Just Say Yes

Like most parents, I struggle with taking care of myself. I was talking to a friend last week and she relayed a conversation with a childless friend that said she should just “do what makes her happy”. At first frustrated, how could this person without children tell her to put herself before her family. Did they not realize that it is not that easy? We cannot just “do” something because we have other responsibilities that take priority!

Until she finally said yes to herself.

She made herself a priority. She said yes to going for a walk, to learning a new skill and gave herself permission to live her best life. At first she felt awkward and guilty but began to realize that not only was she healthier but making herself a priority lowered her stress level.

As caregivers, we naturally care for those we love and put their wants and needs first. Somehow we have bought into this mantra of if we do not prioritize every other freaking thing in our universe than we are being selfish. I am very guilty of this crime.

If I am being honest, I even have a hierarchy: Bridget, Abbey, David, Work, Family, Friends, the Pup (even though Abbey would say the dog comes before them all!), Household chores. If I succeed in making sure all of that is taken care of then I can justify (to myself) being “selfish” by doing something for myself.

It is easy to believe that being single and childless is easier than being with a partner or having a family. I think that is a falsehood we say to ourselves to justify why we simply “cannot”. Years ago my nephew has called me out on using Bridget as an excuse for not doing something. Since he was young and unmarried at the time I did not take his criticism as he intended.

About 3 years ago, another one of my friends that I admire leaned in to saying “yes”. To herself and to any adventure that might be awaiting her. She realized that by taking care of herself first, she is not being selfish but a better parent, partner, friend and coworker. It might be saying yes to learning how to crew the Charles or taking the time to meditate to recharge herself. I remember once asking if she wanted to meet for dinner and her reply, “thanks but I am going to enjoy my book home alone”. She needed that night to herself and was not selfish by taking it.

Both of these women have let me be an active participant in their growth. By watching them excel at life, they have taught me to rebalance that hierarchy. Some days it is taking a walk by myself, other days it is a spontaneous trip to Baltimore. For other people it might be joining a gym or taking an art class. This year, for me, was saying yes when one of those two woman said want to try bouldering?

This is 52, who would have thought?

A few months ago I was doing a new workout program. Because it was expensive, I made it a priority and worked out 4-5 times a week for 30 minutes. I did not come home and immediately start dinner. Instead I took that 30-40 minutes for myself and then started the evening chores. Not only was I healthier physically, but mentally. I wasn’t as short-tempered. The little things that normally put me over the edge (for Cripes sake the dishwasher is RIGHT THERE why are there dishes in the sink!!) have become more manageable. While I stopped the official workout program, I’ve continued to try take those 30 minutes to myself.

It does not happen every day, but when I remember to take time for myself, I am a better person to all those within that hierarchy. I’m also realizing that saying yes to myself doesn’t mean I’m going on a trip or finding a new adventure. I’m saying yes to myself when I write this blog, when I take a Saturday afternoon and just read my book or meet a friend for a walk.

It turns out that saying yes really is easier than I thought. My advice? Start small. Take 15 minutes for yourself. Maybe take the long way home and sit at the beach for a moment. The next time someone asks you to do something, say yes instead of finding a reason why you cannot.

Unless they invite you to rob a bank, because that would be wrong!

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