For so many years of my life, I was always focused on “doing” and being productive. Basically, I was hustling for my worth. I thought that the more I “did,” the more value my life had, the more I was proving to myself and to the world that I should be allowed to exist. I know that I have already written about this before, and I can promise you, I will write about it again. Because it is so important. Our society is structured on valuing “doing” above all else. But it is a mistake, and it is not bringing anyone peace or happiness or true fulfillment. We are all just stressed out most of the time.
But what does bring us peace and happiness and fulfillment? Self-care and self-love. You need to finally realize that you do not need to look out to external factors for your sense of worth, your value, your sense of power. You have that power inside of you, you can find fulfillment in the quiet of your heart and mind. If you are able to quiet the chatter of the mind, which is difficult. And so one way to do this is to take time for a self-care practice, or two, or three, EVERY DAY. Yes, every day. It doesn’t have to be the same thing each day. But find something that is just FOR YOU, that brings you calm and stillness and peace in your life. That reminds you to breathe and to appreciate your ability to do so.
The first self-care practice that I really established was journaling. Every morning. I began in August 2018, and I highly recommend it. Now that it’s been over three years, it’s been especially fascinating to look back and see how my life has changed so much these last three years. It’s fascinating to read my stream-of-consciousness thoughts and how they evolved. It feels like a treasure to me. For example, this was my very first journal entry, in August 2018.
“A new beginning…That is what I need to promise myself. I’ve had a revelation. It’s one that I have had before. But I’ve had it again. This time, I hope it sticks. I need to fit my work around MY LIFE. Not my life around my work. My work is NOT the priority. No matter how much I love it. No matter how much of an impact I have on others. This is MY LIFE. I am here. Right here. Right now.
My first mammogram a few weeks ago had a spot that they were concerned about. I knew it was a false positive. So I didn’t call back for awhile. Because I was busy. But they were persistent. So today was the day. I knew it would be fine. There was still a doubt, though. And a hope, actually. A hope of having breast cancer. Because if I had breast cancer, that would give me a new ability to re-prioritize my life, to make sure I’m living every moment the way that I want. What the hell. That is ridiculous of me. To want breast cancer to do that. I need to do it without breast cancer.
So, right now, at the beginning of the new school year, I am going to re-design the way I live my life. It’s already a wonderful life. A life of love and energy and excitement. But also, of stress. I work all the time and then fit everything else around that. I need to change that mentality – that mindset. I made it. I’m not striving towards needing to prove anything to anyone, anymore. I have tenure. I need to move forward in the world with peace and grace and love and understanding and forgiveness. I need to be able to shit again, normally, in a healthy way, without laxatives. I need to allow my body to do that. To recover basic body functions. That is my goal. A new beginning…I must make this a reality.”
And, now, over three years later, it’s so clear to me. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do what I told myself to do. I still fit my life around my work, instead of the other way around. So, what did the universe do? It gave me one year to get my act together. And when I did not do it, it forced my hand. It said, “Well, Laura, you won’t relax? You are still making work your priority? Then you won’t have a choice anymore. Boom.”
And then my life fell apart for awhile. I lost my job and my marriage. I lost my whole identity. And I had to pick up the pieces and figure out what I actually need and want moving forward. And I will tell you one thing – I did finally change. I definitely do NOT have work as my priority now. I ABSOLUTELY fit work around my life now, instead of the other way around. It took me 3 years and a lot of pain. But I did it. And this way was certainly MUCH BETTER and much less painful than getting breast cancer to force my hand.
And so, while in my journal entry in February 2020, I wrote that I was “not yet at a point where I can look back and say that I am GLAD it happened,” I finally can do that now. My life is better now. It’s still challenging. I still struggle. But I am employed by a university that supports me and cares for me and appreciates me. It’s a place where I fit in. And I now know how to better balance my life.
And one way that I balance my life better is by focusing on self-care every single day. Not only do I journal, but I also take time to paint, or to do some yoga, or read a book, or watch an inspirational show, or meditate, or play a board game with a loved one. Every day.