Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Life, Interrupted

My youngest daughter just walked into my room and I noticed that there was something different about her. It dawned on me rather quickly that her long bangs now extended from ear to ear. She had cut her own hair. I have no idea what moved her to do this. It's not the first time, and she's really old enough now to know that if she wants a change she can just ask me and I'll help her. But she didn't want to wait for me. She wanted to do it herself. She's stubborn, strong-willed, determined... and all too often she's resistant to telling others when she needs help.

In short, she's a lot like me.

Tomorrow I will be heading out of town without my family. I try and do this once a year. In the past I've done things like participate in events such as the Komen 3-Day, escaped with girlfriends, visited extended family members and reconnected with far away friends. In all of those scenarios I've escaped the busyness of my life only to fill my time with the expectations of others.

So this time, I'm going alone.

The responses and reactions to my getaways have always been interesting. I've had encouragers for sure, but the louder voices have been those who don't understand my choice. In the past the stability of my marriage has been questioned - as if me going somewhere without my husband signifies disunity. People have wondered how my kids would manage without me - as if to suggest that their survival depended on me alone. Women have opined that they could never go somewhere alone or that my independent adventure is selfish. I understand. It's scary to step out of a comfort zone and not always the norm for a person who devotes themselves to taking care of everyone else.

But if you don't take care of yourself, how can you take care of others?

I'm a doer. If I'm being completely honest I have a history of being an over-doer. I will put my own health and sanity on the line in order to make sure that everyone around me feels loved and cared for. I'm a perfectionist that tries to perfect perfection. I'm a hundred times harder on myself than I am on anyone else. My thoughts are constant, often filled with ways that I could have done something better, been more encouraging, been more patient, given more grace. I forgive easily, unless the one needing forgiveness is myself. I get to the point of exhaustion and keep pushing. Sometimes I have no choice but to keep forging ahead. My life is complicated and so are the people in it. My love for my family is all encompassing, the magnitude of which at times overwhelms me. All of this is ok. All of what I do lies somewhere on the spectrum of normal life, especially in our culture.

But at some point something has to give.

And sometimes, in order to keep being the person others need you to be (and let's be honest, the person you like being) you have to take a break. And sometimes that break means taking yourself away from everyone and everything that seeks your attention, because otherwise you'd keep doing.

 I Am Important
 I'm not sure at what point in history it was decided that a woman's role was to take care of others without complaint or concern for self. But that's ridiculous. My needs, my desires, my dreams, my hopes - all of it is important. I am important. My place in my family and in the world is critical. God has me where He wants. God also taught me that sometimes you have to wander the dessert alone in order to reconnect with your purpose and gain strength and understanding for the journey ahead. Putting myself first is being selfish, but not in the way that society defines it. It means I love others enough to love and care for myself.

My Marriage is Important
God knew what he was doing when he caused my husband and I to cross paths. Very few men could handle me, and many have said just that. One reason my marriage works is because my husband doesn't fear my independence or my opinions. He honors my need to have solitude. He doesn't "handle" me. He respects me and the person I am. He doesn't get excited about having to do the single parent thing and he misses me - but he loves me enough to get over it. In order to be there for my husband, I have to first take care of myself. Marriage requires sacrifice but nowhere does it state that the woman needs to be a martyr.

My Kids Need to Learn
My kids learn from what they see. They can only see what I show them. I want my son to see that one of the best gifts he can give his partner is that of support and encouragement. I want him to learn that he will be a better man for being aware of the needs of his wife. I want him to feel secure in his role as a capable father. I want him to not be afraid of being in a relationship with a person who understands the importance of balance. I want him to understand the power of trust. I want my daughters to learn that they can not carry the problems of the world on their shoulders without making sure they are strong enough to support their own frame. I want them to learn that they aren't anyone's property and that being in a relationship does not mean giving up self or independence. I want them to learn that part of being a good mother and wife means knowing when to step back and refuel. I want all of my kids to know that they can do for themselves. I want them to see that their father is competent to meet their needs.

It's Ok To Be Alone
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I could be surrounded by every person I care for and still feel lonely. To be alone means to step away from the needs and desires of others and walk into solitude. And that's ok. Is it scary to get on a plane and fly to a place where I am not expected? Where no one is waiting to greet me and share in my time? Absolutely. But sometimes fear leads to growth. Sometimes it is in the moments where we shut out the world that we hear God the loudest. When you are forced to depend on no one but yourself you learn to trust your own abilities (truly dependent on self, not in the "I don't need anyone's help" "No it's ok I got this" when in reality life is crashing down around me way I tend to be when I'm navigating my expected life). I am capable. I am strong. It's when I'm alone that I remember who I was before life took hold - and I like me.

To those women who carry the weight of the world, who believe that life will crash down around them if they step away for a little while: It won't. There may be hiccups. You may get frantic calls from a spouse who isn't used to being alone. Your kids will miss you. But you are important. You are important. If you don't take care of yourself, the world will crash down around you but you won't be well enough to do anything about it. Step into the fear.....Face it.... Run to it with arms wide open.

Love yourself.

Say "hi", let her know how much you've missed her, give her a hug and let her remind you of just how amazing and worthy you are.

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