Me Time

8fef0b88-cdcb-4c69-a17f-0e34e07e6bf3-metimefeatured

I had a friend who enjoyed a date night with her husband every single Thursday evening from the day that she married. Once she had children she hired a babysitter to watch them while she and her husband enjoyed their weekly interlude. She never let anything get in the way of that special time with her spouse. The two of them would eat out at different restaurants, go to movies and plays or just take a nice drive to some pretty place. She used to urge me to adopt her idea, but I always found one excuse or another for ignoring her advice. I insisted that I didn’t have enough money for such frivolities, or I complained that I was too tired after working all day. Mostly I actually felt guilty about leaving my children alone while I was out celebrating. I tended to be more like the biblical character Martha rather than Mary. I always seemed to have some pressing business that prevented me from taking a little breather from my responsibilities now and then. In retrospect I regret not having learned the art of creating “me” time until recently. Our tendency as humans is to work ourselves into a dither rather than realizing our need to care for ourselves on a regular basis. I was reminded of this by something that happened to a long time friend of mine.

Cathy. as I will call her, is the sole caretaker of her invalid husband. He has been bedridden for around two years as a result of a number of major health issues. Cathy is a devoted wife who tends to him with great love. Her days literally revolve around his needs, and it is only when someone comes to watch him that she is able to leave her home for a brief amount of time. She enjoys shopping for special foods for the both of them, so going to the local Kroger is a small treat. Unfortunately she never has a great deal of time to tarry, so she has to plan her outings vey carefully. On a recent run to the grocery store she was having a good time trying samples when she somehow got tangled on a floor mat and took a hard fall to the floor. She immediately realized that something was terribly wrong, and a visit to the local emergency room proved her fears to be well founded. She had a broken hip that would require surgery to repair. Even in her pain she was more concerned about her husband back home than her own welfare. With no family or close friends nearby she was frantic about what would happen to him while she was in the hospital. When she called me a few days later to reiterate what had happened she admitted that she had grown quite weary and that the enforced rest  that she would require to heal was something that she had long needed.

I could tell that she was still worried in spite of her protests that she was going to devote more attention to herself in the future. It is difficult for women with responsibility for other souls to even think about doing special things for themselves, but the reality is that it is something that we all need to do. It doesn’t really matter how we choose to relax and pamper ourselves, but we need to allow it to happen without guilt. Not only will we be better able to deal with our many challenges, but those that we love will begin to notice how much happier we are. We are far less likely to feel anxious or angry when we give a bit of love to ourselves.

Of late I’ve been doing nice things for me. I enjoy reading and writing, so I shut the door to my room for a few minutes each day and engage in the hobbies that relax me. I listen to my favorite pieces of music and sip on cups of hot tea. Sometimes I even save enough calories from my diet to include a cookie or two. I buy tickets to concerts and go see the movies that intrigue me. I leave the dishes in the sink and the dust on the furniture and take advantage of beautiful sun-filled days. It’s not always easy for me to leave a bed unmade in favor of doing something fun, but I am teaching myself to be more relaxed about such things. I find that in the long run I actually get more done than ever before, because I am not as tired or grumpy as I have often been in the past when I was pushing myself beyond the bounds of my energy.

I still tend to constantly worry about anyone and everyone, but I am getting way better at differentiating between situations that I might control and those that are beyond my influence. In the case of Cathy, I realized that I would be unable to run to her assistance the way that I most typically might want to do. I’ve got my hands full getting my husband back to a state of good health, and Cathy lives in Georgia while I live in Texas. I realize that I will be able to talk with her on the phone or send her notes of encouragement, but I can’t be physically there to help her through this trying time. I asked that some of my other friends pray for her with an appeal on Facebook, and to my amazement one of them just happened to know someone in the town where Cathy lives who seems willing to organize a group from church to come to Cathy’s aid. I have been overwhelmed by the generous offer, but I have also realized that another thing that we should be willing to do for ourselves is ask for assistance when we are in trouble. It’s something that we too often hesitate to do.

There are so many good people in this world who are just waiting for us to let them know what we need. It’s difficult to admit that we are not all powerful. We worry that we will be perceived as being weak or inadequate if we have to cry for relief. The reality is that every single one of us will face moments when we feel totally overwhelmed by events. That is when we need to trust  people enough to allow them to come to our aide. Believe me. There will always be someone who hears our cries and responds with love. I never cease to be amazed at the benevolence of the human spirit.

