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Taking the Time

February 2, 2010

For the last week or so, I’ve been reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, Committed which is about marriage. I have many thoughts and feelings about the book but the passage that led me to today’s post was about how generations and generations of women in her family have given up personal hopes and dreams in favor of their family. Here’s the passage:

The women in my family, anyhow, are very good at swallowing disappointment and moving on. They have, it has always seemed to me, a sort of talent for changing form, enabling them to dissolve an then flow around the needs of their partners, or the needs of their children, or the needs of mere quotidian reality. They adjust, adapt, glide, accept. They are mighty in their maleability, almost to the point of superhuman power. I grew up watching a mother who became with every new day whatever that day required of her. She produced gills when she needed gills, grew wings when the gills became obsolete, manifested ferociuos speed when speed was required, and demonstrated epic patience in other more subtle circumstances.

My father had none of that elasticity. He was a man, an engineer, fixed and steady. He was always the same. He was Dad. He was the rock in the stream. We all moved around him, but my mother most of all. She was mercury, the tide. Due to this supreme adaptability, she created the best possible world for us within her home.

I am an engineer and I am lucky enough to have been able to achieve many of my dreams and yet so much of this still speaks to me. In my natural state, I aim to please people and I will bend and contort to help them out. Nothing makes me happier than to see my husband and kids (and loved ones) happy. I will do countless sacrifices to get them to be happy and feel very guilty if I cannot (or choose not to) prioritize their happiness over mine in certain situations.

And I don’t regret that. I love making my family happy. I don’t mind sacrificing for them. It doesn’t feel like a burden because it’s a choice I make. And I know many other women who do that, too. I think women, as a gender, are pleasers (yes I know I am generalizing) and tend to sacrifice personal joy and happiness sometimes.

Yet, it’s important to take care of oneself, too. I know that my husband and kids also like to see me happy. They feel better when I am happy and smiling and rested and taking care of myself. So this month’s theme is one I am going to take to heart. I think it’s important to feed the soul. When life gets too hectic (as is often the case) we tend to forget that. We do the urgent and then the more urgent and then we collapse in bed and then do more of the same the next day.

It’s important to take time for yourself. Even for six minutes a day. That’s not so long. I told myself last week that I would like to mediate for five minutes everyday. I tend to be very fidgety and I am always doing stuff or talking so staying completely still and completely quiet for five whole minutes would actually be hard for me. But it might be good for my soul. So is taking a walk and noticing the flowers. Or connecting with a friend. Or eating a healthy lunch. Or getting a manicure. Or journaling.

Sometimes a few minutes spent on yourself gives you enough positive energy for the whole day which then means you’re nicer to your kids, husband, workmates or even strangers. It means you’re more productive and optimistic. These are the dividends of self-care. They are worth it.

You are worth it.

So pay attention to yourself. See how much time you’re taking for yourself. See what gives your soul a lift and try to squeeze in some more of those things each day.

That’s my goal for this month, too.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 4:19 pm

    I finally posted a couple of my gratitude layouts on my blog! You can find the post here:

  2. Lisa permalink
    February 3, 2010 4:26 am

    Great post Karen. Thanks. I have marriage on my mind lately – 10 year anniversary coming up.

  3. February 3, 2010 11:28 am

    Wonderful thoughts Karen, I’m so glad I stumbled upon your site, it really speaks to my ‘soul’ so to speak, very befitting considering your topics this month. It’s so interesting to read your words and wonder how another can speak what you are feeling and thinking, amazing we are never alone are we, even though we think we are so unique there are always so many others feeling the same emotions that we feel. I think that’s why I’ve so enjoyed reading your passages, for then I know I’m not alone, others have the same struggles and the same pulls as I do. Thanks for sharing, I’ll be back!

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