This year, I completed my fourth year of teaching high school (after a big career change) which I continue and love, though it is much more difficult with the budget cuts and high demands. I spent the summer learning Spanish in Central America with my family and it was fantastic and a dream come true. I published my first book, Let’s Get This Straight, with COLAGE. (Yes, I still need you to buy a copy. Then gift another.) I started putting money aside for me FIRST from each check before paying bills. It’s starting to look something like a real savings account. What a concept. (Suze Orman told me this about five years ago and I still didn’t listen.) I cut the perm off of my hair and am all “naptural” for the third time since college. It feels awesome and liberating. I’ve run/walked two 5ks since October. And for the first time in about ten years, I did not gain my usual 10-20 winter pounds. I can proudly say that I’m still at my summer weight due to keeping up some semblance of a workout regimen and gulping down only two measly slices of sweet potato pie this entire holiday season! THAT took more dedication than all of the rest combined. Now those are all of the wonderful things accomplished, but here’s what I didn’t do – I didn’t stop to breathe. Literally. I didn’t listen when my body begged for rest. I kept working. I kept writing. I kept parenting. I kept hustling. I kept it moving. I kept it moving without pause because that’s what mothers do. That’s what worker bees do. That’s what wives do. That’s what high achievers do. That’s what hard-headed people do. That’s what successful, driven people do. Right? Yes, and then they crash and burn. And I did.
By Dec 1st, I felt lifeless, aimless, moody, and selfish for not wanting to do a thing. Nothing. I wanted to sleep. I felt lazy because I had no desire to cook for my family or write a sentence. A sane person would have taken a sick day back in October, but like all insane people, I saved them for when my child got sick and when I had a media obligation for the book – leaving me sick as SOON as my winter break hit on December 17th. Great. That pissed me off because I was wasting good rest time on being sick. I was feeling so down in the dumps that I actually Googled signs of depression (my first step before calling the therapist) and took three on-line depression quizzes and they all said, “No, you’re not depressed, asshole. You’re tired.” Since I like it when computers talk dirty to me, I smiled and then took my ass to sleep.
I slept for 12 hours straight. The past few days, I have gone to bed early, awaken late, taken my vitamins, drank water (which I forgot existed), called family to shoot the breeze, ran to the library and stocked up on book about my latest passion – astronomy/moon cycles & it’s relationship to the feminine, and watched some Netflix movies from my cue. Then, as if on cue, my best friend a.k.a my hubby gave me TWO spa gift certificates and has been cooking consistently or ordering out since our winter break began. He even taught our 8yr old to cook a couple more meals outside of PB&J and cold turkey. I’m going walking today right after my midday nap. Then I’ll cook an ultra light dinner and rest some more. Am I feeling better and more energized? Definitely. Am I cured? Hell nawl. If I’m not careful, I will repeat the same tomfoolery next year. It boils down to self-care. Haven’t we heard this term for years? Women don’t take care of themselves. And we clearly know how because we take care of everyone else. We know all of the reasons we don’t take care of ourselves from excuses and martyrdom to lack of self love and downright stupidity. Regardless of your reason, join me in my de-stressing and self-care crusade. It’s time to unhinge the nails and jump off the cross. Here’s my New Year’s gift to you:
Top 10 Ways to De-Stress and Be Healthy (and not be a dope in 2011)
1. Take Care of Yourself – You don’t have to put yourself first every time, but every fourth time wouldn’t be so bad. Write a list of things you absolutely love to do (or would like to do if you had a chance) – both simple and great. Make sure that it’s not all material because that isn’t true happiness anyway. Once a week (or more if you’re daring), do something on this list, without fail. One of the first things on that list that should occur over and over again better be TIME, young lady. Time to paint your toenails. Time to read. Time to nap. Time to pray and meditate. Time to exercise. Time to dance. Time to sit down in comfort and with remote in hand. Time to make pralines. Time to call a friend. Time to give thanks and take it all in.
