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.