Monday, 29 January 2018

Time to Save Myself ~ Anita

Joshua Ferris said in his wonderful book, Then We Came to the End, 'Almost nothing was more annoying than having our wasted time wasted on something not worth wasting it on.'
I grew up with a warning ringing in my ears that time is too precious to waste.  My breast cancer diagnosis, a little over three years ago now, has highlighted the truth of this. I know that my time on this planet is finite, cancer or no cancer, and I don't want to get to the end with regrets. I've always known this, but having cancer brings the knowledge into the forefront of the mind, and it becomes a life focus rather than a vague platitude. 
Finding the things we love to do and doing more of them sounds so logical and simple, but it's not easy. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day.  We have a choice about how we spend those hours, wisely or wastefully. What seems wasteful to me may be time well spent for someone else, and vice versa. 
Self-compassion may be key in moving towards happiness and for me it's a life-long lesson that never quite sticks. As a carer and empath it's my natural inclination to ensure everyone around me is comfortable and content before turning last towards my own needs, by which time my limited energy is spent.  The pleasure I get from helping others returns to me a hundredfold, but I'm too tired to bother much about myself once my commitments are fulfilled. It's so much easier to switch on the tv or spend an hour on Facebook than to think about what I really need or want and then get up and make it happen. 
I don’t believe time can be truly wasted, only spent in a way that brings negative emotion.  The kinds of things that bring frustration such as queuing in traffic, waiting in line in a shop, pressing buttons on phones in a frustrating attempt find a human being to speak to...the trials and tribulations of our world mean a certain amount of our time feels unproductive. This is the stuff of living, the chores that have to be done, the time spent on activities to facilitate the smooth running of our lives. This time is a means to an end and can, with good grace, be seen as  necessary and not a waste. 
Then there’s the expectations of others. Here’s where my ‘shoulds’ kick in. I’m the good little girl who seeks praise, who wants to not only fit in but be popular. I don't like conflict, I can't bear to upset anyone. Trying to please myself as well as others is the challenging balancing act I struggle with. I don't see doing nothing very much as a waste of time, for me it is an essential way to be, for large chunks of my day. Long aimless walks, staring at the birds in my garden, pottering about the house - these things take time if they are to be done properly. However if I grab as much time as I want to spend in this way, then other things have to go. In order to preserve the gaps in my commitments I have to say No, which leads to guilt for letting people down, which clashes with my desire to help others, which contradicts my goal of putting myself first. I inadvertently find my diary full once again, I resent the people who are making demands on my time, and I get grouchy, grumpy, gloomy and glum. 
When I say I'm doing nothing this weekend, that's not an invitation for you to fill up my time. That's me saying I'm doing nothing, out of choice, so please don't ask me to come shopping with you or say you'll pop round because you think I shouldn't be on my own.  I don't want to make excuses for my choices, for wanting swathes of empty time so that I can waste it in my own way.  I'm not living in the way other people expect, packing in adventures and making the most of every opportunity to get out there and do exciting things. I've been seriously ill and now I'm supposed to be full of a zest for life. Well actually, my zest for life takes a quiet form, and it finds joy in a sunset, a robin's song and the first snowdrops. Contentment for me is peace of mind, and the only place to find that is inside me.  Busyness makes me weary and anxious, off centre. In order to function I need blank space, time for my complicated cluttered excavations into my rich inner world.
My breast cancer diagnosis is teaching me many lessons. My slowing down has been partly enforced by hormone medication and the aftermath of treatment and trauma, but for the most part it is done with intention. I don't want to get back on the treadmill that my illness so crudely threw me off. I'm building a bubble in which to live. It's transparent, so I can see out and you can see in. It protects me from myself, my old habits, my learned ways of doing things, the story so far. 

Ed Sheeran gets it right in his song, Save Myself 
So before I save someone else, I've got to save myself
And before I blame someone else, I've got to save myself
And before I love someone else, I've got to love myself


No comments: