At the Top of the List

Wisdom sometimes comes in very unexpected places.

I went in for a haircut late this afternoon and my stylist took one look at me and said, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Oh, I’m just tired,” I said, my stock answer when anyone asks me why I’m not quite up to par.

“It looks like more than that to me,” she said. She is a wise Muslim woman, about my age, with one daughter who is married and living in Texas. We commiserate about the distance between us and our only children. She rejoiced with me at Connor’s birth, and we talk about how much she hopes for grandchildren of her own soon.

“I think I’ve been trying to do too much,” I said. “Moving to the new house and trying to clean up the old house, working on a project for my office job, helping my friend with the community theater project, subbing in other friends bell choirs, doing things for my mom…”

“Bless you, Becca,” she said. “You are just doing too many things for too many people and not enough for yourself.”

It’s an old story, and no doubt you’re tired of my complaints about it. But I can never seem to find the right balance between the outside world and my own inner needs. I spend too much time fulfilling obligations and not enough time doing things that are simply fulfilling. In trying to make life easier for others, I end up making life hard for myself.  If I don’t value myself enough to make my life a priority, why should I be surprised that other people don’t value it either?

I have never fully accepted the concept that I’m worthy of care, never given myself permission to put my own needs first. The things I do for me – writing, reading, taking walks, playing music – those always come last, in what little bits of time and energy are left after the work and the chores and the meetings and rehearsals.

Which means that I’m putting myself last in the long line of priorities I call my life in general.

Toady, the end result of that position was obviously written all over my face. My hair stylist could see it. I’ve been seeing it in the mirror every morning – in my dull skin, my limp hair, my sad eyes.

Time to start moving myself up from the bottom of the list. Time to put myself first and stop feeling guilty about it. Time to take time –  to read, to write, to start finding my way in this new place I’m living.

“Be happy, Becca,” my stylist says as we hug goodbye. “God gave you life to live and be happy.”

Such wisdom for the price of a haircut.




6 thoughts on “At the Top of the List

  1. Something just jelled in my mind – part of the trick may be finding fulfillment in carrying out obligations that can’t be set aside. So much of your struggle reminds me of my years of caring for Mom, and part of the answer for me was re-visioning that particular obligation as more than something I “had to do”. It wasn’t always easy! But you’ve taken a good first step with a new hairdo – there’s nothing like fresh hair to cheer me up!

  2. Becca! I just had a revelation! Sometimes we need to hear “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and sometimes we need to hear “do unto yourself as you do unto others”. What an amazing reversal that is – and how true!

  3. Becca,
    I’m always struggling with this, too. You remind me of the risk in ignoring our own needs. We often end up paying the price with our health. After a certain age, we don’t bounce back so easily from self-imposed deprivation. I think of this more now that I have grandchildren. Who knew we would have such joy and that it would require such energy? Take care, Becca.

    I’ve been gone to long. Now I have to catch up on your previous posts.

    • I can imagine how hard it is for you to take care of yourself right now. And you’re right – I certainly don’t have the reserves I did even five years ago that would allow me to push through and keep going without some pretty bad side effects.
      Hope things are better at your place. Thinking of you.

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