Who DOES take care of you? Whatís your answer?
When I presented this question in the opening session at the first
Chicago NESRA Conference, I received an incredible variety of replies.
Some said their families or friends or employers took care of them.
Several told me that God takes care of them, and I, too, believe
that God cares for us, but I also believe that the Lord helps those
who help themselves. Thereís the old joke about the fellow who prayed
to God to win the lottery ... and didnít win. The next week he was on
his knees again praying to win. Again, no luck. The third week he
prayed with all his heart to win the lottery, and again didnít win. At
this point, heís so angry that he yells at God, "Iíve prayed so hard
to win the lottery. Why havenít you helped me?" And he hears a booming
voice answer, "Look, at least meet me half way. BUY A TICKET!" I
believe we must meet God half way when it comes to taking care of us.
Once, when I asked this question "who takes care of you?" a woman
replied, "I do, but Iím not doing a very good job". Her answer could
come from many of us, couldnít it?
We really know that it is up to each of us to take care of
ourselves. If someone asked you what others in your life need, you
could probably sit down and write a list - a lengthy, fairly accurate
list - of THEIR needs. But when the question pertains to OUR OWN
needs, most of us have never given it any thought. How can anyone else
be in charge of knowing what we need when we donít have a clue what we
So - intellectually at least - we know itís up to us to take care
of ourselves, but in our hearts, donít we catch ourselves hoping -
just a little - that someone will come along to ease our pain or
lighten our burden?
Yet think about it. How can anyone else take care of our needs if
they don't KNOW what we need? And how could they possibly know what we
need if WE don't know what we need? Then - to further complicate it -
because we are human, our needs change all the time.
Havenít you ever experienced being so angry that you tell everyone
near you. "Stay away from me. Keep out of my face. I need space. Gr-r-r-r"
(Well, maybe YOUíVE never said that, but youíve probably read about
people who do...) Then , a week later, you find yourself thinking,
"Iím so upset. I wish someone would just hug me"
So - when all is said and done - you DO know the answer to the
question, "While youíre taking care of others, who takes care of
you?". If you ever find yourself saying "No one", then you know YOU
are not doing what needs to be done. Thereís a job to be done and itís
up to you to do it.
WHATíS YOUR TOUGHEST CHALLENGE?
Iíve been conducting a sort of "unofficial, unscientific" survey
over the past 2 1/2 years. When people call me to request information
about the names of topics I present, Iíve been asking them, "Whatís
your toughest challenge?"
Work, money, health and time pressures are pretty hefty concerns,
but the top challenge - the top stressor - of over 400 people is
"caring for others".
NESRA members have the usual "caring" situations that others have -
caring for aging parents, kids (who never seem to leave home ... and
when they do, some of them "go forth and multiply", them return home
again), co-workers, friends, neighbors, and other family members.
And NESRA members have the additional challenge of constantly
trying to come up with new and different, exciting and interesting
events. Plus, they are trying to keep these events under control when
- as weíve all observed - crowds, weather and so much else is simply
beyond anyoneís control.
As you strive to "enhance employee quality of life", you KNOW you
need to also care for the quality of YOUR life, but -- well -- you get
to the end of the day of caring fro everyone else, and there just
doesnít seem to be any time or energy left to care for YOU, right?
PERFECTIONISM - IT CAN MAKE YOU CRAZY
A great place to start caring for yourself is to stop expecting
perfection. When we barrel through life expecting ourselves to be
perfect, expecting others to be perfect and/or expecting life to be
perfect, we place almost unbearable pressure on ourselves and others.
Nothing causes stress like perfectionism. It also destroys our
self-esteem and our relationships. It also makes us crazy.
So, if perfection can make us crazy, what are we supposed to strive
for -- mediocrity? No, not at all. If you have anything to do with
NESRA, my guess is that you would never accept a standard of
mediocrity. What we need to recognize is the difference between
excellence and perfection.
