The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. – John Campbell
I’ve posted before about the restorative power of practicing one’s art. Doing that thing that nourishes your soul and reminds you that there is beauty in the world is so important. In this era of endless chores, responsibilities, and commitments, it is much too easy to forget who you really are. A lack of time to meet all those responsibilities and commitments is often the culprit, and we end up sacrificing ourselves in order to meet those external demands.
This post is a reminder that once in a while, no matter how much laundry needs washing or the fact that the fridge needs to be cleaned out, you must to make time for you. Sometimes, you need to let the stack of bills go for a few more hours, and spend that time doing that thing that refreshes and recharges your soul. That thing is what makes your stress level drop. It’s what centers you. It gives you pleasure and fulfillment and a sense of accomplishment. It rejuvenates. It speaks to you as nothing else in your life does or can.
You deserve time to do your thing.
Although this concept is not news to me, I tend to forget it all too easily when mired in the pressures and stress of day-to-day life and school work. Yet, I was reminded of something this weekend that I want to share with you in the hopes it will inspire you to make time to nourish your soul.
I’m an introvert with a capital I. Socializing has been known to induce panic attacks for me. Most people annoy the hell out of me. I have little natural patience, and I’m inherently high-strung. These are hard truths I’ve learned to accept instead of change. I try to force myself into uncomfy situations because I know that people are nice and good and once I get into the situation it’s usually okay and not as terrifying as I imagined. Still, I will pick a book at home over a night out with new people every single time. Alone is my happy place. All too often, I sacrifice my alone time to meet obligations and other’s expectations.
This weekend, I refused to let myself get sucked into that pattern.
So with dishes piling and vacuuming waiting, I told my husband that I was disappearing to my sewing room to be “creative” for a while “or else I will go insane”. Because he is wonderful, he said, “Go! Be creative!” Bless him, and bless him for being in my life. He knows me better than I know myself. What I’ve recently learned is that if I don’t take time away from everyone to recharge my energy, I gradually turn into a grumpy, short-tempered and irritable pain in the ass. Someone who is quick to anger and given to blow things out of proportion. Someone who is NO fun to be around.
I have two primary creative hobbies. One is writing fiction. The other is sewing. I was feeling too scatter brained and full of tension to write a story. My thoughts were jumbled, and my stress level too high to concentrate on the feelings of characters. So I scurried to the basement to my sewing room. My stash of sewing machines, fabric, thread, and patterns is like a balm of creative possibility. After looking though a few old quilting magazines, I settled on a small wall hanging project. I’d been hoarding a purple and black fat-quarters bundle that would be perfect for a rail fence block pattern.
The process of cutting fabric and stitching the blocks had the usual effect. Twice during the process, I made a mental note of how much better I felt. After a few hours, my blood pressure had lowered, and the prospect of human interaction didn’t make me cringe. I paused and took some deep breaths. I focused on how I was feeling and tried to take note of the calm, soothed, and relaxed state I was in. I was present in that moment, and was able to recognize the huge difference in my mood. I sent a silent mantra of gratefulness out into the Universe, and felt it return to me with acceptance and loving kindness.
In that moment of clarity and inner peace, I made myself promise that I would not allow myself to sacrifice so much in the name of obligation. Making time to be creative cannot be secondary in my life. It must be a primary goal. Being creative is who I am. To deny that or set it aside is dishonoring my essence and my purpose in this life.
Don’t deny who you are in favor of all those things that our society places so much value on. Yes, of course the mortgage needs to get paid and groceries need to be bought, but it can wait a few more hours or that extra day. When you feel as though you just can’t take it anymore, that life’s demands are too demanding, and that you are forgetting or losing yourself in the life you have, please make time to practice that part of you that makes the crappy parts of life bearable. Don’t sacrifice too much of yourself all of the time.
Don’t forget who you really are.
