!"