Monday, May 16, 2016

My Balancing Act

When we first got to Ireland and lived in Ballinrobe, things could sometimes feel chaotic. We were in a new country, trying to figure out what needed to be done and how we were supposed to do it while dealing with some cross-cultural communication and expectation issues. At some point we decided that we would set Sundays aside as stay-at-home days. There might be other days in a week when we happened to be at home and skip our daily walk, errands, etc, but Sundays would be dedicated to just having a quiet day at home. Sometimes we did not even get dressed. I made sure to have leftovers available so that my time spent in food preparation was minimal. I loved those days. I looked forward to them all week.

I have always been someone for whom solitude and being quietly at home is not only OK, but what I love best. It would be very easy for me to take that too far and become a recluse, and I am aware of that. In the past I have gone too far the other way and been over-scheduled.  When I am too busy with outside stuff, I tend to get frustrated, agitated, and eventually angry. It is not that I do not enjoy socializing sometimes. I do, but I do not need as much interaction as some people seem to require. I am definitely an introvert.

There was a time in my life when I was the mother of a daughter in elementary school, a wife, a research assistant, a teaching assistant, and a grad student all at the same time. One year when I was still an undergrad I did the PTA thing and somehow Bill and I found ourselves co-presidents. Then Bill got sick and ended up in the hospital. It was a crazy time. It worked for me then, even when I was getting up at 2 am to begin my days. I was enjoyed the work I was doing at university and I still feel good about what I accomplished. Even so, I looked forward to term breaks when I could go home and not have quite so much to do all at once. I would never want to do that now--that time of my life is over and I definitely prefer a much quieter existence. So I try to find the right balance between being home and being out. The sweet spot, where the balance is just right, shifts a lot though, depending on what is going on, so it is always a work in progress.

I find myself needing those Sundays once again, especially now that this move has happened and summer is here.  This was brought home to me a couple of weeks ago as we were heading towards a bank holiday weekend. I was very depressed, feeling tired all the time, and generally feeling like I was dragging myself through each day. It was time for some self care, so I decided that the 3-day bank holiday weekend was going to be my time to rest, meander through my days, and just be. What a difference it made! I decided to go back to that on the Sundays, so yesterday I did not bother to get dressed. I read. I crocheted. I rested. I had a beautiful, peaceful, relaxing day.
Taking the time to give myself what I need does not come easy to me--I am someone who has a tendency to be a fixer for people. In the past I have found myself over-committed because I could not say no when people asked me to do something. I could not politely refute other people's statements about what I "should" be doing or wanting to do. I could not stand by and watch as people struggled and I wanted to make it better for them. This was not good for them or me, of course. Sometimes we learn by struggling with something. I sure have. And we all have enough struggles of our own without taking on those of others. There again, finding the balance was crucial--knowing when to help or offer to help and when to stand aside is sometimes not easy, but it is important.  The bottom line in all of this is that I had to really get to know and understand myself. I had to pay attention to what I was feeling at different times while doing different activities and I had to accept those feelings, honor them, and act on them. I had to learn to put myself first sometimes. That did not happen overnight--it is definitely a process. And somewhere along the way I understood that sometimes saying no to someone else is, at the same time, saying yes to myself.


Deb said...

This resonated with me - I have a fairly introvert nature myself. How are you liking your new town?

Shari Burke said...

This has been a more difficult transition than I have experienced in the past. Previous moves have either been because we wanted to go or we knew it was time to go. This time neither was true for me. I would have stayed in Killybegs. Because of that, the many hassles we encountered seemed that much more annoying and I was not coping as well as I usually do! With that said, I have been working on my attitude and trying to focus on what I like here. It is a lovely little town which I am sure I would have appreciated more from the start had the circumstances been different. I love the rocky shoreline and the traffic-free access to it. I love the way they have the shore walk and green as community focal points and have included lots of benches and tables so that people can enjoy both walking and just sitting quietly--or if they need to rest they can do that. Because of the benches and the paved footpath, people of all abilities can get out there and enjoy it. There are folks who walk for exercise, people who have a hard time walking, people pushing prams, elders, and youngsters on that path every day. I am thrilled to have a very local library branch just aroiund the corner! And, although I loved and will miss our little funky cottage in Killybegs, the apartment here is more comfortable in some ways, including the bedrooms and kitchen. The latter is very compact, but with plenty of counter space and shelving, so it is much easier and more pleasant to work in.

Now that I am making sure to take the down time I need, I am feeling much more positive about everything. Did you get to Inishowen when you were here?

Laurie Graves said...

Hear, hear! I'm with you all the way on this one. While I'm not a recluse, I need plenty of alone time, and for me, home is best. We introverts must always hasten to explain that we don't want to be alone ALL the time and that we love and value our friends. But, there. I'm sure I don't have to explain that to you.

Shari Burke said...

Yes! I do not use the word "friend" loosely or casually and i greatly value the friendships I have as a result of that. :-)