2. Say Good-Bye to Stressful People – Drop the negative friends and family members like you drop that butt in your Flirty Girls Fitness class. If you feel drained, stressed or like a negative ball of light after talking to that certain person, stop picking up the phone so much. Adopted stress is a silly, but real source of stress. We allow others to share their stress and make it our stress. One should share flowers, tomatoes, good sex tips, and money, not baggage and eternally bad times. I’m an honest, cold turkey sort of girl, so telling them what the challenge is in the relationship, setting boundaries and agreeing to part if we can’t agree to those boundaries is my way. It’s turned out both bad and good, so beware with this method. If you’re an Elvis, “don’t be cruel” sort of gal, then reframe negative conversations and be the positive charge. That every fifth Sunday when you do answer the call, text or email, don’t be the “uh huh, uh huh” person who only listens to the drama. Speak. Say what you want them to know and string in positive messages and then get the hell out of the conversation before it turns stressful. “Girl, it’s been great talking to you, bye!”
3. Don’t Struggle for the Struggle – Many of us bleeding hearts, non-profiteer types, love the idea of healing the world. We fight, shout and kick hard. We don’t admit it, but we love the martyrdom of the struggle. We think it’s kickass. We know we’re fierce and doing the real work. We work passionately for those issues we care about and we advocate fearlessly on behalf of the voiceless and powerless. However, we render ourselves powerless when we allow the perpetual struggle to wash over our lives. You can be part of the struggle without the constant mental and physical struggle you put yourself through. You need boundaries. You need safe, comforting, me-time space or you will burn out and have nothing left to give to those you are so passionate about. My father in law, Baba Koleoso, told me that you will end up bitter because you will realize that even with your life’s work and tireless commitment, the struggle will still be there. His life is a testament to that statement. Take time to refresh, recharge and live the fun life you’re also meant to have. Fight the struggle without becoming the struggle.
4. Keep it Simple, Sista – We have become much too complicated. Too cerebral. Too highfalutin. Bring it down a zillion watts and chill the hell out. One of the nicest days I had in this dizzying fall/winter season was taking a five mile walk in the drizzling snow along the lake. It was quiet and peaceful. It was walking meditation and too beautiful an experience for me to be cold. Don’t worry about the small stuff or the stuff that didn’t get done today. The work will always be there. Don’t put on any make-up and barely comb your hair. Just be you in your simple splendor. If you throw a party, let it be about the people, not the pomp. If you’re thinking of an outing with your child, go cheap and meaningful – like a walk downtown looking at architecture or winter stargazing or sketching pictures of each other for that barren hallway of yours. Even if hysterically ugly, it’ll make you smile every time you glance at it.
5. Stop When You Need To – We do not listen to ourselves – to our minds, our bodies, nor our spirits. We know when to stop, but we keep going. For what? Tell me. Wait, I don’t want to hear your excuses. I have my own. Life is not a race. Life is not meant to be torture. And don’t get too big-headed. Life will go on without you. (No, not as good, but it will.) So stop and just be. There’s something powerful and restorative in just being, just taking a step away from everything. I don’t care if you stop once each morning or ten minutes during lunch or an hour on the weekends, but you need to stop and rest. Stop and breathe. Stop and smile. We burn out because we take too long to realize that we are on fire. Start listening to yourself or that lovely person in your life who reminds you to be kind to YOU. It is fine to be passionate and goal-oriented, but the smart person knows that it’s not about how fast it’s done, but that it’s done well. There is an Ashanti proverb that reads, “The moon moves slowly, but it crosses the town.” We are the moon, going through life’s cycles, complete and willing to shine our light, but within our time. Know when to stop, keep it simple, release the struggle, and take care of yourself. We need the moon like the universe needs you – give it to them, but on your own terms and in your own time. Remain brilliant, but slow it down. Love and caress your spirit like you love the world. Rest and replenish so that you can carry on with your critically important work. This post is dedicated to a lovely word: BALANCE. We can do it, just like we do everything else. Ashe!
And I thought there would be ten things, but I’m learning when to stop, so we will leave it at five and the world will go on and I will go take my afternoon nap and you will do something just as self-nurturing and wonderful for yourself. Happy Holidays!