The next day after I’d finished my quilt top, my mom came over to my house. My top didn’t come out perfectly, and I asked her what I had done wrong. She gave me some tips and I will need to rework parts of it. That’s okay. I didn’t get angry at myself for the mistakes. I was simply grateful for that time to hold fabric in my hand. I was grateful for the soothing hum of the sewing machine, grateful for the snippets of thread now littering the floor, and most of all, grateful that no one was placing any demands on me or my time.
Before you were a mom, a dad, a runner, a husband, a wife, a career person, a caretaker of elderly parents, whatever, you were you first. There is nothing selfish in recharging yourself so that you can be emotionally available to those you love. And those that love you will see the peace and joy your thing lights up inside of you and welcome it.
Do your thing and do it often!
Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement nor am I being sponsored by, or asked to promote, AchieveMint. I just think it’s a cool app and wanted to share it with the three people that read my blog. (Hello, faithful readers!) If you like it, great! And if not, that’s cool, yo!
Okay, and off we go!
If there is one thing you should know about me it’s that I love a good bargain. Paying retail for anything is hard for me to justify. If it’s on sale, or better yet, clearance, I’m all over it. Thrift stores are my favorite places since they are sustainable for the environment, the closet, and the wallet. Plus, thrifting in Boulder has its perks! There always seems to be great fitness gear in like-new condition just waiting for me.
The other thing you should know about me as a runner is that races keep me motivated to train. Yes, I appreciate running’s many benefits and I take satisfaction from them, but if I don’t have a race on the horizon, it’s easy for me to start skipping runs in favor of easier forms of exercise. Or doughnuts. Or those chocolate mousse parfaits they have at Whole Foods. Bless my thighs that concoction will be the death of me.
As you know, races cost money. Hence, when my brother-in-law told me about an app he uses to earn money for doing his regular fitness activities and tracking them with his Fitbit, I thought, “I have a Fitbit. I use it every day. Please tell me more, awesome brother in law.” (FYI, you do not need a Fitbit to use the AchieveMint app, but more in that in a sec.)
So here’s what happens. First, you create a free account with AchieveMint, and sync the fitness and social media apps you are already using to your AchieveMint account. Then, AchieveMint gives you points based on the activity you track with your apps. So if you track your run using MapMyRun or RunKeeper, AchieveMint might give you 66 points for a 2 mile run. After 50,000 they will send you an electronic VISA gift card for 50.00.
That’s totally one race entry. You could maybe even get two 5ks for 50 bucks. That’s TWO FREE RACES, people. And free is always better.
The beauty is that there are lots of different ways to earn points. If you check in at the gym using FourSquare, BOOM, 65 points. If you tweet a healthy article, that’s another easy 5 points. If you log your sleep with your Fitbit, that’s 20 points. You earn points for using apps like Facebook, Instagram, and FitnessPal, to name a very few. You get a big bonus for each app you connect with your AchieveMint account, and if you use a Fitbit device, the points rack up even more quickly. You can set weekly goals, such as running four times a week and cycling twice, and earn a big bonus if you complete them.
Points rack up pretty quickly, and the more you exercise, the more points you can earn. I’ve been using the AchieveMint app since 6/9/14 and I’m already at 8540 points. A good fitness week for me right now is running 6 miles, cycling 2 miles to work 4 days a week, walking 1-2 miles a day for my job, and squeezing in yoga or cross training once a week if I’m super lucky. If you’re training for a marathon, the points could rack really up fast.
I have a Fitbit One and I have it synced with MapMyFitness. AchieveMint connects with both to give me points for the steps I took and the walking I did in a day, even though it’s really the same activity. Check out the screenshot below to give you an idea of how points accumulate.
So far, I’m loving it. I find myself constantly checking my point accumulation and wondering how long it will take me to get to 50k points. I don’t feel that the money is motivating me to be fit, but that it’s rewarding me for stuff I’m doing anyway. I plan to reinvest my ‘winnings’ back into myself by paying for races and whatever else I need to stay fit. That includes cute, functional gear. Priorities, man.