Saturday, January 26, 2019

Me Time

In my Sunny Days, one of the "Joyful Intentions" that comes up says, "Today I'll make some time for myself." Lately, it's taken on a whole new meaning. Family matters occupied a lot of my attention last year, forcing me to adjust the time I was willing to give to other people and projects.

And boy did people push back.

When I was unable to follow the course in class and my requests to find a way through it went unheard, I was accused of "wanting things my own way."

When I refused to volunteer for an admin positition in a local charity, the woman who called pressed. "It's just one time only." "No," * I answered. "We really need your help." "No." Before hanging up, she mildly accused me of letting them down.

When a new neighbour asked why I hadn't come to her get-together, I told her that I hadn't been up for it. When she suggested I come to the next one, I refused to commit. "If I'm up for it," I told her. But then when she said, "You really should," I had to repeat, "I will if I'm up for it." Even then she continued to push. "It'll do you good to come, even if it takes you out of your comfort zone."

That got my back up.

They all did - a sure sign that my resources were already depleted.

I could understand the push-back. Many are used to me saying "Yes." Some are low-energy too and rely on my compliance to make their own day go more smoothly. A few try to manipulate others to meet their own needs, these ones can be just plain toxic. I wish them all the best. But this is about what I need.

I need to give my time back to myself. Not give others my time, but give it to me.

This doesn't come easily to me, so I asked my husband how I might get better at it. He said, "You're over 65. You don't have to answer to anyone any more." I hadn't thought of it that way. And when I put that to the test, he supported me. He knew of my plans to go to another town for an appointment and hoped I'd want him to drive, so he could pick up a few things on his own while there. But when I said, "Not this time," he was a little disappointed but he was fine with it.

Taking back my time means choosing who I spend my time with. It means taking on activities that energize rather than deplete me, even taking on fewer projects than I think I can handle until I have more reserves. ** Taking back my time can mean puttering in the kitchen at my own pace, answering to nobody but myself. Until I hopped on the train one day without telling anyone I was coming to the city, I had no idea how much the urgency of meeting the schedules and expectations of others had been depleting me. It was a great day.

My time. My schedule.

Do I want things my own way? Sure. But I'm not a princess. Do I want to help the charity? Sure. But I'm not about to take on more responsibility. Do I want to meet new people? Sure. But not right now. People push back for their own reasons. I stand my ground for reasons of my own. It’s better to deal with their lack of grace than undermine my own needs.

Today I'll make some time for myself. It is a joyful intention. Time for me to maybe walk in the woods, or maybe cook a delicious soup, or maybe read a happy book. I can figure it out as I go along. It's up to me. After all, me time is my time.


* See also: Janet's 5 Rules of "NO"
** This reminds me of the cook's rule: "Use a bigger bowl than you think you'll need."

Friday, January 25, 2019

Events Conspire ...

A friend asked me to pick up an iTunes card for her when I was in town. $50 denomination. I tried the grocery store - nope, not there. I tried the discount store - they only had $25 cards. I tried the drug store - nope, they don't sell them at all. Events were conspiring to prevent me from getting it for her. I thought I might stop at another grocery store on the way home, but I paused. This wasn't right. I looked back at her request. It wasn't like her at all. I called her. Sure enough it was a scam - discovered before any damage was done.

The last year has been stressful, and when it was at its worst some months back, I remembered a counsellor I'd seen years ago, one whose insight and kindness made life much easier, and wondered if he was still in the same town. I didn't call at the time, but just last week, he called me about another matter - a book he'd just had published about Autism. Of course I'll see him over the book, and yes, it's been a tough year, I could use some grief counselling, too. Events conspired to bring me exactly what I needed.

When a wrenched back muscle put me in bed for a few days, it meant I couldn't do all I'd planned to do that week. On day 1, when the weather turned stormy and driving became hazardous, I felt relieved that the choice to drive in it was taken out of my hands.

On the way to the clinic in another city, my Jeep started misfiring a few blocks from our destination. But Tom was right beside me. We agreed it had to be spark or fuel, and given this was a cold, cold day, we thought we'd start with gas-line antifreeze. A few minutes later we arrived at the clinic, and who would have thought there'd be an auto parts store in the same plaza? Turns out condensation in the gas tank led to a bit of water in the gas - an uncomplicated, inexpensive fix, and a smooth ride home. Events conspired to make my life easier.

If I'd allowed my frustration to kick in while looking for the iTunes card, I would likely have kept on trying, and missed the way the universe was trying to help out. If I'd ignored the opportunity to get some counselling, even though the call was about his book, I would have missed out on some energizing and helpful conversation. The back pain put me into bed. If it had been a bit less, I might have pushed through the pain to try and keep those appointments even in blowing snow and whiteouts, adding a layer of anxiety on top of the pain. As for the Jeep, I did my own gut check in advance and things seemed fine for the drive ahead. Was my gut misleading me? Not at all. If this had happened when I was in the car on my own, it would have been much more stressful for me. 

It takes faith to trust that life is working with me and not against me. Frustration, fear and stress work against that. But by living my life as though events are conspiring to smooth the way for me, trust builds. Even when things seem to be going wrong. 

Pure Gratitude

I stopped here because I could barely help myself. It was too cold to linger really, but the beauty of the place, the sounds, the light, the energy captured my attention and then gratitude stopped me in my tracks. I didn't make gratitude up out of the moment, it was more like it made me.

Perhaps that's what Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, meant when he said, "it is our full appreciation of something altogether undeserved, utterly gratuitous – life, existence, ultimate belonging – and this is the literal meaning of grate-full-ness. In a moment of gratefulness, you do not discriminate. You fully accept the whole of this given universe, as you are fully one with the whole."