I've been a total crank-ass for the past three months. I've been moody and exhausted. And there have been many times that I can't even stand myself. I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired. In December, I blamed it on being, well, December (or what the Ebenezer in me refers to as the The Most Horrific Time of the Year). Sure by the 25th and a few glasses of wine and hanging with the fam, it's all well and good, holly-jolly-and merry-all-the-way. But, if you're a full-time working mom who by default (as in: I just do it) is in charge of all the shopping, wrapping, cooking, Christmas card mailing and family travel arranging, birthday planning (because my kids both happen to have December b-days and hence require subsequent birthday cakes, parties, and presents), it sucks. And all that would be enough for it all to suck. But, that's not all I did in December. I was also an author promoting a new book, a part-time adjunct faculty member correcting 60 college freshman essays, and a theater/swim mom who had Christmas concerts to attend, not to mention daily swim, music and play practices to shuttle kids to. (I may have collapsed in the fetal position and cried, I just can't do it anymore--on more than one occasion.) So okay, I get December. Every mother gets why December will break the spirit of the most cock-eyed optimist among us. But, what was my excuse for being miserable during January? We could all argue: Is there any month worse than January? It's gray. It's wet. It's icy. And to invoke some circuitous logic: It's January. Enough said. But, we weren't snowed in here in Cincinnati. It wasn't the disaster zone the East Coast is. So what was my excuse? It's the second week into February, so why am I still so down? Still so lethargic and so empty?
And then it hit me: I realized I haven't had three minutes to myself in over four months to organize my purse let alone write a blog, or as I am supposed to be doing: writing my next novel and memoir. (Unless of course, I plan on working between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., it won't happen anytime soon either.) So I know this writing thing is essential. When I don't get to write bad things happen. I start getting a little crazy. I become resentful. I start to compare my life to others (mostly outrageously successful authors of trilogies that have recently been made into movies--one of which will remain nameless). Before I know it, I start to self-loathe. If I am not creating something, I start to, not surprisingly, destroy things. My self-esteem for starters.
And here's the thing, it's so easy to say: Just do it. Sit down and write. Go ahead: Just do it! Find 20 minutes today to sit down and think, let alone do what it is that you love to do! (Okay, stop laughing.) Exactly. For most women, it's nearly impossible. And so you have to fight for it. You literally have to put it on the schedule. In my case, I bought four hours alone today by sending my husband out with the kids for a sledding afternoon. (Scratch that: They just walked in as I type this. They got tired after two hours, and were home in three...go figure).
And so, as I was saying, you have to fight for it.
Yes, you could say, I have the luxury now of having built-in child care. I am married after all. My husband and I share the responsibility of caring for our kids. And yes, my kids are somewhat grown and self-sufficient. And I do have a husband who I can say to, "Dear God, please, please, give me four hours." And, while I am grateful for him and know how lucky I am to have those few hours, it is still simply not enough. Four (I mean, three) hours every three months is not enough--for anyone. Ever. Let me assure you. And it may seem to some that I am being melodramatic by making such a request and in such a manner. But, I don't think it is. And believe me, I can hear the collective: "Get over it. Quit your whining. I mean it's not like you're fighting for your damn life. "
But, I would argue: Yes. Yes, I am.
Because so much of my life is writing. It's part of who I am and what I do. It's what I love. Truly love. So, like anything we love, we have to fight for it. Or we will lose it. And if we lose it, we run the risk of losing ourselves in the process. And let's face it, we women are fighters. We fight for our kids. We fight for our husbands. We fight for our rights. We were born fighters. We had to be. Just to keep our spot at the proverbial table, we needed to learn to fight from a young age. But, you know what we're terrible at fighting for?
We are masters of the excuse: Our kids need us. Our husbands/significant others/partners need us. Our parents, our bosses, our coworkers, our friends, our kids' schools and clubs, our neighbors, and our church need us. You name it, they need us. And guess what, surprise, surprise, at the end of the day: You got nothin'--absolutely nothin' left. (I call it a win if I have enough energy to change from my yoga pants to actual pajama pants before collapsing on the couch at 10 p.m. to fall asleep mid-PBS documentary with my husband.)
And so today, I woke up ready to fight. After my husband and kids went out, I went for a quick walk with my friend, Jess. We talked about doing stuff this week especially--the week preceding Valentine's day--that would show ourselves some love. And the first thing I thought to do was: Write. After I got back home, I told myself I would absolutely do it. But, guess what? As soon as I got in the house, I threw a load through the wash, finished scrubbing the breakfast dishes, folded three loads of laundry sitting in baskets in my bedroom, made myself some lunch (only after organizing the refrigerator and dumping out empty containers no else thought to) and yes, finally organized my purse. (In my defense: It was disgusting. I actually found a food-encrusted spoon. I think it was my own. I hope it was.)
An hour later, I finally sat down to write.
So I admit it: It's been a rough start. I don't know how I got so bad at putting myself and writing ahead of other less important things. But it happens. It happens to all of us. Whether it's writing, yoga, photography, reading, running, painting. It's easy to put ourselves and what we love to do last.
Back in college it was a lot easier. A group of girlfriends and I celebrated the week leading up to Valentine's Day with a "Love Yourself Week." (Get over the name. We were naive. And we definitely didn't mean it the way people mean it in today's world). Nevertheless, we were so ahead of our time. Yes, back before self-help gurus and Oprah were telling the world to be the best version of ourselves, we decided to do things that empowered ourselves as women. We went out for delicious cups of coffee and walked through bookstores in Dupont Circle. We took in artsy movies we barely understood, but came out feeling somehow changed and inspired. We got in our p.j.s and watched the entire Pride & Prejudice series (with Colin Firth of course). We treated ourselves to yoga classes and long walks through unexplored parks and neighborhoods. We tried the most expensive desserts we could at places we had no business being in (like Starbucks, which was high-end for us big college spenders). We took trips to art exhibits. When we became legal, I believe there may have been cheap wine involved. Needless to say, we were young, single, and smart enough to know that we didn't need a man to affirm our self-esteem. (At least they all did. I was slow on the uptake.) Even later, when we coupled-off and had dates and booked reservations at restaurants with our boyfriends, we still managed to find ways to get together and do the things that made us feel most alive. We showed love for each other, for our friendship, but mostly ourselves. Just think of it: No full-time jobs. No kids. No husbands. No work deadlines. No piles of laundry and dishes. We were in college (and stupidly stressed about things I would give anything to stress about today). It was, in a word, easy. Because at 18, 19, 20 and 21, we were FANTASTIC at putting ourselves first.
And so today, even though, I suck at it now. I am doing this. I giving myself space to write. I am bringing myself out of my funk. And going to keep fighting for it. Because I am worth it.
This week I am going to try to write every day about the things I am doing to show myself some love. I'd love to hear what you're doing! No excuses. Get out there and do something for you--and then tell me about it here or on Twitter @mcchackett #LoveYourselfWeek. And share! Get your friends to do it too! You all deserve it!
Happy Valentine's-Love Yourself Week!