Sunday, November 25, 2012

Smoothing Out The Rougher Edges

Putting the whole of life into some sort of perspective can be really useful in terms of figuring out where the pieces may not be working well.  It can also be maddening, trying to rearrange things so that everything falls smoothly into place.

Sometimes, I suppose, there needs to be a little friction in order to smooth out a rough edge or two.  But that doesn't make it easy, does it?

One of the constants in my life of late has been the need to get my act together in terms of the day to day necessities:  better, healthier diet; more regular and productive exercise; daily cleaning maintenance, even on days when I am utterly exhausted.  Doing all of this, even just to a tiny extent, would make a big difference in how things feel and work.  At least I think it would.

But when you are worn out and frazzled and past the point of thinking in the long term, doing even a little bit can certainly feel like you are attempting to summit Mt. Everest in a blizzard.

So how do you keep going in spite of that and do the things that need to be done -- not for others, but for yourself?  That is the question that I need to answer.

When someone else needs something from me, I'll push myself beyond my own limitations to make certain that their expectations are fulfilled.  But when it is for me and me alone?  Or predominately for me?  I'm not so great at pushing forward for my own sake.

Which means that, eventually, resentment creeps in at things being done constantly for everyone else and not for myself, even though I am the one that is ostensibly doing this TO myself by not doing things FOR me.  (Logic doesn't always come into play with emotions, now does it?  Sad but true.)

What I've been working on is a twofold strategy:  (1) convincing myself that doing things that seem to be only for me (e.g., fixing healthy meals that make me feel better, even when they include veggies that perhaps everyone else in the family isn't in love with makes me happier and healthier which is, in turn, better for everyone else entirely) and (2) wrapping my brain around the concept that doing something entirely just for me is not only acceptable, but is really a very good thing indeed and something I ought to celebrate for my own sake.  (Since I really ought to be able to put people pleasing to bed by now, shouldn't I?)

As we head into the Christmas season, I'm going to give myself a present:  permission to fail to exceed expectations.  Everything does not have to be perfect for everyone else.  People are allowed to occasionally fend for themselves -- they can all make a peanut butter sandwich or read a book for half an hour while I take a soak in the tub, and that is perfectly okay.

The decorations do not have to be Martha Stewart quality levels of perfection this year.  It will still be festive and lovely at our house.

We do not have to make 20 varieties of homemade cookies.  People can survive without a heaping cookie tray and that is okay.

Life should be more about enjoyment and less about slogging through what I think may be other people's expectations.  What I have learned by just ratcheting things back a notch or two is this:  what I think others expect is not always what they really do want from me. 

And by wearing myself out to meet unrealistic fantasy expectations?  I'm really depleting myself for no basis in reality and making my family miserable in the process because there is just not enough of the fun part of me to go around when I've worn myself out on the day to day tedium.

Doing a job well is important.  Doing the little things well, day in and day out, can often add up to a cumulative gain that is exponentially better than the individual parts.  Straightening the house and tidying things a bit before bedtime means we start the day with a more manageable and orderly home.  Exercising a little every day means that my weight stabilizes and I also get the added benefit of mobility.  Fixing healthier meals means we all are healthier overall, and that makes me happier.

The sum total of time needed to do these things is negligible given how much of the day gets wasted away on mindless television and e-mail surfing, right?  But they don't always get done because I've assigned a negative feeling to them along with expecting them to be done to perfection (thank you very much, Type A personality). 

Going forward?  Twenty minutes a day on each for starters.  I can work my way up, but I'm going to set a timer and just do what I can on each for 20 minutes.  20 minutes on the elliptical?  I can do that.  20 minutes of running through a room and pick things up that are cluttered or trashy or need to be reshelved?  I can do that.  20 minutes of menu planning for the next day to ensure we have healthy food?  I can do that.

That's asking one hour a day for a happier, healthier me.  I don't think that's asking too much.  If it smooths out the rough edges a bit, it will definitely be worth it.

I love my family, and I am so grateful for my many, many blessings.  The least I can do is to take better care of myself so that they get more of a happier, healthier me in the years ahead, right?

(Photo via tamburix.)

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