I am a very different person from the one who wrote this almost three months ago. At the time I decided to take a break, I was feeling wretched. Last year was actually very difficult for many reasons. The end of the year was particularly bad, with one horrible thing happening after another. I was burnt out, sad, tired, stressed, unhappy, and unsatisfied. I wanted to quit being a photographer. I couldn’t stand to be in my own skin. All I saw was everything I wasn’t accomplishing. What I was doing, I wasn’t doing very well. I was completely divided, unfocused, and doing absolutely nothing with my whole heart. I moved from one thing to another, trying to find satisfaction by following my impulses instead of fulfilling my real needs.
In my past, when something happened that made me sad, stressed, or want to give up….I checked out. Or I would decide to pamper myself by doing something that was “against the rules” or frivolous. Like loading up on carbs or sugar while spending the afternoon on the couch watching TV, or spending money. Exactly NONE of these things fulfill me or heal me. They only drain me even more. I realized that I had to make a change. First was just taking the break. I knew I needed to focus on myself and I could only do that alone. Then, I had to make the move from pampering myself…to nurturing myself.
What’s the difference? There does seem to be a fine line, but think about this: You are having a rough day, so you want to give yourself a treat. You DESERVE a treat – your day is total crap! So, you get a pedicure or you buy a new pair of shoes or you check out in front of the television or you EAT your treat. The moment passes, and what are you left with? Do you feel energized? Do you feel good about yourself? Or did you simply follow an impulse that ended up being empty and meaningless in the end?
Nurturing means you look at the moment and you take care of yourself. You pay attention and see what is going on. You experiment with different things that are fulfilling for you. Then, you understand what you need and you give it to yourself in those moments of stress, sadness, or exhaustion. That means, after a bad day, you don’t reach for a bag of cookies. Instead, you make your big healthy salad and you feel so good about yourself because you gave your body something it NEEDED. Learning what you need isn’t easy – and won’t be the same for everyone. A lot of times we totally avoid what we need because it is hard. It takes energy to create energy.
This new way of thinking came through for me because I had such a dramatic cleanse. A cleanse from things that waste my time and make me feel unworthy and artificial. I have had, in the past, a big part of my life revolving around a computer. It all started because I wanted a job. I wanted a purpose. I didn’t know what my purpose was. I wanted to work from home. I wanted to meet people. I wanted to take in information.
So, this whole internet presence of mine was born, and it took off, and I didn’t handle it well. I avoided reality. I dove into social media. I connected with amazing people and not so amazing people. I went from blog to blog to blog, getting lost in the internet. You know when you suddenly look up and realize a lot of time has passed and you meant to have Googled a recipe and instead you spent the last hour reading about some person building a tree fort in their backyard in South Dakota and you are like, “Um. What the hellllllllllll am I doing?!” That is me to the max. To. The. Max.
I suppose I should say, I don’t handle it well, because we are in the present here. But we are working on it. With this break, I have reached a balance with work and personal time that I am fiercely protective over. I have immersed myself in living, which is exactly what I needed. I have had some light bulb moments. Much of my brain has shifted and seen things in a new light. All relating to my core person and what my purpose is. I almost feel like a totally brand new blogger, so unsure am I about where to focus and what to do here. This post has taken weeks to write. All stops and starts.
My two main changes have been these:
I once pampered and now I nurture.
I once used my computer time as a way to avoid my reality and immerse myself into an entirely different one. Now, all that I want is my reality – my real, limited, fantastically beautiful and relentless life. Instead of using my computer time as a relief, I now see it as work, and I want to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible.
So – how do I nurture myself?
I know I am on the right track when these things are happening: I take care of myself. I eat foods that are good for me. I take care of my home and I don’t let small tasks pile up. I cook healthy meals for my children and send them to school with homemade lunches. I spend quality time with my family exploring nature and trying new things. I allow time for spontaneous delight.
These last three months have been one long experiment in nurturing for me, and here is what I did:
I am changing the way my house runs. Making my home an inspiring, calming place. Making sure everything HAS it’s place, and if not, out it goes. There are only two rooms I have not completed, but they are next up. I have cleared bags and bags out of closets. I have sold huge pieces of furniture that have clogged up my garage for years. I cleared and planted in my backyard, and have a plan for how to make it something I can work on creatively, yet simply. I am a collector of beautiful things found while thrifting/flea marketing/garage sale-ing. The problem with that comes when my garage starts looking like a thrift store and I hoard my treasures instead of putting them to use. Guess what, a bi-product of avoiding life is hoarding.
I am changing the way we eat. I have done it slowly and thoughtfully because I don’t want to shock my kids into not eating anything. Starting by cooking meals at home four to five days a week, with a lot of their regular favorites, but made with hidden tweaks. I switched almost everything white to brown, and added in a LOT of plants to our diet. I make a green smoothie every day, and a few of them will drink it with me. Right now I am focused on teaching them to choose nutrition over empty calories, watch their sugar intake, and eat as many things that grow out of the ground that they can in a day.
I am changing how we spend time together. I threw down the long arm of the law and banned any and all screen time for kids Monday through Thursday. This means zero TV, movies, computer (except for homework), video games, iPad, etc. It was really hard on them at first, but the changes I have seen in my house have been amazing. UH MAZE ING. I want to devote a blog post to our transition, so I will be writing more about this later.
I took a long break from work during this time and I will honestly say that I am nervous adding it back in. I didn’t pick up my Canon for two months. I took all my photos with my iPhone. I feel like a newbie. My nerves are fried, like I am off to my very first photo shoot all over again. After feeling burnt out and uninspired at the end of last year, this is actually a good feeling. It’s like butterflies. And who doesn’t love butterflies? With my upcoming re-brand I feel like things are going to fall into place for me online, a place I haven’t felt totally comfortable in for a long time.
I have been neurotic and depressed and scatterbrained for most of the time I’ve been alive. When your head is a mess, so is everything else in your life. When I turned 30, I could see that, and I didn’t want to live that way anymore. I got myself a therapist. Since then, I have worked on changing. I turned 35 last year, so this work has been going on for five very long years. I think the changes are finally becoming normal to me. A new kind of normal. I just feel…different. I am a calmer, more self aware, more grown up version of myself.
I know this is only the beginning for me. I know I will fall back into my old ways. I know things will get rough, and I will have to revisit what is nurturing for me. I know I will constantly remain vigilant. And I have to. Because I want to.
A friend of mine has gone through a similar journey alongside me, and one day a long time ago I came home to a message on my answering machine from her, pleading in a joking way, “I don’t know how to do this. I just want to turn a corner, Tara. Please! Somebody, anybody! Just let me turn a f***ing corner!”
We laughed about it then, and we still laugh about it now. That damn corner. Previously unattainable.
The thing is, I think I might have found it.
If you are still looking, leaning against the wall and struggling endlessly in the dark, reaching your hands out, stretching, praying hoping waiting for that corner to show up – it will.
Just don’t give up.