Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emotional and Physical Bankruptcy

Yesterday's blog and the subject of emotional and physical bankruptcy so resonated within me that I'm awake at 2 am today thinking, thinking, thinking about this, and hoping I said everything I wanted to say, and not sure if I did.

Have you ever taken the time to watch a spider create a web? If you ever need 20 minutes to relax into mindlessness and peace, this is one of my favorite ways.  The spider is so methodical, so deliberate, but not rushed.  I took this photo on a dew-drenched morning in August when the garden spiders were out in full force.  I had watched the spider make this web the night before, and it just mesmerized me.

I can't say enough about emotional and physical bankruptcy.  We are a nation of people pursuing "The American Dream"....and yet for so many of us the American Dream has turned into the American Nightmare.  So many people I know work at jobs they hate because they have trapped themselves into believing there is no other way to live. They don't take the vacation time they are due because the don't want to get behind, or they are worried that if they do they will lose their job.  They are doing the work of2 or 3 people because coworkers have been laid off...So many people live in houses they can't afford, and eat fast food because it's cheap and easy to get after a long day working.  People don't cook dinner because they are exhausted from a 10 or 12 hour day.  Who has time to make dinner when you have brought work home?  It's so much easier to feed the kids and yourself prepackage pre-prepared food than to take the extra 1/2 hour or 45 minutes to make a meal.

Watching families has made me form an opinion, and it is this: the 'pursuit of happiness' referenced in the Constitution of the United States has become distorted.  We make more money yet adjusted for inflation we are living on less money than our parents made, and instead of mom staying at home, both parents work and then have to pay a stranger to raise the children.  We can't afford to have a parent live at home and raise a child with our morals and values.  It's just too difficult, or we have been brainwashed into believing we need to have the high-profile, high-powered (and yes, high-stressed) job to have a 'good life'.  So we go to work and work insane hours and our children get to be raised by others.  We live a life of stress and don't really get to enjoy our families.

Now, I don't think this is's only 'bad' if that reality makes you unhappy.  For me, I'm not parent material; so I opted to not have children.  I knew I wouldn't be a good parent.  I'm a wonderful aunt and "big sister" but the ultimate responsibility of parenthood, I knew I wasn't qualified for.  I send blessings, kudos and commendations for anyone brave enough to bring another person into this world.  That is an act of selfish LESS that to me is one of the most amazing things a human being can undertake.

People talk to me all the time about not having 'enough time'....why is that?  Is it because we are working so hard building someone else's dream that we don't have enough energy to build our own?  Is it because we are watching sitcoms and "reality TV" and using up precious time we could be taking a bubble bath or enjoying a hobby?  Does watching TV bring you any closer to happiness?  All you are doing is fulfilling an actor's dream if it takes you away from having 'time' to do what would make you truly happy.

Have you over-committed to the PTA, your church, your family and friends, the HOA, at the cost of your life?  I think it's wonderful to volunteer (I"m a volunteer Big Sister and do a lot of community work) but when the volunteer time erodes your personal happiness time, and you spend your life being so 'busy' taking care of other people, you start to kill yourself slowly because you are overdrawn on your personal life account.

When was the last time you did something 100% what you wanted, when you wanted to, without feeling guilty?  When was the last time you relaxed doing a hobby that you personally enjoy?  When was the last time you took time for yourself without feeling guilty???

In her amazing book "The Artist's Way" Julia Cameron talks about the importance of Artist Dates.  These are dates with yourself, BY YOURSELF, where you go and fill your creative-soul bank account.  It doesn't have to be elaborate, or expensive, or even time-consuming.  Take an hour a week and do something that you want to do.  Something that will refill your soul. 

Now, don't look at me and say "I'm not an artist"... we are all artists.  If you are a parent, you are painting a life for your child.  If you are a spouse, you are weaving together a tapestry of life with your partner.  If you live alone, you need to create a life=picture that makes you happy.

My "Artist Dates" were things like.....go play on a swing set by myself.  Go to a pet store and look at all the colorful and varied fish.  Go to a bookstore and browse on a subject that had always interested me.  Go to the library, find one of the comfy chairs, and settle in for an afternoon (or an hour, if that's all you have).  Instead of going out to the same restaurant for lunch, pick a place I've never been to, and fully engage myself watching people, reading the menu, trying something I would never pick out normally for lunch. Take a walk in the park or a flower garden.  Go to a nursery and look at all the flowers.  None of these things cost money.  They are an investment of time in yourself.

When was the last time you took the time to really look at a flower?  From the intense color to the delicate blossoms versus the tough cactus leaves, drenched in's a study in contrasts, just like life.  And like life, it can be beautiful even in its toughness.

I encourage you to write down your emotional needs bucket list, and start checking things off. Not a bucket list that has things like "climb Mt Everest" or "take a cruise" or any other 'big' item.  Start a bucket list of things you'd like to do for yourself that are small but you have not allowed yourself to do. Mine  included things like blow bubbles, take a bubble bath midweek, use the good china for everyday dining, learn to tap dance, re learn how to roller skate.  Feed the ducks at the local pond.  Make a commitment to call my best girlfriend and connect every week, make an un-birthday cake. 

Start taking care of yourself, start nourishing your soul, today.  This is the only time you have.  Tomorrow is not promised to us, yesterday is already gone, later today isn't even promised to us.  Now is the only time you have, so please, I encourage you, make the most of it. 

I close wishing you the best day of your life.

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