What Did You Call Me?

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megan gahan -call me healthy3My husband’s work takes him away all summer. For the better part of four months, I am the official fort-holder-downer. I wipe the bums, mow the lawn, fix the sink when it clogs, groggily navigate 3am bad dreams (why do they always happen then?), and referee every fight. The sun rises and sets on “Mommmmmmmmmy!!!!!!!”

By the end of this year’s season, I was running on fumes. My tank had been dry for a long time. I attempted to cover up my emotional state while my husband and I communicated daily via FaceTime, but upon returning home, he quickly realized his endearingly high-strung wife had morphed into a complete disaster of a human being. After witnessing me literally cry over spilled milk, lose it on the kids 73 times, and collapse into a puddle of exhaustion at the end of each day for two weeks, he confronted me:

“You’re obviously burnt out from these last few months. You need to go be alone for a couple days.”

With much huffing, but no leg to stand on, I tentatively began looking for a place to go. Nothing felt right until I stumbled on an adorable cottage near the ocean, all white walls and rustic features. Maybe I could actually do this.

I wrote a quick note to the owner of the cottage, saying I was looking to stay alone for two nights. She responded back with a few very sweet lines. But then, at the end of the email,  there was this:

“I admire your commitment to self care!”

Ignoring all the important details concerning directions and check-out time, I zeroed in on that one line with laser focus. My internal monologue kicked into high gear: “Commitment to self-care? How dare she accuse me of being committed to self-care! I’m not committed to self-care! I’m the worst at self-care. I need to write her back right now and let her know I never do things like this. That I’m practically being forced to go away. Would it be weird if I emailed her? Better she think I’m weird than indulgent, or “committed to self-care.” That’s like saying I’m good at being lazy … or selfish … ”

Whoa.

My thought process halted. I would never in a million years describe self-care as selfish or lazy. For someone else, that is. If a friend told me she was taking time for herself—whatever that looked liked—I would be over-the-moon. She is so deserving. She works so hard. She needs this. But I’ve exempted myself from the basic need for grace and rest for many years.

If I am not tireless, if I am not the workhorse, then who am I?

If I am not the person ploughing relentlessly through her tasks, what do I have to offer?

If I cannot be counted on to sacrifice, to spread myself whisper thin for the benefit of others, will anyone think I still matter?

I’ve always found my worth at the bottom of a precisely check marked to-do list, but since becoming a stay-at-home parent that need has exploded ten fold. I can’t stake my worth in a flashy career right now, so I’ve decided everything I am, lies solely in my productivity. I’m not against self-care because I don’t require it. (See woman sobbing over spilled milk, above.) But if I lose my status as the person who is always doing, always saying yes, then I truly believe I have nothing left. And I’d rather burn myself out than release my grasp on the only thing I’ve allowed to assign me value. Anyone would.

Of course, I know all the right answers. All the pertinent Bible verses. I read Present over Perfect, and felt so warm and fuzzy as I poured over it, nodding and mmm-hmmming and marking key pages. But I didn’t internalize it. I received the words, the prescription for change, but I didn’t root myself in it. I didn’t do the hard part. I didn’t allow it to rebuild me on my deepest level.

But my reaction to that innocent compliment ruffled me. It shone a harsh, horribly unflattering spotlight on how twisted my brain is. How very, very little I value myself.

So now it seems I’m stuck with the work. The gritty, unsexy, soul-altering work of re-rooting myself in my person, not my productivity. In embracing words that have always been a bit triggering, like “healthy,” “balanced” and “self-care.” And being comfortable when others assign those words to me. Proud, even. Well, proud might take a while. For now, the goal is comfortable.

So.

*deep breath*

Go ahead. Call me healthy.

I can take it.

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Megan Gahan
After over a decade in the fitness industry, Megan now spends her days chasing two pint-sized tornadoes disguised as little boys. By night, she is a writer and editor for SheLoves. A proper Canadian, Megan can often be found in the woods or at Tim Hortons. She writes at megangahan.com.
Megan Gahan
Megan Gahan

Latest posts by Megan Gahan (see all)

Megan Gahan
  • “Nodding and mmm-hmmming” myself silly over this amazing post — all the while knowing that I would also have been mortified and defensive over that dear woman’s comment. Once again, Megan, in sharing your heart, you’ve given me so much to examine about my own.

    • Megan Gahan

      Thank you Michele. You are so very kind <3

  • I took my time away alone in the hotel room with clean white sheets that I had been fantasizing about for months under the guise of attending a conference, so it could still ‘count’ as work, therefore worthy. But the time away was so much more worthwhile than the conference itself. I started my personal rebuilding process a year ago and starting to notice some differences in my thinking patterns. Thank you for sharing, I totally relate.

    • Megan Gahan

      I love hearing that you started a rebuilding process! That’s exactly what I need the courage to do. Hearing how you’ve benefited is such an encouragement. Thanks so much Morag.

  • “I’ve exempted myself from the basic need for grace and rest for many years.” This made me think about all of the other things we exempt ourselves from – in the way we speak to ourselves, the way express or don’t express what we need or want. This is not an easy place to sit, but it’s a good place. (And that rustic, white walled cottage sounds AMAZING.)

    • Megan Gahan

      The cottage WAS amazing! It was a beautiful place to begin to deal with my mess. And I agree that we exempt ourselves from so much. I really don’t want to be that way anymore. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Claire. It really means so much.

  • Your “no” on Monday night has even more weight now. SO proud of you. And: you inspire me!

  • Meg, I am so glad you took care of yourself! I’m proud of you, my healthy friend! I took 2 nights to myself a year ago and it renewed me in such wonderful ways…

  • I’m not coming from exactly the same space, but I have been unemployed for the past few months (since August) and I’m realizing a lot of my identity was tied to what I was doing. So when my life dramatically slowed down I felt worthless and have been trying to throw my time and energy into a million things. I need to be at peace with being healthy, because this anxious, depressed person I’ve become isn’t the person I want to be either.

  • “If I cannot be counted on to sacrifice, to spread myself whisper thin for the benefit of others, will anyone think I still matter?” Gut punch. Thank you.