I recently gave a parenting workshop where I met a woman who, at the end of the session, broke down crying saying, "I am so overwhelmed and I've lost myself. I'm nothing that I started out to be - not the professional I worked so hard to become- and I'm no fun anymore." When I, off the cuff, just asked her what are some things she likes, she replied, "I don't even know anymore; I'm so far away from that."
Wow, I really felt for her. Feeling overwhelmed is normal and common. We all have so much to juggle. Keeping all the balls of life in mid-air is daunting. Balancing outside work, inside work, family responsibilities, financial tasks, to name a few - is a non-ending feat. Sometimes it can feel like a perpetual treadmill. We go to sleep only to get up and start all over again.
But losing oneself - that's really articulating something deeper and more profound. To feel so removed from oneself, from one's likes and interests is really feeling in touch with one's self, however contradictory this may sound.
It's saying, I feel myself enough to realize I've lost myself to my life whose current is sweeping me away. I'm not riding the waves, I'm being sucked under by the undercurrent of the daily chores, frustrations and hair-pulling of young motherhood.
How do we reconnect with ourselves when we feel squelched and obliterated by all our obligations, responsibilities, and an overwhelming sense of drowning?
We can't wait for our kids to grow up to get back to ourselves and start doing 'our stuff'. We can't wait for our hardships to go away so we can have our life back. Now is our life. We cannot "let the perfect be the enemy of the good" (Voltaire) and wait for the stars to line up perfectly.
We may not be able to take a long walk alone, but we can take a walk while pushing a stroller and take in the gorgeous fall trees with their exquisitely colorful leaves. Simply noticing and breathing in the beauty can feel good. We must incorporate small bites of pleasure and enjoyment so that we can handle the pressures and stress more effectively. A little can go a long way. And then we can move to the bigger things, like getting a babysitter to go out for an evening or an afternoon.
There is no time, you say. That's correct. We have to put it in to our day, starting with the smallest of the small. We have to make a conscious decision to add in something we like. A mug of hot chocolate. Take five and do it - wrap your hands around it and savor it for those few minutes.
We must fill our well, drop by drop. For when it's depleted and we still must give, we're giving from a place of emptiness and loss. And we know where that leaves us - in a state of despair.
So let's begin by making a list of all our likes, interests, pleasures. And don't say there's no time. There's always 2 minutes even if it's on the toilet with little hands banging on the door. Even if you start by writing 2 things on the list, and then keep on adding to it.
Is it that scent of lavender that you love? Buy the little bottle of oil and put it by your bed. Breathe it in at bedtime, put a few drops on your pillow. Something small for you at the end of a long day.
Is it getting back to reading? Get that book and start with a few pages each day.
What small pleasures can you add in to your day? Give the gift of You back to Yourself in the smallest of doses and the rewards will start to add up. Enjoyment will begin to be felt. As they say, it's the little things that count.
One more thing - before turning out the light at bedtime, write down 3 things you're grateful for. It's a great way to shift gears to the positive. Start with the biggest - I'm alive!