"I'm so proud of you! Cheers to that!" With that, the three girlfriends clinked their glasses of bubbly in a celebratory toast. You'd think we were celebrating a job promotion, or the purchase of a house or some other Major Life Event. In actuality, we were happy for a friend who had taken two days off work. (Disclaimer to my male readers: I'm about to go into Girl World, so either keep reading for insight into the opposite sex or tune out.)
The need to take care of everybody else or to be perfect--or at least, to be what everyone expects you to be all the time--seems to be characteristically, though not exclusively, a female trait.
It might be feeling that as a newlywed you have to be blissfully happy 24/7 because friends and well-meaning folk constantly effuse things like "Isn't marriage great?" It might be a sense of loyalty that keeps you in a job that may have you feeling unchallenged, or allowing yourself to get overextended because people expect and want you to be involved in things.
No matter the circumstances, we all seem to know how it feels to reach what feels like a breaking point.
And yet, we keep pushing. We feel like we can't leave town, because we have to be here and do things. We have people depending on us or, at least, expecting things of us. We have deadlines. We have rent to pay.
We have to be "that girl," whatever that means to us--be it Super Mom, Dinner Party Diva, Successful Career Woman or She Who Somehow Does It All. But eventually, it takes a toll and starts to show. Maybe we break out in a rash. Maybe we develop raging insomnia. Whatever it is, at some point, our body tells us that we need to step back and address what's going on.
Just pushing through stress, pretending like everything is fine and doing what you think you're "supposed" to do can result in things like your hair falling out. It also makes you less effective at doing the things for others that we, particularly as women, want to do. It hinders our ability to be our best selves, which means we're not at our best for others, either.
So, my girlfriends and I raised our glasses last week to recognizing that it's OK to admit that what's right for you might not be what's right for someone else and that you need time to figure out what is right for you. We toasted to taking care of ourselves so that we can be there for those we love.
And, as we noted on a bar napkin and signed like a contract, we toasted to realizing that it's like the flight attendant says: You have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can take care of anybody else.
We all have responsibilities and things that we have to take care of, such as student loans, bills, houses and things that we want to take care of--our loved ones or our community, for example.
But I think it's important to remember to take care of ourselves, too. Taking time to go to a museum, a yoga class, a movie or even a whole day off from your obligations to think (or just to do things around the house you've been putting off) matters.
I'm thankful to have a good support system to remind me of that and, now, a bar napkin on my refrigerator in case I forget. Which is all to say, sometimes, even if you're a Girl About Town, it's OK to stay on the couch for a day.
This weekend, I may do just that.