This week has reminded us once again how short life is. In a blink of an eye everything can change and all that we thought was important one minute pales in comparison to what is truly important.
I learned this lesson at age 12 when my father was tragically killed in an accident. From that day on I went from thinking bad things only happen to other people to bad things happen. It became the organizing event of my life. And as I look back from a 50 year perspective I see how my life reflects that thinking. A new urgency around relationships crept into my consciousness that reminded me personal connection could be severed at any minute.
How often do we hear at times like Monday when children and young people are killed senselessly to “hug your kids a little harder today”? Bombings, mass shootings, traffic accidents all drive home the message that life is short and bad things happen even to children. I worked hard to maintain connection with the people in my life making the most of each relationship many times ignoring my own needs in order to meet theirs.
Another aspect of my early loss was that I over functioned by taking on far too much responsibility and saying yes to far too many things.
Combine those two things – urgency of connection to others needs and urgency of living to overdo and you have a formula for a bit of neuroses! As well as a formula for little if any self-care. Self-care felt selfish to me. I just wanted to give family, friends and life my all. Little did I realize that by doing that I was being selfish on so many levels. If I was always stepping up to take on more, to fill in the gaps, to be a co-dependent in others lives, then how was I doing any one any favors? It was pretty selfish I must admit. It may have made me feel good about myself, but it also exhausted me and slowly made me resentful that no one was doing the same for me.
Unfortunately, it took the break up of my marriage (hmm, so much for connection) and an ulcer and a near nervous breakdown (hmm, so much for always saying yes) to remind me again that life is short and this is the only body I have for this only life I have.
Which is a long way of saying taking time for yourself, engaging in self-care or self-compassion as I have come to think of it, and putting your needs first is not selfish at all but the most unselfish thing you can do for yourself and those you love.
Life is short. Your life is your life. Choose how you want to live it and how you want to nurture yourself in order to be fully present and alive to others.