Why It's Okay to Take Care of Yourself and Say No to Others

While I realize not everyone will burn out or struggle simply because of illness or injury, my body made sure to remind me in the most aggressive of ways that it could, indeed, crash and burn if I wasn't more mindful of it being over-scheduled.
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Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

I've long been of the multi-tasking variety, a mom to three daughters, an aging dog, a wife of 12 years and previously the owner of a busy photography business. Wearing many hats always motivated me and of course, as a mom to three girls, there is plenty of interest in fashion in our house. Here is where I share with you that I finally fell, hard and flat on my face. The rug was yanked from beneath me and then burned. I failed and here's the surprise... I liked it and today I am grateful for it.

A busy summer of engagements, family sessions and, of course, weddings left me all but spent at the close of every day. Never mind juggling birthdays, our anniversary and making sure our house was clean enough for guests or clients and that we all wore clean underwear. In true "mom" fashion, I chalked it all up to wearing 50 hats, all at once and over-committing to everything and everyone, often out of guilt and fear. Over the years, I allowed others to take advantage of my time and resources. Many people justifying their actions through being a "client" or "friend" and when that alone did not yield the success they desired, they resulted to guilt or trying to shame me.


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

The summer carried on and on the very last day of July we moved to a new city. Oh and my husband got called into work and I moved almost an entire house alone with our daughter. I volunteered, donated supplies to a local charity and shot a wedding, all in the same day. By bedtime my eyes were spent and my feet in agreement with them. The next day I woke up feeling more tired than I had in previous days and the fatigue only intensified and joined forces with a terrible stomachache. I trudged through the days with photo shoots, editing, household chores and unpacking. All the while I was miserable and barely feeling alive.


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

The sickness persisted and days turned to weeks and three weeks in, I found myself, usually OCD to a fault, lying on my bathroom floor, not caring, screaming and writhing in gut wrenching pain. This was it. I had hit rock bottom. In the weeks that followed I faked my way through the days. Depressed, I was barely able to feel happy and struggled to put myself together. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas came and went, with out hardly a decoration of cookie or tree to be done with our girls. I barely managed to shop for gifts, waiting until the morning of Christmas Eve. I returned home to our girls having decorated the tree so that I didn't have to feel bad seeing only lights dangle on the naked branches. That moment, in itself, shook me to the core.

Before you assume that I had no help from my husband, don't. He was helping in so many ways and raising a family takes a lot of work. He worked a very demanding full-time job and went well beyond being the guardian of our solitude and happiness.

In the end, I ended up having a stomach ulcer with H. Pylori, thyroid issues and a staph infection that has now colonized, in my body. While I realize not everyone will burn out or struggle simply because of illness or injury, my body made sure to remind me in the most aggressive of ways that it could, indeed, crash and burn if I wasn't more mindful of it being over-scheduled. The strength I gained from this is irreplaceable.

I often wonder when this fast-paced, over the top, time-consuming, accomplishment- and material goods-obsessed way of life will catch up to each of us, regardless of health or circumstance? Certainly, we are not living our lives but rushing through them, surviving, with each RSVP, the best one can. Mostly, I wonder how it is I kept up with this life and how I even enjoyed it?


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

In 2011 my house was worthy of being pinned, home décor was my hobby and chevron stripes didn't nauseate me, like they do now. Today, I no longer vacuum twice a day, my home is clean enough, organized within reason and well-edited. I have learned to live in and with purpose. My worth is measured not by the car in my driveway or projected profit for my business but rather by walking into a room to find my three daughters dancing vivaciously together or being able to compassionately parent our girls with "sisters circle" when the bickering gets out of hand. I am still exhausted and working on making up for any past let downs as well as balancing out my health, long term. Now, I don't sweat the small things.


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

These days we are toting around art supplies in our vehicle doing "art by the roadside" as we please and when the weather accommodates. I am reading more books, rediscovering Pablo Neruda, spending dates at home with my husband binge watching Orange is the New Black. Our energies and efforts are more often spent doing work and acts of service to better the world and teaching our children that we should act without expecting reward or acknowledgement.


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood

I am now of a humble heart and mind, taking accountability for the minutes and moments in my days and also any mistakes. Making sure that my loves are read to and snuggled, just because. Our marriage is in a very strong place. Most importantly, I have a tolerance and curiosity for our world and others, in a way I never did before. Living with the mantra "pick your battles" finding beauty, even in the moments I truly don't understand or find agreeable. It is a freedom that I am doubtful you can find without waking up on the floor, to realize you are exhausted of many resources. It really is humbling how your subconscious can make you aware of your consciousness.


Photo Courtesy of: Aaron Greenwood