Sunday, May 1, 2011

Taking Care of YOU

I know the whole world is sick of the saying “Life is too short.” But, it is. Especially in adulthood and in this society that’s paced at warp factor nine. Days fly by in a blur; weeks are gone before we know it, and months slip away at what seems like an impossible speed. When I think of something that happened ten years ago, I can scarcely believe a decade has passed since … well, in the case of the current year, can you honestly believe it’s been a decade since September 11th? I can’t. Also that year, Lifehouse’s “Hanging By A Moment” came out and the remake of Lady Marmalade by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Maya, and Pink was in the movie Moulin Rouge. Doesn’t seem like a decade ago, does it?

As time ticks away we work like ants in an ant hill, going about our tasks almost robotically… get up, shower, get dressed, leave on time… fight traffic, park the car, get to your desk, check email, answer phone calls, attend meetings, meet with customers… before you know it the day is gone and your “to do” list might not have been scratched. Fires sparked up and had to be put out, interruptions happened, things were unavoidable. Meetings had to get moved; personal appointments had to be cancelled in order to accommodate business. And when 5:00 comes each day – are you able to head home to your family? Do you have to work from home in the evening? On weekends?

I call the difference between work and home “The separation between church and state.” Honestly, it’s the best way I can describe it. When talking about the concept of over-eating, people will often say “eat to live; don’t live to eat.” It’s good advice. Simple, to the point, and makes perfect sense. When it comes to separating church and state (or, if you prefer the corporate American term “work/life balance” which I happen to hate,) the same rule applies:

Work to make a living; don’t live just to work.

When was the last time you did the things you’re supposed to do in order to take care of yourself? Not your spouse, not your kids, not the dog, or the house, or the bills… but YOU. When was the last time you had a full physical? When was the last time you had a dental cleaning and check-up? When was the last time you had a night out with your friends? When was the last time you engaged in whatever your favorite past time is? When did you last eat at your favorite restaurant? When was the last time you spent time by yourself doing absolutely nothing? When was the last time you went shopping for yourself? When was the last time you bought something you wanted just for fun? Not something huge; maybe a music download or a favorite old movie on DVD… but for yourself.

Do you ever go into a bakery? Not the one stuffed into a corner in the supermarket, but an actual bakery. Not for any specific reason; not because it’s someone’s birthday or because you have a dinner to go to and need to pick up a dessert – but just because it’s a bakery. Just to look at the gorgeous confections and maybe get a cookie or a really good loaf of bread that’s still warm from the oven. If you don’t: THEN DO IT! Walk into the bakery, inhale the delicious smells, look at all the enticing things in the case, and pick out just one small treat for yourself. Something that looks amazing in its decoration, or something that looks so scrumptious that your mouth waters, or something you haven’t had since you were a kid.

Do you ever go into a pet store? Not because you’re looking for something to take the smell out of a sofa, but just to look at the tropical fish? Do you ever blow off the housework in favor of doing something relaxing and fun? How often do you make it to the beach in the few months we have to enjoy it here in New England? Do you play in the sand? Do you jump in the waves? Do you take walks with no destination, and no purpose other than to be outdoors?

Maybe none of these things appeal to you, but I guarantee there’s things that you love that you haven’t done in a dog’s age. The bakery, the tropical fish tank, the beach… these are all things that feed the soul. Things that get your brain out of that stagnant work mode and remind you that you are alive. If you don’t find the things I’ve mentioned here appealing then do something YOU love. Even if it’s only for a half an hour.

And your doctor, and your dentist… call the optometrist if you go there, too. Make appointments and keep them. Bring everything up to date. Take care of yourself and feed your soul. When you do that, you’ll be happier and healthier, and it will carry into every aspect of your life. It will rub off in your relationships. It will make the sunshine a little brighter, the food taste a little better, and the absurd in life a little funnier. We all have to work. We all have to take care of business, but life is a gift and when it gets tedious and stressful and frustrating… that’s when you have to step away from the ordinary routine and remember the small things that bring an enormous smile to your face and actually go and do some of them. You weren’t put here on this earth just to be an ant in an ant hill. So, get out in the world, and remember why you’re really here. Remember why you have a job in the first place: To support yourself so that you can have a life.  

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