Reclaiming My Time & Myself
For years I dreamed of being a 'lady who lunches.' A woman with the time and money to take a leisurely lunch while sipping drinks in the mid-day sun on the patio of some posh restaurant with no particular place to be at no particular time. The busier and more chaotic my life became, the more this longing grew. I didn't want to work anymore, but I knew I had to. I was burned out in every area of my life. I just wanted a long, long break, like a mid-life sabbatical, but one that never required me to go back to work. For 18 months I toyed with the idea of quitting my job and spending the next year touring the dining patios around town as a lady who lunches, and when I wasn't lunching, I would nap. Long, fitful naps cuddled up with my favorite blanket and a just-right pillow. I was so exhausted doing everything by myself, working full time, being a solo parent, taking care of the house, the dog and on and on. I recall one afternoon at my cousin's baby shower, my aunts were discussing how many years it had been since they'd put gas in their own cars. Some said it had been 30 years or more because their husbands always did it for them. I felt my body grow heavy and fatigue set in in every fiber of my body. No one had ever put gas in my car but me and the thought of doing it again for myself was overwhelming. Just having that one less thing to do myself sounded so liberating.
Like many women, I was taking care of everyone and everything but myself. I thought I was being strong and independent, but I was really slowly killing myself with exhaustion. I finally got up the nerve to reclaim my time, my freedom and my joy by giving myself permission to put myself first. I reduced the number of hours I worked in a week so I could have one full day per week to myself. I spent the first several of my days off taking myself out for long leisurely lunches around town, sitting at a table on the patio and enjoying a book long after my lunch dishes were cleared. I didn't have anywhere else to be and it was glorious. I watched others who were gathered for business lunches talking about marketing and business plans and grinned at them maniacally when they had to get up and go back to the office. It wasn't all fun though, it took me several months to stop feeling guilty for having the privilege to work less. Because of this privilege, I felt like I should be out changing the world by myself in that one day per week, but then I came across this quote from writer and feminist Audre Lorde:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” -Audre Lorde
If I reframed this day as time for me to care for myself so that I might become a better human being, one who put love and joy out into the world instead of anxiety, exhaustion and unconsciousness, then this act of self-care was worth it to me. I now call this time 'Feed My Soul Day.' Doing the things that bring joy to my heart has made me a better parent, coworker, friend and human being. Now that I've carved out this time and space for myself, I feel more fully alive and connected to the world. I can feel my consciousness expanding.
I'm no longer a lady who lunches (that got old quickly), but I am now a woman who says NO to being always on the go, always available and guilt ridden for taking care of herself. This has proven to be the greatest gift I've ever given myself and my family. It's also a bonus to be bucking the patriarchal and capitalistic systems that tell us we need to be continuously productive. Knowing that when I read a book for pleasure or write a poem that I'm actively resisting these oppressive systems, gives the rebel in me great joy.