Our days have been full to burst, as my grandfather used to say, with family, work, church, school, the usual suspects – and all good (mostly good, anyway) – but there’s just so many of them. The color-coded calendar is working overtime, as is our Mr. Coffee, by which I mean the actual pot and not my darling husband, although he, too, is putting in some long hours, starting early by bringing coffee to his sleepy wife. I find myself squeezing in projects between appointments, in the name of productivity, trading writing time for the sake of volunteer demands and devoting precious little time to my self.
Years ago, shortly after Sam’s death, I claimed Tuesday as my day just for me, which as a practical matter was not the whole of the day, but from about 9:00am – 2:00pm, the few, valuable hours that both kids were in school simultaneously. I protected this time from external demands, appointments and certain professionals with letters following their names. I strictly avoided forms, the DMV and anyone related to health insurance. I rarely scheduled coffee, or lunch, or even a walk with a friend on Tuesdays, because I needed the time free from restraints. It was the one day I put myself at the top of my own priority list, subject only to critical needs of the children.
Over time I’ve begun to share my day more liberally. I’m healthy and happy, as are my husband and all our children, and I’ve let my guard down. It starts with the plumber who can only fit my sewage leak issue into his Tuesday schedule, and by the end of the day I’m still standing and mostly sane, so I loosen my protective grip on the day. Maybe I don’t need to devote the time to my own health as I once did. I begin to use the time for some extra work or one more project, a meeting or a conference call. I still get to yoga most Tuesdays, but during the final meditation, I find the wheels beginning to spin and I’m already planning breakfast and a wardrobe change.
I think I need to reclaim my Tuesday.
My inner perfectionist control freak bristles at this idea. She thinks I need to do more, accomplish something tangible, and make some measurable progress, but I suspect what I really need right now is to do less. Not just because it’s an incredibly beautiful, cool (finally!) day out there, but I confess that particular detail may have factored into my epiphany. Not just because some friends lost their child to suicide last week, although that might have played a role. More because I noticed I was holding my breath this morning, and that’s not a good sign. And there’s this lingering low-grade headache, which could be attributed to allergies or the change in the weather, but I suspect it’s something different.
I’m going to stop and breathe and be for a while.
I’m going to send a text message to a friend just to say I love you and feel incredibly grateful to have such a friend. I’m going to read something life-affirming and uplifting – a story, a poem, or just a verse – something that doesn’t contain the words “compliance,” “code” or “deadline.” I’m going to be patient with myself.
I need a moment to pray, to trust in a God who does not disinherit Her children. I need to listen to Natalie Merchant’s Life Is Sweet on repeat, to cry and smile and inhale. And then I will take the dog for a long walk, which is the most healing practice I know.
I am going to sit still and listen to my heart beat for as long as it takes to feel my whole body pulse in rhythm with my soul. I will stay put until I reach the place where I feel in my lungs the simple truth that Life is breathing me.
I’m going to put on my favorite jeans, my favorite boots and a favorite sweater (fall weather – my favorite!), and that will pretty much be my achievement for the day.
My therapist calls this self-care. Some call it procrastination, a waste of time, inefficiency. I’m going to call it my Charlotte-Shabbat and preserve this day to come home to myself. Somehow I sense that that’s also what today needs from me.
Tomorrow, I will tackle errands, to-do lists and projects. I might even work up the wherewithal to talk to a lawyer I’ve been meaning to call, but not today. It’s Tuesday, and I need some sacred time.
Wishing you light and strength on your daily path. And time for your sacred self.