I am always telling others, ‘You should take better care of yourself, you are important.’ However, when it comes to taking my own advice, I have a lot to learn. You see, I have never been good at putting myself first. As a Mother, you instinctively put your children’s needs before your own and even now, after they have left home, I am still uncomfortable with the concept. There is always something else that needs doing. Always something more important.
I began an unintentional ritual on a Sunday evening, when I would look back on the week that had gone and then forward to the week ahead and feel unsettled and somehow incomplete. How much time had I actually spent in those past 7 days on any past time that I enjoyed? What stimulating activity had I engaged in that challenged me mentally or physically? What interesting books had I read and how much had I learned from them? How much writing had I gotten finished? The answer was of course, a big fat zero. My routine consisted of going to work, doing chores, watching a bit of tv, followed by poor quality sleep.
Clearly I needed to take better care of myself.
So I decided to make a plan. Cue new notebook. I sat down and for the first time in what seemed like forever, I thought about what I really wanted. It was surprisingly difficult to start with. I mean, what did I actually want? I had more free time than ever before and I had no clue what to do with it. This was much more than a weekly face mask or a hot bubble bath.
Number one on the list was always going to be writing. I wasn’t doing anywhere near enough of it and it was beginning to bother me – a lot. I was tempted to go into my usual behaviour of telling myself off, highlighting my failures, or at least my lack of success but I stopped myself. That was not the purpose of the exercise and I refused to let those thoughts have any space in my head.
I continued with my list until I had, what I thought, was an achievable plan of action for myself. It was actually very simplistic but I was feeling excited and couldn’t wait to get started.
As with anything new, I began with great gusto and in order to ensure I stuck to the plan, I had a daily tick list where I recorded what I had done and how it felt. There is something hugely satisfying about looking at a page full of ticks and this in itself was motivation for me. By day 5 or 6 though, I started to miss a couple of numbers out. That’s ok, I told myself, I’m still learning and trying to figure it all out. By day 10 I had just one tick on the page.
I needed a serious talking to, and I was just the person to do it.
So I did what I always do when I need to think. I grabbed my coat and headed to the beach. I hadn’t realised that it was absolutely chucking it down, somehow though, it seemed a fitting backdrop. I stomped across the stones feeling frustrated and angry. Why did I find it so difficult to make my own needs a priority? Why was it so easy to dismiss everything I wanted? Just what the hell was wrong with me? I carried on stomping as the wind blew the rain into my face, which I perceived as a punishment for failing at something else.
I returned home, dripping wet but feeling much more positive, knowing exactly what I was going to do. I looked at the list and cut it down by half. There were 3 things that stood out to me as the most important:
Write every day.
Read every day.
Get outside every day.
so, I got rid of the others, in the hope that they would one day find a way back onto the page.
Fast forward two weeks and I am happy to report that my pages are all ticked and I am beginning to feel like a different woman. Some days are trickier than others of course, but I have not let that stop me. Even a few minutes spent on each of my goals brings such a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that it becomes addictive. I am excited to see just how much progress I can make by the end of this year.
If you are not already doing so, I urge you all to make yourselves a priority. You won’t regret it.