Like many who are employed by corporations, my day job includes working five days a week.
This leaves two days for bigger, at-home, time-consuming projects. I spent last week’s days off power washing the deck. Now this week, I spent my first day off staining parts of that same deck. The lower area is 16′ X 32”’. And the upper is 8’ X 32’. And there are stairs from the upper to the lower. There are over 100 spindle railing pieces that have four sides.
The entire project will consume another three or four of my days off.
Last night, I put on my painting clothes after I got home from work at 7 PM and stained a section of the railings before it got so dark that I couldn’t see. Having parts of the deck completed is spurring me on to have the entire project completed. What’s completed really looks good.
On my last day off, I had help with the staining.
My wife worked on staining much of the trim and getting stains in the spaces between the floor planks. This will provide additional protection for the wood. Both of us worked in 96-degree heat for hours that day. We followed the shade around the deck as much as possible.
My plan was to be up this morning (I am) and get started on the staining project before it gets too hot (I’m not yet).
Last night I received an email invitation to drive up to my brother’s place this afternoon and swim in Lake Laura. My sister, niece, and her son told my brother they would come late in the afternoon, swim, and then have supper.
Swimming in the lake would be very relaxing.
But there is my list, starting with finishing staining the deck. And then I have the wood stove chimney to clean before the fall. Also, on my to-do list is repainting the fence, repairing the trim on the lawnmower shed, trimming the branches that are beginning to overhang the driveway once again, and organizing the basement. This is what I am using my self-care time to do.
I am doing, always doing.
Except for having my coffee on the porch in the mornings, I am always on the go. And recently, I have been feeling guilty about just sitting on the porch. So, I am reading my e-mail while drinking my coffee. I even take my phone into the bathroom, so I am not wasting time.
That’s it, I am showing that my self-care has become a waste of time.
But isn’t getting all the projects on my to-do list important? I feel like I am wasting time f I just sit. I have a challenging time sitting through an hour TV show. And with commercials edited out, this is only 48 minutes. But I feel guilty for just sitting and watching. Therefore, I often watch less than three hours a week of TV.
Now I know no one is on their death bed saying, “I should have gotten one more thing done on my to-do list.”
For me, I say that family comes first. Saying that and acting on that are two different things. At work, I am overly sensitive to employee’s work, life balance. I empathize with their decisions and always suggest they err on the side of the family.
Yet I can see that I do not always practice what I preach.
My definition of self-care has little to do with self and a lot to do with care but mostly care about things. So, I focus on getting the deck stained, cleaning the chimney, making sure my clothes are washed and the dishwasher is empty each morning.
I can find a million things to do that appear more important in my mind than taking time for myself.
And while I realize that taking care of myself is the point, I can see I am not making that a priority. If I cannot love myself, how am I going to love anyone else? If the family is important, then why can’t I act that way? Clearly what I say and what are do are at odds with each other.
So, for now, for today, what am I going to make a priority?
Can I do a bit of staining and then spend the late afternoon swimming? Will I be able to put aside my to-do list and focus on my own self-care? Or is my self-care mixed up with my to-do list? Finishing projects, crossing them off my list, gives me positive endorphins. In some ways, life is just one gigantic to-do list.
Thank goodness much of that is automatic. If we had to remember to breathe, to pump blood through our veins, or form scabs over our wounds so they will heal, life would be much more complicated.
Our basic survival functions are on autopilot.
This allows us to choose what we do with the remainder of our time. And I am choosing to create huge to-do lists, so I am always aware of what I could, or in my mind should, be doing. This puts a lot of pressure on me. No, I am putting a lot of pressure on myself. Having decided that my list is more important than anything else, I cling to it.
“Oh, I would love to, but…”
Having my ever-expanding to-do list gives me protection from commitment. I have an excuse to say no. This keeps me from having to interact with people. And I avoid all that unpleasant “getting to know you” kind of stuff. This self-protection is an unhelpful thinking style of some sort. I have thought and written about “is this what getting to know you feels like?”
READ MORE: Is This What Getting To Know You Feels Like?
Engaging with people, having conversations is draining.
I expend so much energy thinking about what to say and how to say it. Getting to know someone leaves me vulnerable. And being vulnerable is complicated. Keeping to myself is safer. But I don’t want to really help myself, or I would be practicing self-care differently.
I think I will go swimming this afternoon and then have dinner with my brother.
Even if others here at the house do not go, I am entitled to a few hours off from my to-do list. As I write this, I am wondering why I must justify using part of my day off to relax with my brother and go swimming? What is bringing out the guilt as I say this? There are times where I have practiced self-care without the guilt, I just cannot remember when that was.
But I am going to enjoy self-care this afternoon.
Now let’s get some of my to-do list done before I head out!