For the first time in over 9 years I felt like I wasn’t split into a thousand functions.
In mid July my husband Randy packed up his Ford 250 truck, our 7.5 and 9 year old boys, and drove slowly away from me and our home in Colorado, heading to his parents house in Michigan for a few weeks of vacation.
I watched the truck until it disappeared from sight. My heart feeling heavy I walked slowly up the driveway toward the front door. Used to living with three human tornadoes, I didn’t know how I was going to react to the deafening silence of an empty home. The thought of being alone made me sad—yet exhilarated.
A few weeks prior I had read Gift From The Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and knew in her words that, “certain springs are tapped only when we are alone.”
Upon entering my home I felt a momentary panic, how was I going to distract myself while they were gone?
My eyes fell upon my laptop, notebook, calendars and sharpened pencils laid out strategically on our dining room table and I breathed in a sense of relief. I knew what I was going to do. With a happy heart I dove into my work with vigor.
The shape of my life dramatically changed with the births of my boys. When my youngest was 9 weeks old, I accepted a position with a new employer at a VP level. After a few weeks of learning the landscape, I raised my hand and agreed to take 9 trips back and forth across the country over 9 weeks—a round trip once a week. I felt I needed to show that my family life wasn’t going to interfere with the goals of my employer. I told myself that a man wouldn’t hesitate to take the trips, so as a woman, why should I be any different? I was nursing, and had a 1.5 year old at home, but I knew I’d figure it out.
According to the late motivational speaker Will Marre, most men will respond to their inner needs first and then from a full cup, nurture other aspects of their lives. Contrast this to a women who will nurture every outer aspect of her life and cater to endless distractions before (if ever) slowing down and asking what it is that she really needs to thrive.
When my boys were in diapers I was consciously trying to be everything to everyone. I ignored my personal needs and didn’t feel like I had the energy to fight for their existence. Why was I so busy? I was making sure my employer was happy, my boys were well-taken care of, the kitchen was full of quick and easy nutritious options, and that my husband had space to go on his bike rides.
But what about my bike rides?
My needs were on hold. And I felt like I was losing the fun, easy-going person I was.
Today many of the rough edges of my life have become smooth.
Our boys are independent, kind, and active kids who don’t need us to entertain them. They’re okay with space. My husband’s now happy with a few rides a week and no longer feels the self-imposed pressure to spend 20+ hours on his bike training. And my needs are no longer on hold. I find alone time every day and I’m in touch with myself. I’m no longer pining for a more meaningful job as I’m fully connected into my core mission in life—coaching women toward a simply full life.
I’ve learned how to meet many of my inner needs by removing clutter crossing my path—clutter in the form of thought, feeling, event, and physical objects. I’ve discovered that if I have a choice, to always take the path of simplicity. To make space for what matters most to me. And the result? I’m no longer spread too thin.
Last week I got a question from Cheryl, a member in my Simply Full community, that hit home and brought up memories of a time when I didn’t feel as fulfilled as I do today.
“Hi Heather. I’ve been thinking recently that I can’t be good at everything- a good mother, good wife, good daughter, good friend, good at my job. How do I prioritize?”
What did I tell Cheryl?
Get rid of the clutter and prioritize your needs. Start with yourself. And that this is easier said than done.
In her book, Gift From The Sea, Anne writes, “If women were convinced that a day off or an hour of solitude was a reasonable ambition, they would find a way of attaining it.”
For most women, the idea of having a quiet hour—without distractions like Amazon and Netflix, is unimaginable. We’re accustomed to being spread so thin that the freedom to just sit would feel uncomfortable. We wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves.
As a society we glorify the idea of being busy. But what are we busy doing? A lot of buying and a lot of consuming. Any possible nooks and crannies that could be used for solitude are filled with shopping. Shopping for that thing that’ll maybe make us happy.
The word ‘busy’ rolls off our tongues far too easily and often.
Anne continues, “We are hungry, and not knowing what we are hungry for, we fill up the void with endless distractions, always at hand—unnecessary errands, compulsive duties, social niceties. And for the most part, to little purpose. Suddenly the spring is dry; the well is empty.”
Self care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary for those of us who want to become the best version of ourselves. How do we fill up the well? Carve out time for solitude each day and connect to your purpose within.
And what if you don’t know your purpose (beyond being a human being)? Think about what makes you most happy. Ask yourself, what makes life worth living? How can you thicken the plot of your own life story? I’m thinking your answers won’t include more screen time. Once you identify a purpose that’s meaningful to you, you’ll look forward to alone time and it’ll no longer feel uncomfortable.
What helped me? Putting myself first. Being alone without distractions. Learning to lead a simple life. Not shopping. Saying no thank you to invitations—without the lasting guilt.
I got a few comments from friends who were surprised I had omitted from conversation that my family was out of town and that I was living the single life for an extended period of time. It was a strategic omission on my part.