Time is a precious and sought-after commodity when parenting. It’s so easy to remind other parents to take time for themselves. In order to parent effectively, we must fill our own bucket. Put on our oxygen mask first. We say these words to our friends and hear them in return. But, does anyone out there actually act on it?
During an all-too-brief hiatus from real life, I board a small boat and head across the seas. Our captain navigates out of the marina and soars past the yachts and onlookers. The sea air is blowing in my face and my skin sparkles with freshly applied sunscreen. This air feels wonderful and refreshing. The last couple of days have been insanely windy and the air constantly wooshed past my ears when I sat outside. It wasn’t until I got back inside, that I realized how much that strong, gusty wind left me feeling spent and exhausted. In comparison, today the sea air feels cool and comforting.
As we move across the calm water, we pass crab pots, pelicans, and pintails. Effortlessly, we navigate under concrete bridges and between buoys. The waters gradually become more choppy the farther we navigate into the ocean. As the swells rise and fall, I note the beautiful variations of turquoise, aqua, and deep blues that appear and disappear in rhythmic time. Gradually increasing from swells to waves, the water periodically splashes on the bow as we approach our destination. Here, the waves are rough and the captain asks if we are ready for extreme snorkeling? We have found the reef.
I slip on my snorkel and fins, take a deep breath, and expectantly drop into the deep azure ocean. Beneath the surface are hundreds, if not thousands, of colorful fish. Their brilliant neon color creates a fantastic juxtaposition to the colors of the reef. Purple coral fans sway rhythmically to the movement of the ocean waves, as a giant parrotfish nibbles and flashes its striking iridescent green, pink and yellow hues. It turns and notices me before returning to its feast.
I am calm. There is no sound but that of my own breath and the crackling of the reef. I relish being the observer rather than the observed. I lay and watch in silence. My body rises and falls with each swell. Up and down, floating and drifting with the current, I am completely enamored with the calm. So, this is what peace feels like.
The whistle blows and as I pull my head from the sea, I am thrust back into reality. I kick and fight to return to the vessel, as waves engulf my dry valve causing me to imbibe seawater. The fight against the sea is a metaphor for my life sometimes. Why do I always feel like I am swimming against the current? After arriving at the craft, I pull off my flippers and climb the ladder back to reality.
With the bow pointing towards land, we traverse the turbulent seas. That is to say, our jaunt is nearly over. Sitting in silence, I reflect on this stolen moment with gratitude and perspective. Consequently, I recognize that I struggle with self-care. I am a mother of four, wife, small business owner, and advocate. Much of the time, I run from one emergent issue to the next. I am unable to find my darn password or the missing email that told me where to be. Heaven forbid it’s Valentine’s Day and I have to prepare a million cards for each kid’s classroom. Note: you will find nothing from Pinterest coming from this house. It is a miracle if we remember to sign the cards.
Everyday, I feel like I am swimming against the waves and I am gasping for air.
My trip to the reef is likely the only self-care I have performed in recent memory. I am the last on my list of needs because something else is always screaming louder. And the guilt when I actually take time for myself is difficult. Am I the only one who struggles with this?
Ultimately, this is an area of my life that needs to change. For, if we do not take time to reconnect, replenish, and refocus on self-care, we can lose sight of the calmness. Of that peace that lies beneath the surface because we are constantly fighting the crashing waves. Each of our lives is filled with wind and turbulent waters. Sometimes, our voyage is without respite. We forget what it sounds like when the wind is not rushing past our ears. We forget to see the colors and the beauty around us because we have our brow furrowed and head down as we forge ahead to the next thing.
Maybe it isn’t a trip to the reef, but a moment on your front step with your eyes closed. Maybe it’s a second cup of coffee before the rush of the day begins. Perhaps, it’s simply an early bedtime and placing a phone on “do not disturb.”
Share with me in the comments. How can you take time for yourself today, my friends?