The biggest difference is that excellence is achievable, perfection
MAKING MISTAKES -- AND BEATING OURSELVES UP
One variation on this business of perfection is the fear that most
people have of making a mistake. Part of being human - and therefore
"imperfect" - is making mistakes, yet so many people beat themselves
up and refuse to forgive themselves when they make a mistake.
One of my favorite quotes is, "The person who never makes a
mistake probably isnít doing anything".
As long as we are involved with and living life, we will make
mistakes. The couch potato who never does anything is likely to make
way less mistakes than people like you who are involved in a
complicated profession -- and are involved in life. This quote is so
powerful, Iíve had a postcard printed up and keep it at my desk to
remind me that as long as Iím involved with LIFE, I will make more
mistakes than if I were a couch potato. If youíd like a postcard, call
me. Iíll send you one.
We donít have the choice of whether we can live a life of zero
mistakes or not. Because weíre human, the mistakes WILL be there. But
we DO have a choice of whether we will beat ourselves up over the
mistake or use the mistake as a learning lesson.
Have you lived long enough to know that much of what youíve learned
in life has been from your mistakes?
RECHARGING YOUR BATTERY
Now itís time to decide on some action.
What can you start doing today that will bring some fun or joy in
to your life? Itís almost as if Iíve been trying to "sell" you on the
importance of taking care of yourself. Your time spent reading this is
wasted if you donít make a decision to DO one positive, joyful change
this week. If you let the time pass, youíll probably never start.
It can be as small as taking some quiet time 5 minutes a week or as
big as returning to college. It can be a "one-shot deal" or something
youíll do every day. You canít go wrong as long as you begin
doing something to take care of you now. This is definitely an
assignment which is "different strokes for different folks". What
recharges one personís battery can drain anotherís.
Sometimes it helps to remember what delighted you as a child. A
woman once told me she was an "out door kid" who never watched TV,
always was outside. But now she had reached a point, she said, that
the only time she would smell fresh air was from her house to the car,
and from her car to work.
She started going outside for walks during her lunch hour a couple
of times per week. Soon her walking-time expanded to after work and
week-ends, and she re-discovered the joy of walking in the rain and
the diamond sparkle of freshly fallen snow in the moon light. Then she
found herself drawn to parks and a local hiking trail. Now, several
years later, she finds herself being an "out door woman" who hikes and
rides a bike regularly. Incidentally, she has lost 47 pounds and now
feels "human and healthy", as she phrases it.
Here are a few random ideas for self-care. Maybe NONE of them will
grab you, but the hope is that they will open your mind or your heart
to start a new, healthier, more balanced, more tranquil, less stressed
way of life.
- Unplug the phone and enjoy some peace and quiet
- Sign up for a class
- Buy yourself a present
- Pet an animal
- Spend time with a small child (consider borrowing one, the
parents might appreciate the break)
- Try a new restaurant
- Call a friend - long distance
- Watch a sunrise or sunset
- Make love
- Read a book for no practical purpose but enjoyment
- Work out
- Have lunch with a good friend or someone youíd like to know
- Fix something thatís been broken
- Give a hug
- Receive a hug
- Blow bubbles
- Do something you love to do
- Do nothing but listen to your favorite music for 20 minutes
- Make a list of your favorite activities
Now take a piece of paper and write an Action Plan. Date it and
list three things you will start doing to take care of yourself and
add joy to your life. Then put it in your wallet, calendar or on your
mirror where you will see it every day.
If you are caring for others and feel you canít carve out the time
or energy to care for you, consider this. What will happen to those
others if you burn out and are replaced by someone who doesnít care as
much as you do?
One of the best ways to take care of yourself is to get rid of the
guilt; to start reminding yourself that every time you use some form
of self-care, you have paused to "re-charge your battery" and will
come back more loving and giving, more caring and ENERGIZED.
Back to the opening question: "Who DOES take care of you?" I hope
itís you. You deserve it, you know.