For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin — real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. Something to be got through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.
– Father Alfred D’Souza
That quote really resonates with me. I’ve probably mentioned it before, but this quote describes a period of my life. I was waiting, because there was so much to finish before my life could begin.
“When does my life get to be about ME?” If I didn’t have this exact thought I had one very similar. When I think about how I would have said that it’s usually as someone who’d been running around for everyone else and is exhausted and wants some time to herself. Occasionally, it’s with the voice of an annoyed teenager who’s been asked to do something for someone else that they don’t want to do.
I bet I said it as the tired adult, but my inner critic (that voice that says you’re not good enough, or some version of that) told me it actually sounded like that annoyed and whiney teenager. So, the thought would be quickly dismissed as selfish and life would continue without change.
There were lots of reasons to wait (I am always armed with many reasons, coughexcusescough). I had obligations to fill, expectations to meet and other people’s goals to achieve. So, my own needs, expectations and goals fell into the categories of “if I have time” or the never arriving “later.”
So, when did my life get to be about me? Well, the answer is simple and complicated and can be summed up in one sentence: When I decided it did. Simple to say, more complicated to accomplish.
Why was it complicated? Well, I believed it was important to be nice. More specifically it was important that other people thought that I was a nice person. And to me that meant saying yes to things without really thinking about it, because if I said no (or even I need to think about it) they might get upset with me, and if they’re upset with me then I’m not nice or they won’t like me! This of course led to me wanting and needing to fill everyone else’s needs and expectations before my own. No wonder I was so tired!
I started making changes when I decided it was time to be nice to me. I didn’t know this quote at the time, but it sums up what I told myself as I started saying no more and stepping away from additional responsibility:
Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter. – Bernard Baruch
Heck, I still tell myself that on occasion when I realize I’ve taken on too much or that it’s time to reevaluate how I spend my time.
It feels weird to say my life is all about me – it feels selfish and unkind. But it’s not – you can’t take care of someone else unless you’re taking care of yourself. It’s like they tell you when you fly – if something happens put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then help the people around you.
So, since your life has already begun – what obstacles do you want to remove to enjoy it more?