The Saturday mid-afternoon ritual of families everywhere: procuring groceries for the upcoming week. Except I was feeling like any second I would fall asleep in the car if I just closed my eyes for longer than five seconds. That scene precisely describes my afternoon today when my husband and I were on our way to our favorite grocery store.
Since we’re having a small Super Bowl viewing party tomorrow, we needed to load up on prerequisite guacamole and beer. I was already pretty drowsy before we left the house since I’ve been struggling with insomnia for the last month or so, a side effect of a medication I’m taking. Just a minute or two after getting in the car, I felt myself growing more irritable by the second at the thought of spending my Saturday afternoon pushing a shopping cart through crowded super market aisles.
My lack of enthusiasm was apparently fairly evident as my husband asked me if I was feeling OK. I exclaimed how all of a sudden I had hit a wall and the last thing I wanted to be doing was go grocery shopping right then and there. He said we didn’t have to go at that moment and if I wanted we could turn back around and he could go to the grocery store without me. We were already dressed and driving to the store so my initial thought was to power thru and just keep driving. After he asked me again if I was sure about going to the store, I relented and told him it would be great if he dropped me back home so I could take a nap.
Less than five minutes later, I was cozy in my bed with a dog by my side, and all because I actually listened to my body and made the decision that would most serve my needs at that particular time. In years past, I would have labeled the need to nap in the middle of the afternoon as a sign of weakness of laziness. I compared myself to everyone around me who seemed to be squeezing an extra hour out of each and every day while I closed my bedroom curtains and zonked out. Unsurprisingly, this left me feeling wholly inadequate. Just think of the lost productivity I would tell myself. I could have been writing the next great American novel during those hours I slept in the afternoon, or at least get a head start on folding all that piled up laundry; as if there was a prize for neglecting ones basic needs in favor of trivial things like doing chores.
Every moment of perceived weakness was met with intense feelings of guilt. The underbelly of those feelings revolved around a great deal of hubris at my own self-importance. My house won’t run properly without my involvement 24/7 I would tell myself. Sure, it didn’t and still doesn’t help that while I have a wonderful husband he can’t fully be trusted to get everything on a grocery list. Yet not having scallions, or having to use paper towels instead of toilet paper for a day (yes, that really happened), is not the end of the world.
I was modeling my behavior after the dynamic I observed in my own home growing up. My mother, one of the cleanest women you could ever meet, relishes in routinely giving up what she needs in order to serve the rest of her family. While I won’t be winning any prizes any time soon for the most spotless home, I still felt often enough that if my hand wasn’t in every honey jar, something would go terribly wrong. Having the mentality that I had to keep all of the plates spinning, while failing to listen to what my body was telling me that I truly needed was a recipe for disaster.
The older I’ve gotten the easier it has become to listen and then take the next step of actually executing what it is that I need at any given time. This didn’t happen overnight; it took dealing with burnout to get to the place I am now. My hope is that anyone who reads this blog or who I interact with will learn from my past mistakes and take a less circuitous route to leading a balanced life.
I know how appealing it is to feel like superwoman, our entire society practically worships at the altar of busyness and neglecting one’s personal needs in favor of working longer hours. Naps? Exercising? Sleeping eight hours (or nine) a night? Those are all dispensable in the myth of what it means to be a successful person. I am fortunate to be called successful by the people around me, which is why I don’t miss an opportunity to shatter the notion that I got to where I am by not taking care of myself. I’m a boss who takes the occasional nap, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Neither should you.