The Lord Himself instructed us to love others as we love ourselves. How is it even possible for us to truly treasure other people if we don’t place enough value on ourselves to pause to escape for just a bit from our woes? Finding those special moments that energize us just may be the most important thing that we do. Let’s all follow the example of my friend who planned a weekly outing and start exploring ways of pampering our most important selves.

Go Home

texas-flooding

It is barely Tuesday, August 29. The time is midnight, but I will be staying up all night. I am one of the blessed ones in Houston because my home is still dry, but it has been raining all day and storms are still raging outside. I plan to be vigilant because I just don’t know how much more water the drainage system will accommodate. I want to be ready to turn off power and prepare to camp out upstairs if the water comes into my home. I pray that I will be spared, but I have learned in only a few days that there is nothing normal or certain about this storm called Harvey. I would do well to expect the unexpected.

Yesterday was perhaps one of the most difficult days thus far in my storm watch. Far too many people that I know were reporting that their homes had been inundated with water. I had not expected to hear so many more terrible stories. The devastation is beyond anyone’s imagination. All parts of the region have been affected. Nobody is immune, so I find myself wondering when the shoe will drop for me.

My daughter had to flee her neighborhood when she was told that the levee protecting the homes from the Brazos River might not hold. It took the concerted efforts of several people armed with maps to guide her family from Houston to San Antonio. Somehow they miraculously found a way to get her family there with a very strange and circuitous route. Not long after she arrived at her destination she began to receive reports from neighbors indicating that the river near her home had gone over the top of the levee and water was filling the streets. She is happy to be safe, but uncertain that there will be anything left of her house when she returns. She is sickened by the images that her friends are sending her. These are people that she has known for years. They have raised their children together. They are like family, and now their lovely community is being ravaged mercilessly.

Someone that I have known since second grade had to flee from her home shortly before dark last night. I still have not heard whether or not she and her husband are okay. I have been quite worried. Their lovely house may be inundated by morning when the levee protecting it possibly fails. I can’t even imagine the fear and desperation that she must be experiencing now. My heart is breaking for her.

I am feeling frantic as I listen to the downpour. I want my home to make it unscathed. Some of us have to have places where our friends and family will be able to stay during the long journey back to normalcy, whatever that will be. I teeter between great hope and utter defeat. Our task will be enormous and we so want it to work out well. We are clinging to the smallest rays of hope, but Harvey appears to be laughing at us.

I have been reading articles written by talking heads who do not even live in Houston. They are attempting to analyze why we are in the midst of such a catastrophe. They want to lay blame on someone for what has happened. Is it us? Was it our ancestors? Should we indict our public officials and leaders? How silly they are. There is not a city anywhere on planet earth that would have been able to sustain the amount of rain that has been dumped on Houston for days and days. No amount of city planning or consideration of climate change would have helped. It is simply not possible to pour the equivalent of the entirety of the Mississippi River into a small area over the space of only a few days.. That is what has happened to us. We have been subjected to a freak of nature.

There are others that would have us believe that we are being punished for some horrific transgressions. What a ridiculous idea. We are good people and that is quite apparent in the behavior of both the victims of the flood and the heroes who are saving them. Houston is not an example of a horrible place that deserves vengeance. Quite the contrary. Besides God doesn’t work that way. He would not hurt millions of innocent people just to prove a point. How dare anyone even suggest such a thing when so many are suffering!

We are all trying to be very strong. We love our city and keep telling ourselves that we will overcome this. The last thing that we need is criticism. We are not interested in opinions that hint at an “I told you so” smugness. We need support, not lectures. If people can’t say something nice, then they should say nothing at all, especially when they have never even lived here. As every Houstonian knows, you must experience our city before you will ever understand it. Outsiders can’t imagine why we are so in love with this place, but we all know what the magic is.

The rain continues to pick up in intensity. I frankly can’t stand the sound of it anymore because I have seen far too many images of the ruin that it is creating. I hope that when the sun arises my home will still be high and dry. I pray that we will see the end of this sooner rather than later. We deserve a shot at mending our wounds, but that can’t happen until the water is gone. I want Harvey to go home to wherever horrible storms gol

There are so many generous souls who are coming to bring our city back to life. They are very welcome. We love them and thank them in advance. As for those who would mock us or complain that we are somehow responsible for this fiasco called Harvey, please just leave us alone. You go home too. We have work to do, and can’t afford the distraction. All we want now is to have all of our people get back home.