We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. – Dalai Lama
As a full-time working mother of two, my days and nights are a swell of activity. Sandwiched between lunches and laundry, homework and after-school activities, are the moments I salvage for self-nurturing, catching up with friends and of course spending time with my husband.
Along the winding path of my self-care journey, I discovered the longing for female camaraderie and friendship.
Waiting for the inevitable
A few years back on an inspired evening in June, as the days grew longer and summer settled in, with school out of session and after-school clubs adjourned, I entertained the notion of falling between the pages of a summer novel.
And then it happened…the great idea! Just a few women whom I’d like to get to know better and a good book to muse – the perfect summer book club! I made a few phone calls, we chose a book and we were on our way.
Our first pick was a 500-page novel, so we shaved off about 200 pages with another choice. After all, we still had to go to work and take care of our families, so creating stress was not the objective here. The goal was to complete the book by the end of the summer and then get together at my house for an evening of wine and cheese.
As all summers do, this particular one seemed to slip through my hands. Business trips, summer camp….I thought summer was supposed to be lazy! I soon found myself gazing at a blue moon in August chanting a mantra, “the last 2 weeks of vacation, yes, that’s when I’ll have the time to read the book.”
And here we are – September.
Staring at the cover of this now well-traveled book, it told another tale. That of the many times it had been picked up, dumped in a beach bag, shoved in the bottom desk drawer, flipped on the patio table and yet, still only half read.
How did this happen? This was all my idea in the first place! And then the next thought put me in a spin. “What would these women think of me?” With my positive self-talk operating in diminished capacity, I did what the only honorable thing I could think of – I skulked and avoided any contact with my co-book club readers!
And then the inevitable happened. Outside the doors of school one morning, I found myself face to face with one of the women in the book club. I was even wearing sunglasses! But she recognized me anyway.
I could barely get out “hello” when I began a litany of apologies and excuses. Suddenly, she stopped me. She confessed that she hadn’t finished the book!
Her book, too, still grasping the last sands of the season, was only half read. We shared a great laugh and acknowledged each other with a familiar kindness.
I soon found out that I was only one of the group who had actually finished the book.
A lesson of self-acceptance
Thinking back on this, I am reminded that self-imposed “have to’s”, “should haves” and “supposed to’s” are stress inducing and don’t serve us well. While setting goals can help keep us focused and drive achievements, being flexible and realistic is key.
I also learned an important lesson of self-acceptance.
Consider these ideas the next time you feel anxious about not being able to keep a commitment or need to re-arrange a project timeframe:
- Be aware of what words you choose. If you hear yourself say “I have to”, it is a red signal to stop and evaluate the situation.
- It may be helpful to go back to your initial planning or purpose.
- Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that would happen if I don’t complete the task?” (In most cases, the world won’t come to an end!)
- Share your situation with others. You may find different possibilities and solutions and the support you need.
- Re-adjust your own expectations and treat yourself with understanding and compassion.
Remember, we are all a masterpiece in progress and sometimes we need to re-mix the paint, change the scale or get a new canvas.