Monday, July 16, 2018

Rest is not high maintenance



My first recollection of a “high maintenance” experience took place when I was about 7 years old. We sat in a line atop the picnic table, legs dangling down, unable yet to reach the battered wood bench below. It was the third morning we’d spent this way, waiting. Breakfast of Krusteaz pancakes cooked on the Coleman, and sausage, a little too black with char, had long since digested in our bellies. We were antsy to start the day, ready to hit the beach or the miles upon miles of biking trails that looped the campground. But not everyone in our party was the wake-and-go sort. So, we sat there staring at the camper before us, waiting for the single occupant who was readying within, willing the door to squeak open, the audible declaration that the day could now officially begin.

We were camping on the Oregon coast with another family, a college buddy of my dad’s, his wife, and their two girls. They always camped in a trailer, which seemed rather luxurious compared to our meager tent, the six of us squeezing into a tiny square of nylon. We would sometimes stay for a week at a time. We rarely showered (that’s what the ocean was for!) On a good day, we may have brushed our hair. But that was the extent of our personal hygiene while living outdoors. Which is why it was utterly baffling for me to wrap my mind around what could be happening in that trailer as we sat there on the table. The blondes next to me seemed unphased. Apparently, this was the daily routine for them, waiting for mom to get ready.

Finally, when it felt like we could wait no longer, the doorknob to the trailer would turn and we’d jump to our feet eagerly. Out would step a perfectly pedicured foot, followed by the rest of her, eyes emphasized by carefully-applied liner, sky-blue shadow and mascara in a coordinated hue. Her lips were bright fuchsia and her cheeks smudged in pink, but I’m told it was her hair that kept us waiting the longest. She was a stickler for her hot electric rollers and refused to be seen in public with her hair uncurled, camping or not.

While I am in no way trying to peg this singular experience as the source of my issues surrounding this idea of being high maintenance, I am using this story as a tiny illustration in a bigger picture. Seven-year-old me wasn’t a fan of waiting for this grown up lady to finish her beauty routine. I didn’t understand why we all had to delay our day’s activities solely because of one person. I found it incredibly annoying. It was experiences like this (along with many, many others) that began planting seeds in my soul that led to my formulating the following logic:

High maintenance people are annoying.

High maintenance people have lots of needs.

Therefore, having needs = annoying.

Somewhere along the lines, this skewed logic grew and eventually cemented itself in my young adult brain as fact. I didn’t realize it was happening but, before I knew it, I had developed an intense feeling of shame over having any needs at all. Having needs meant I was weak and incapable. They made me feel self-centered. Certainly, having personal needs for space or rest or creativity also made me a nuisance to others. So, I stuffed away my needs, pretending they weren’t there because I wanted to be strong. And I didn’t want to bother people. Often, I plowed ahead without any boundaries. I said yes when asked (because obviously saying no would be "unchristian") and lived a very overscheduled, unfulfilling life with little space for pleasure (because to enjoy something means we aren’t toiling hard enough - please catch the sarcasm).

A couple weeks back, our family was preparing to head out of town for the weekend. We had nothing on the calendar for the Friday we were slated to leave. Well, nothing unless you count the scheduled alone/writing time that my husband and I have worked into our Friday morning routine to give me the break and creative outlet I need to feel like a real person. The fact that I continue to overlook this as a legitimate calendar commitment bears witness to the remnants of my shame. It took nearly a decade of tears and fighting (mostly against myself) before we finally set up this system of scheduling kid-free hours for me. And, though it seems to be about as essential as oxygen for my personal well-being, I’m quick to appear sacrificial and altruistic by volunteering to give it up. This, as it turns out, never bodes well for anyone. I don’t want to need this time. I don’t feel deserving of it. It makes me feel high maintenance. I don’t care for the jealous glares of other moms commenting under their breath about how good I have it. I want to be superwoman and be viewed as capable without doing the hard work of making space for my own needs somewhere in there too.

On this particular Friday, I assumed we would jet out of town right after breakfast since we had “nothing” on the calendar. But my dear and intelligent husband informed me that he had planned otherwise.

“We aren’t leaving until after you have your time in the morning,” he told me. “You’re a better person when you get that break.”

I could have let the bluntness of his words sting as they went down but instead I saw them as a sign of the deep love and understanding my husband has for me. He recognizes my needs and desires to protect them. And he is absolutely right. I am a much more functional, kind, and positive mom and wife when I have an uninterrupted chunk of time to myself each week. It’s simply a matter of fact. While we’re at it, I also need a moment to myself every single afternoon (thank you summer break for confirming this), to gather my thoughts, to not have anyone ask anything of me, in order for me to be a non-screaming, sane person as I enter the “Witching Hours” each day when the clock strikes four.

My need for quiet and pause doesn’t make me wrong or weak or a failure or bad, the lies I told myself for so many years. It makes me a human. And an introvert. It’s how I’m wired.

I used to (and sometimes still do!) feel so much shame about it. And I know I’m not alone. I’ve talked to so many women, moms especially, who are wrestling similarly. We are (generally speaking), a group of burnt out, stressed out, tired out ladies who are desperate for respite yet feel so ashamed for needing it. What we are doing to ourselves isn’t healthy. So, if you find yourself longing for rest yet experiencing guilt over desiring time to yourself, here are some words for you:

Having needs does not make you high maintenance.

You have permission to slow down, pull some strings, say no, learn to savor and rest and do all this guilt-free. You are allowed to have time alone. You are allowed to hire a babysitter and not for the sake of going to appointments and running errands. You have permission to enforce daily quiet times for your kids so that you can read a book in the hammock and NOT be productive. And guess what? You are still a good mom! You are allowed to take a sunny day off work and not cancel daycare just to go to the beach and enjoy a day of summer without being responsible for keeping small humans from drowning. We do not have to be “martyrs” for our families. I think the title of “martyr” loses its credibility when we are cranky about it anyway.

What’s keeping you from making rest a priority? Is it guilt? Perhaps feeling like you don’t deserve a break? That taking breaks somehow makes you weak or less than? Or, does it feel wasteful to spend your tight budget on something for yourself? Is it concerns over childcare or finances? Or are you worried that people might judge you? I’ve experienced each of these barriers time and time again but my conclusion is this: prioritizing your own basic needs is worth fighting for. You might have to make sacrifices to create space in the budget to pay for a sitter. You might have to get creative or put yourself out there and ask someone for help. No matter the barrier, there are steps we can each take to better care for ourselves, as well as others.

Pay attention to your physical needs. Incorporate rest. Sleep, wake and repeat. And may God release you from all shame and guilt, reminding you that EVERY PART OF YOU (needs included!) - are made in His image.

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posted by kelsie