I’m going to tell something I really suck at and that is navigating a work/life balance. I’ve always had the issue, but now I’m in my fifties, it’s beginning to have repercussions.
Now this is definitely going to sound like a first world issue, definitely a privileged complaint, and I apologise for that. Truly I do. But I also know what it’s like to work 70 hours a week while juggling parenthood and trying to have some kind of healthy marriage and being healthy myself. It’s no picnic.
But I have failed at all of those things.
Well, not all things. I was very good at my job, but I sucked at everything else. I put all of my energies into my job, especially when my boss was on the other side of the world, and was relying heavily on me to keep the other side of the world running.
But the rest? Total fail.
I was too busy to see that my daughter was trying to handle her tween years and her father’s withdrawal. Too busy to help my husband, whom I’d only married a few years before, navigate his own dramas at work. I didn’t take care of physical self at all. I had migraines once a month and took medication to deal with those stress-induced events. My mental health was dealt with through conversations with people at work, that went a little like this: “My ex is such a dumbass that…”. Or, “you wouldn’t believe what happened…”. If talking about it didn’t work, I’d bottle it all up and think, “I’ll deal with that later.” (Hence the migraines.)
Life was busy, and I chose to put my head in the sand and ignore most of it, because I didn’t have time. Work was the priority. I had to make a living to afford the life, so I needed to just get on with it…
But when my world started crumbling around me, I looked at the reason. It wasn’t hard to see it was the job sucking my time and energy – and everything else along with it. Everything was suffering.
So, I quit the job.
Fast forward to today.
I am my own boss. I work from home as a full-time writer. I have a great relationship with my daughter – now in her early twenties – and with my husband. We moved across the world and began a new life after my ex-husband ditched his daughter altogether. I now pick up on cues from friends when they need help or just need to be heard. And while I don’t make a lot of money, I am still good at my job. I still put in a great deal of effort into it, just as I always have.
But I am still failing. With all I’m doing right, there’s one part I’m missing: Me.
I forget to think about myself. At least my mental and physical self. I get so caught up in writing and marketing that I forget about what I need. I’m quick to sign up to help other people, often volunteering my work time, but my own needs are usually put last. I’m not a people pleaser, per se. I just want to help others be the best they can be.
But what about my best self? That sounds incredibly selfish to me, but I’m told it’s not.
I don’t prioritise myself. I forget to go walking or do my physical therapy exercises, which is really stupid because I know when I don’t, it can lead to emergency health issues. I forget to eat healthily because I focus on the work and other people, leaving meals as an afterthought.
And that’s just the physical stuff. I push down my own mental health stuff until I hit the proverbial brick wall. Then I’m a blobby mess. I have begun to joke with my husband that I’m look liking a blobby granny lately (even though I will probably never be a grandmother).
So when will I learn? When I need to have emergency surgery? (Check) Make plans to do a long distance walk? (Check) That I may die if I don’t? (Too close to a check mark for me to consider, given my mother died at 56 – and I’m now 54!)
Every night, around 3am, my mind wakes and tells me then what I need to do. (It’s a very nagging self-conscious.) The problem is, by the time I truly wake for the day, thoughts of work invade. And thus begins the hamster wheel.
So how do I learn the lesson? How do I change these bad habits?
By listening to my instincts and reminding myself that I will end up dead if I don’t prioritise myself. I know that sounds dramatic, but with the age of 56 looming (the age my mum died), I think that’s enough incentive.
Plus there are the sticky notes and supportive friends / family reminding me to get off my ass.
If you enjoyed this post, would you…
I was inspired by my own relationship with my daughter when writing THE DECISIONS WE MAKE. Being an empty-nester, it can hit you the day your child moves out, or five years later… or anytime in between. My daughter, Natalie, has my heart, as does Bee with Sam in THE DECISIONS WE MAKE.