Alexis and I are sitting over a late lunch, sharing a spinach and feta crepe. We’ve just sent the better part of three hours wandering through the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of our favourite things to do.
“I don’t get how you always find time to do everything,” she says to me. “Finding time to do the things I want is the hardest thing for me.”
I think about her comment for a moment and reply. “I think it’s because I don’t question whether or not I have the time, or the energy, to do it. I just assume I do and go from there.”
Having time and energy are not my issues.
I have other issues, but not enough time or energy are not a question for me.
I’ve always been like that. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had more than enough energy and an unflagging belief in the infinite expansion of time.
Now, most times, that works to my benefit. I get lots done.
But sometimes, that belief works against me. I think I can get it all done, that my energy is limitless, that I don’t have to recharge. Sometimes, I risk burning myself out.
It’s been a hard lesson to learn. To listen to my body, not my head, tell me it’s time to step back, to step down, to let go of doing it all so that I can be all I am in the moment, without telling myself — I can do it all.
Taking care of me is not my strong suit. In fact, taking care of me has historically come last on my list of things I must do.
Something I learned through Choices (the personal development program I coach in) is that while time and energy may be limitless, my time and energy are not. Like the airline’s precaution to first put the oxygen mask over your face before assisting someone else, I must give myself medicine first if I am to be of service to others.
I am learning to take care of me. To allow myself ample alone time to simply be present in the moment, without thinking about the 101 things I want to get done before x time appears on the horizon. To not over fill my plate with 101 tasks to complete just because someone’s asked me to do it.
I’ve learned to say No.
I was afraid of saying no. For a long time, I thought saying No would result in someone disliking me or being angry with me. So, rather than risk their displeasure, I’d say yes, even when I didn’t want to. In my desire to please, I ended up creating more problems than if I’d just been honest in the first place. Because, in my ‘yes’, I would inevitably leave myself open to resentment building up and regrets piling on — why did I say I’d finish that report by tomorrow when I know I’ve got three other projects to get it done first? Why did I say I’d go to the event when I have another engagement that evening already?
I’d scurry around trying to fit in three events in an evening, while juggling deadlines and household chores and meetings. Or, even worse, I’d cancel out at the last minute or simply not turn up and then make apologies after the fact.
I was crazy!
And then I learned the power of “No Thank You,” and everything changed.
In my “No” I learned to stand up for me. To let my first priority be to ask myself the question, “What do I want in this situation?”
I’d never really done that in the past — ask myself ‘What do I want?” versus my automatic response of, “Oh, they want me. How wonderful. I’ll do it.”
What I wanted was secondary in my thinking. What other people wanted was what drove me — and sometimes, it drove me into all the wrong places and spaces!
Which is why I am grateful for my growing awareness of what it means to understand, to know — what I want matters. To me. For me.
What you want matters to you.
And sometimes, the two don’t meet and that’s okay, because when your wants and my wants differ, it’s not because yours are wrong, mine are right. Or, yours are right, mine are wrong. It simply means — our wants are different.
My responsibility is to ensure I am 100% accountable for my experience.
Yours is to ensure you are 100% accountable for yours.
I trust me to be responsible for my happiness — and I trust you to be responsible for yours.
I spent the afternoon wandering the halls of one of my favourite places and then sharing a meal with one of my favourite people in the world — one of my daughters.
I did everything I wanted to do and in the process, discovered, in doing it, I had all the time I needed to enjoy the one I was with. How perfect is that!