My son is a little Buddha — a tiny guy with a big belly and an even bigger heart. I first started the ‘little Buddha’ joke when I noticed skin playing peekaboo from underneath his t-shirt. All parents go through this with their children. Growth spurts ignite the dreaded ‘in between sizes’ phase. One day the shirt fits, the next… sheesh! All you see is belly! We laugh together as I tickle the exposed part of his belly, and that was it for a time.
Suddenly, I find that my once lighthearted reference is now quite a fact: my son is a little Buddha, wise with untainted knowledge and insight, a being capable of unmatched love and compassion. Over a cup of hot chocolate one chilly morning, Lucas eyed me and sternly voiced his concerns.
“Mom… if you give me too many pieces of your heart, you won’t be alive.” He smiled, wiggled in his chair, and continued sipping hot chocolate with marshmallows.
(Cue shivers up the spine) — I mean good god!! What?? How did our conversation shift from Tuesday morning cartoons to the challenges of parenting?? I smiled in silence and stared at the Crayola craft table that separated me and the enlightened being who cheerfully scanned my face for a reaction. I was baffled. Mute and dumbfounded. And as any other over-thinking parent would do, I fell into the depths of introspection.
Am I giving too much of myself? Do I love him too much? Can he sense my anxiety? Does he know I’m exhausted? How does he KNOW these things? Does he know I’m a people pleaser? Can he read the worries on my face? Can a three-year-old know and comprehend the idea that pleasing everyone first leaves little time and energy for oneself?
Well, he’s figured out the secret to life.
He is right. Every word is the truth: If you give too many pieces of your heart, you won’t be alive. His words scared the hell out of me and ignited tears, so I politely excused myself from our hot chocolate date. Perhaps they were tears of relief. Perhaps they were tears of joy. I’m not sure. Perhaps I cried for all of the moms and dads who undoubtedly face this issue: when we give too much of ourselves, we (and those closest to us) suffer the most.
To say I struggle with this issue is an understatement. I am consumed with balancing my well-being and that of my family, friends, and blog readers. I am plagued with a hunger to tend to everyone else first. I’m convinced it is engrained in my DNA. I want to ease pain, fix everyone and every tough situation that arises. I smile and tend to others before giving a thought about me and my needs. Motherly instincts remind me that every waking moment with my son is an opportunity to teach, play, learn, and explore. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I sit at the computer replying to emails from friends and new readers of mine across the globe — advising, listening to, and easing others before I’ve showered, eaten, even used the restroom! I am obsessed with helping others; it consumes me; and I think Lucas sees that. I know he does.
I know he suffers because of it. I know he hurts inside when Mommy is stressed and on edge. I know he vibes off of that, and in knowing this, I have a choice. I can keep going, keep doing, keep helping, keep tending to everyone and everything and risk becoming worn down by life and living and caring. I could walk on this winding road for years. I could. I know this road quite well. It’s beautifully paved with exhaustion, sleepless months, and anxiety. But it’s familiar.
Or I could slow down. I could put a pause on all of it. I could prioritize my health, my family, and my goals. I could tell my readers that I need some time to respond. I could take a moment to realize how absurd it truly is to worry about everyone else first before myself! I could toss the selfish feelings aside and go to the gym. I could turn off my phone and reply to emails in the morning. I could go for a walk with my son, and leave everything else in the back of my mind for an hour. Yes, I could do that.
And I am. I am spending much less time blogging, connecting, Skyping, pleasing, helping, etc. and more time focusing on my health and well-being. It feels strange when I choose an afternoon at the gym, but my body thanks me afterward. It feels selfish to spend an hour juicing veggies when I could be practicing counting to 100 with my son, but my spirit thanks me afterward. Sometimes it feels like a waste of time to lay in bed with that book I’ve been itching to read when I could be cleaning and washing dishes. But my mind thanks me afterward.
I wonder if other people are like this? I wonder if people-pleasing is a disease? I wonder if others suffer from it as I do? I wonder a lot about these things. I wonder if it’s curable? I wonder if it’s a plague or a gift? I wonder if it’s possible to live in the Now if I’m constantly caring for others? I wonder what it will take to truly put myself and my needs first? I wonder if hearing my son’s insight is the moment that I need to wake up?
I wonder, what is your moment? When will you wake up and take care of yourself first? I’ll be (less) anxiously awaiting to hear from you guys 😉
Take care, be well, do something for yourself today. Slow down — the world will be here when you get back.