I have been blessed these past few months to be surrounded by amazing people. There have been multiple times when I wanted to sit down and just throw in the towel. These people didn’t let me. They have all, in their own way, forced me to look at myself closer, to decide what is important to me, to focus on what light there is in every situation. My oldest and I had a conversation today about how there is so much conversation about putting yourself first, do what makes you happy. The general masses follow this to the tee. They spend money they don’t have on toys they don’t need, on plastic surgery, on possessions and then go home to chaos. Broken homes, high anxiety, no family bonds, fake friends.
As a Quaker, I believe that there is no single entity that is the god, but instead, there is a light. That light is in everything. Now don’t fret that I am going all mamsy pansy on you. This is not anything more than a similar belief that some hold that there is good and evil in all of us. This idea that there is a light in each of us came up in the conversation with Kat because it, in my opinion, should be a vital part of the conversation when you put yourself first.
There is great value in putting yourself first when it is coupled with the idea that you are tending your own light so that you can share it with the world. Again not mamsy pansy but hear me out. Things as trivial as spending a few hours with your teenage daughter and leaving the nitty gritty to your significant other for a bit is putting you first. It is putting your want to go do something fun and get away from the daily grind before your responsibilities. Unless you view it as spending quality one on one time with each of your children separately. Meeting each of your children, friends, family members where they are for a few minutes.
Another example is in a relationship instead of putting your needs above theirs making all the needed arrangements to meet both of your needs. Instead of begging for their undivided attention the second they walk in the door (with piles of dishes in the sink, no dinner ready, kids screaming, general chaos) spending the extra few minutes it takes to have everything ready for them to relax when they walk in. I am not saying that you should be a good wifey and wait on him hand and foot. This goes both ways including down to the kids. If they want to go out and play then they should have followed all the steps to make sure that they are done their responsibilities first. In order to put yourself first, you need to create the space for it to happen. Everyone needs to create the space. When you put yourself first without thought to how others are affected then you are creating space at the expense of someone else’s space. Creating a black hole of sorts that collects things, people, and gives nothing back.
Communication is another part of this. Being clear with what you really dislike doing and what you really enjoy doing, what is expected of each person and what is less important to the greater good. People think I’m crazy but I have charts everywhere in the house. A chart for the before/after school routine, a weekly calendar, communications chart, needs list. Then I have a multitude of binders. My whole family thinks I have lost it. BUT every morning I inevitably hear different voices yelling to the others, asking if they can check off that Bobby’s hair is brushed or if Lizzy has eaten breakfast. They scramble to be the one to check things off. When I ask have you … they start listing off the items they have completed. They all look at the calendar before they ask who is cooking dinner tonight or which parent to ask if they can go play outside.
These are all things that I need to be able to do me. These are the things that make my life run smoothly. Did everyone else like them in the beginning? Hell no. But they know see, or at least they tell me they do, how much easier everything goes if we share in the responsibilities so that we can all move on to putting ourselves first much faster.
Because of these lists, I can leave for the night and not come home to a chaotic mess that takes hours to put back together. Because of these lists, Bob doesn’t need to recreate the wheel when it is his turn to be the parent because I am sick, working, just not home right now. Because I did me because I made it clear that I needed this to be in place so that I am not anxious and so that I can breathe and function, there is a general sense of acceptance. They roll their eyes, they giggle at me when I add a new chart but the chaos is almost non-existent.
As there always is, the reverse of this is that I also need to understand that when I am not here then Bob gets to put himself first. So he takes the kids out to dinner instead of cooking, he lets them watch tv on a school night, he gets caught up in chasing them around the house, but he also reigns them in and sets them back on my system, cleans up after all of them and has the house ready for me to relax when I get home.
What I’m trying to say is that putting yourself first is great. Putting yourself first while remembering that we are all sharing the same path, life, goals and that instead of stoking the fire behind our light with selfish intentions, we need to polish the globe that our light shines through so that we have more to give. We need to become better people so that our light can be shared with someone whose light is flickering, someone who needs a light to set their sights on, be the light at the end of the tunnel that brings people hope.