Women under stress. I see them all the time. I hear them speak of their weariness and their inability to say "No". I see them with tired eyes and the spring missing from their step. I see them struggling to juggle all the responsibilities they've taken on and yet still taking on more. I see them forgetting things they should remember. I see them getting migraines and influenza and cancer and still they keep going.
I see them gazing straight ahead and putting one foot in front of the other so that they just keep going and don't let anyone down.
They see other women, other people, not show up for meetings. They see other women taking time to go to the hairdresser or to have a massage or manicure. They see other women taking a holiday; a night in town or a trip to Europe. They hold the fort while the other women take time out to nurture themselves. Ladies! Please stop! Stop martyring yourself in the name of being perfect. Please. Stop. Breathe. Give yourself a little time to live your life at a slower pace.
Why do we do it? Why do we take on doing more than we're really comfortable doing? Could it be that we think we need to do more and more and more to be seen as productive or useful or even, heaven forbid, acceptable human beings? I think of a classic cartoon I once saw with a woman on one side pushing a shopping trolley of groceries around the supermarket captioned 'Woman with Cancer' and on the other side a man bundled up in bed looking miserable with thermometer in his mouth and glass of hot lemon the bedside table along with myriad bottles of tablets captioned 'Man with Flu'. Seems to me we expect ourselves to keep going no matter what!
Have you noticed how the women who take time for living...for life itself...seem to have more...of everything? They smile more. They are more relaxed. They have made time for coffee with friends or time to just sit and do nothing. Other people do more for them. We know life is short. Could it be that we are so worried that we will run out of time before we get everything done. It will. The list will never get shorter; the demands never less unless you do something about it.
Let me tell you something...make a suggestion. If you can slow down you will get more out of life. You will make time to notice and enjoy the moments in the day that scoot past unnoticed when you are chasing from one commitment to another. Those moments are the ones that add richness and joy to life.
What is the answer do you think, to all this over-committing we do? The only one I can think of is to ask yourself two simple questions. First ask yourself...What do I want my life to feel like or how do I want to feel? Write it down. I want my life to feel...or I want to feel...
Here are some words that might be helpful in writing a workable description:
Calm Creative Relaxed Full Interesting Fulfilling Satisfying Rich Comfortable Happy Friendly Worthwhile Wise Fit Wonderful Exciting Free Curious Lazy Busy Frantic Frazzled Regimented Ordered Predictable Unpredictable Contributing Accepting Positive Controlled Innovative...or others of your choice!
The second question to ask yourself is "Will this new thing be heading me towards the kind of life I want to live?" Keep in mind that you only get one crack at life and as we recognised earlier, it is short, so you may as well choose to do things with an end result in mind...to live the kind of life you want to live. We are lucky to have the luxury of choice in so much of what we do. Try really hard not to take on things you really don't want to do because you think you will feel guilty if you say "No". Feeling guilty affects you and no one else. No one else cares if you feel guilty. It won't get you any Brownie Points, so you may as well not bother with it. This might seem a bit harsh, but I've been one of those women that takes on things she doesn't really want to. A little while ago I decided to stop and to think more about what I allow into my life. I currently have some responsibilities that I'm not thrilled about but they are short-term and I will not be replacing them with other responsibilities when they are finished. Just by the way I did choose to take them on!
I have an excellent reason for not taking on anything I don't think will add richness and pleasure to my life (or a little challenge if that is what I wish to have). The reason is that I have a massive list of things I DO want to do with my life. If I take on things that others want me to do, then I won't have time to do the things I want to do! Well how crazy would that be?? I have a number of creative pursuits on the go including a quilt I am keen to get finished for one very beautiful daughter. I have relationships with friends and family to nurture and my physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual self to care for. I have writing to do!
All these things take time and if I'm busy doing stuff that I don't want to do I'm going to feel resentment building in my gut and that will eventually and inevitably make me ill in one way or another. So there it is. I know what I want my life to look like and feel like. It won't be the same as yours or anyone else's probably. Life is a very individual thing but we have to take the reins of our lives back and decide what we want to do with our time on Earth. You can be busy from 'go to whoa' if you want to be, or you can be chilled and relaxed and taking it easy every day. We all have some things we have to do. We might not have the luxury to choose all of what happens in our lives, but for our own sake we really must identify what we can have a say in and begin to make choices that feel right.
Wishing you love and time to live a life that is both a gift to you and a gift to the world. Choose wisely, choose well, choose for you.
PS I read a book a long time ago that got me thinking about this. It was Women Of Silence by Gayle Gawler. It is an excellent read and explores the patterns and stories in women with breast cancer. Take care of yourselves beautiful women out there.