"It's All About Me." (J/K)
I am sure you've never heard anyone say, "listen, it's all about me, okay?" and sincerely mean it. It's an innately selfish thing to proclaim, right?
If you responded to that rhetorical question in any fashion, then read on my friend. I am afraid we're in a position as a society in which the perception is that it IS all about us, every day. No one is perfect, but let's be honest, we can all get caught up in the image we create for ourselves, our persona or the ‘surface-self’ in the ever-growing and influential world of social media. In this "me" culture of our time, the fantasy becomes accepted as 'gospel' and that is disturbing. This perception keeps us from experiencing the real person. Some would even prefer you refer to them as their persona, with however many followers, completely side-stepping reality. This is troubling. And yet, it is happening.
Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist who continued Albert Einstein's work in string theory once said, “All your selfish little concerns mean nothing next to the grandeur of the universe" and he's right. This is not interpreted, however, to mean "what you think or feel doesn't matter" but rather, do not get caught up in your concerns so much so that you forget that there’s a big world out there we still have yet to discover. This applies to our every-day lives and truly trying to get out of our heads, so to speak. But one of the only ways to really do this is to take care of ourselves so we’re able to see the big-picture.
Those I know who have high-stress jobs take what they call "Jesus-walks." Now, I know they won’t mind me sharing this because I think that everyone, regardless of their religious beliefs, knows what this means. It's the time taken to meditate outside of the confines of your office, be in the moment, pray or center yourself. Most individuals I know who practice yoga or exercise every day exhibit these healthy habits and know when to call it quits. We should give ourselves, our minds and hearts, the room to be and expand and a break from all the noise.
Which brings me back to this: it's all about me. Yes. Personally, in the morning, it is all about me (for my friends with children, even if it's 5-10 minutes of 'you time', take it!). That fresh cup of coffee you just made can be all about you – enjoy it while sitting in your favorite chair. It's all about me in the sense that if I don't take the time to be self-possessed, aware of my motivations and intentions, and keen on being present to others by first making sure I take care of myself - then moving forward with my day becomes static. Of course, I can go through the motions - but no one sincerely enjoys that (unless you're C-3PO or Robby the Robot).
One of my close friends said to me months ago, “it’s only phony until it works" about methods of self-care that are not founded in common medical or psychological practices. It came up when I explained that I'd felt completely "off" prior to our chat. This friend asked me to recount what I did before the weekend started and what I did in the mornings. I quickly realized that I was completely thrown off (my sleep, my diet, my outlook) by some recent and very stressful events in my life and hadn't given them room to dissipate or to process them. I was in denial.
One Tuesday afternoon while I was taking lunch at work, I receive a call from my older sister who lives 4 hours away - my mom found my dad unconscious in his home-office. She resuscitated him before the ambulance arrived. Through tears, my sister says that while at the local hospital, they explained to my mother, who was still in shock, that they didn't have the medical equipment or personnel to help my father. I receive another call from my sister while on the road that he had suffered a severe brain aneurysm. He was taken by helicopter to a hospital in the city and immediately admitted to surgery. Walking into the ICU, I was shaking. When I stepped into his room he was awake and did something I hadn't seen in over 15 years - he began to cry. As I hugged him, for the first time in my life, the child-like idea that my dad is this unbreakable immortal giant, simply evaporated.
Things got even harder when we transferred him home after the hospital stay. There’s too much to mention in this blog alone, but the saying, "when a person is sick, the focus is on them. But illness happens to the family. It happens to you" was never truer (Caring for the Caregiver, Meier 2014). In other words, I saw my mom buckle under the weight that he had previously shouldered. Feelings of inadequacy struck us all and everyone was subject to anxiety while we tried to help. I dealt with fear and guilt of not being able to be home enough or help with the daily burdens enough.
Family trauma like this can bring even the most fractured relationships into focus and repair bridges that we might've once thought were beyond repair. We've all been through those times. But it appears that the lasting impact those feelings have on our lives manifest in our bodies and can deteriorate good habits formed in the mind. Therefore, it is so important that we take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. This seems like such a simple adage but it is not. My dad is doing so well now, but would admit to this, if asked, that he could have done this or that to prevent ending up in the hospital, but we all know that hindsight is 20/20. He doesn’t need to apologize for this trauma.
Lastly, I feel it is imperative that we all take the time to make a daily assessment of our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and review what it is that we could do, maybe just one thing, the next day to improve our lives from the inside-out. Maybe it’s cutting out that 2nd cup of coffee or going on a walk right after work instead of sitting on the couch. It could be calling a friend we haven’t spoken to in a few months on our commute home or taking the scenic route to clear our heads from work-place clutter. Whatever it is, big or small, we need to start ignoring the voices that tell us we shouldn’t have ‘me-time’ because it would appear to be selfish to someone else. Make a part of your day about you. After all, you’re the only one living your life.
“People who use time wisely spend it on activities that advance their overall purpose in life.” – John C. Maxwell
Ad astra per aspera,
(Through difficulties to the stars.)