So many times I have heard this remark from friends and family: “Give yourself a break. You deserve it!”
But how does a deep-thinking, over-booked, over-worked, exhausted, perfectionist single mother work up the courage and give herself the time to just give herself a break? When is there a moment that is neither filled with some form of work nor permeated with self-loathing for all of the things I should be doing yet go undone day after day? When is it OK to just ignore that perpetual “to do” list? How can a woman give herself a break when there is so much life to live and so many experiences she wants to take advantage of before her kids are grown and the years have all flown by?
Well, dear friends, the answer is: I DON’T KNOW.
I do not know. And I’m pretty sure the answer is one of those that is different for every person, which makes this how-to list even more ridiculous. I’m giving advice that I myself rarely if ever take.
But, I think if I were to actually do it someday, these would be the ways I’d accomplish it:
TURN IT OFF.
Turn off the cell phone, the TV, the Netflix, the notifications, the Facebook, the phone camera, all of it. REFUSE to answer. IGNORE. Disconnect. Pretend the power AND the WiFi have gone out. Literally unplug them if you have to.
Be with yourself in silence. If the kids are old enough, send them to an activity on their own or shuffle them off to a friend’s house for a few hours or a sleep-over. Take the kids to daycare or grandma’s anyway. Put the dog in the crate. Once everything in #1 has been turned off along with the kids’ mouths and demands, you can appreciate a quiet moment, a space not filled with anything but the whir of the ceiling fan, a moment to respond to no one.
Just that. Simple, cleansing, nourishing breaths.
DON’T CHANGE THE CAT LITTER.
This goes for dishes too, or any other small chore that “takes only a minute.” LEAVE THEM. The cat will not die if the poop is not scooped one day. The kitchen will not become infested with cockroaches if you leave a sink full one night.
HAVE FOOD DELIVERED.
Don’t make yourself a cup of tea; working in any capacity defeats the whole concept of “break;” let China Garden bring it to you along with your moo goo gai pan and your spring rolls. Indulge. Eat out of the carton. Don’t save any for anyone else. Eat just the crust if you want to. Open all of the fortune cookies yourself and save only the best fortune, repeating it over and over to yourself. Tape it to your bathroom mirror for a few days afterward to remind yourself that nobody died because you took a few moments that day.
DON’T THINK ABOUT OTHERS.
Nope. Think about yourself if you must think. Think about nothing. Don’t think at all. Stare at the wall, the sun, the moon, the fluttering leaves. Thinking is work, so don’t do it just for this one little while.
Breathe fresh air, let the rain soak you or the sun warm you. Sweat. Shiver. Roam. When you return,
Luxuriously soak or shower with the door wide open, candles lit, and soft music playing. Use ALL of the hot water.
Nap, meditate, pray, read, snuggle the cat. Stretch out. Take up the whole bed, the whole couch, hog all the covers.
If, like me, you never take time to do this and feel guilty if you ever do, re-read this blog post to remind yourself that you’re not alone in wanting and needing a break. And you do deserve it. It’s self-preservation. You MUST do it to continue to give, serve, and nurture your family. Comment here, too, if you DID IT and let us know how you feel.