“I don’t have time.” I hear that a lot from busy women, women who are trying to care for homes, families, children, and even grandchildren, all while trying to explore their dreams and interests. Life has speeded up, and I get that.
Whether it’s due to nature or nurture, though, we women tend to take care of others first, while men tend to take care of themselves first. Wanna bet that Stephen King doesn’t do the laundry? A while back we visited the home where Carl Sandburg spent his last years, and we learned that no one DARED interrupt him when he was writing. We women are tapping out a story with one hand while stirring the soup pot with the other. Sandburg’s wife ran an award-winning goat farm, but she also took care of the house.
But I didn’t mean for this to be a man vs. woman thing. In fact, we have a lot to learn from our male counterparts about setting boundaries. These days, for example, I exercise in the mornings, five days a week, about an hour after breakfast. That’s what works for me. Housework can wait. I don’t check e-mail when I write. And I definitely don’t pick up a ringing phone just because it’s ringing. That’s what voice mail is for. Once upon a time, when my stepson was younger, he asked me, “What if I have an emergency?” I said, “Call 911.”
We live in a world of instant gratification. Everything has become an “emergency,” when in fact, little of it actually is. And, if you do have an emergency, it usually means calling someone qualified, like a doctor or a fire department.
I’m not saying that our families never need us. I can drop what I’m doing if someone else’s needs trump mine, and sometimes they do. What I think happens, though, is we get into a habit of taking care of everyone else first all the time. It’s up to us to tell our families when we are working, and would you please keep the television off while I’m writing? Sometimes, dare I say it, we can get our hubbies to make dinner or throw a load of laundry in the wash so we can stay focused on our own projects.
So I don’t respond to e-mails the minute they come in. If someone comes to my door, I don’t open it. I ask what they want. I’ve actually had people say, “Would you please open the door?” Well, no. I didn’t invite you. You interrupted my work. So, no, I’m not helping you out.
If we women are busy tending to people, even strangers, to the degree that we stop pursuing our dreams, we have to ask ourselves, “Why?” Why are we letting strangers take up our time? Why are we letting the kids run roughshod over us? Why do we think that our house has to be spotless before we write/paint/make music/sing? Does the bed REALLY have to be made?
Let’s practice, then, today’s mantra. Instead of OM, chant with me: NNNNNOOOOOOOOO…