You live for yourself first

It sounds simple. It also sounds selfish. But it is true and necessary. It is something I need to remind myself of surprisingly often.

Of course, I’m not out to promote selfishness. That’s not what this is about. The simple fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t neglect ourselves.

Today, once again, I feel tired. I have another long shift ahead of me at work, which means I likely won’t be home before 1am. That means I’m likely in bed by 2 if I don’t collapse earlier than that.

Tomorrow the same. And I have a work Zoom call in the late morning that may last a little longer than usual as there is much to discuss. Then I head out once again.

I know I’m going to be fine, probably even energized when I get to work later today. Tomorrow probably not so much anymore. But I will manage either way. The price will be paid on Friday when I will be too exhausted to get much of anything done, even though I will still have obligations.

When I feel this sort of exhaustion in my bones, though, I remind myself that I really like my job and that I have chosen this. Not usually so many shifts in a row, with so much to do and so little rest (I should also be doing some freelance work, after all), but I still like my job and it isn’t always like this. Most of the time it is not, in fact.

But yeah, the question crops up as to why I am doing this. Or the thought that I’m definitely not getting paid enough. And I’m not.

And this, inevitably, reminds me that I live for myself first. This includes taking care of my mental, physical and emotional well-being. If not looked after, I’m no use to anyone anyway.

I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to rest. I am allowed to take a break and also ask for one when I need it. I am allowed to re-evaluate the status quo, question it and ask for more because it isn’t good enough.

Saying that I live for myself first doesn’t make me selfish. Unless I act selfishly. There is a huge difference. Living for yourself first only makes you an ass if you trample on everyone else to serve your own needs.

This is not what I am talking about.

When we recognize the simple truth that we live for ourselves first, it acknowledges that we don’t need to put anyone else’s needs or demands above our own. There are times when we will do just that, of course. Especially as a parent, for instance. Or in the line of duty. But even then we shouldn’t neglect ourselves to the extent that it will impact our ability to care for or serve others.

For me today, and tomorrow, telling myself that I do live for myself first is a reminder to treat myself more gently and to say no in order to protect my energy. I like my job, but it shouldn’t leave me this exhausted and feeling that I am not compensated well enough. I can ask for more. And I should.

And then I rest.

When to pull yourself together

I’m exhausted today. Two long shifts at work with a rather late finish at nearly 1 am yesterday (or today, if you prefer). Not enough sleep, obviously. With the days getting longer again and the sun out all day, any attempt to even try and sleep some more is doomed to fail. Also, tomorrow I have an early shift, so there was no point in trying to sleep in today.

My brain feels muddled and hay fever has struck me down as well. It’s a beautiful spring day outside and I can barely get up from the sofa.

What a lovely day off…

Oddly, I still managed to get some stuff done. Such as laundry, making lunch for the next three days, dusting, and even ordering new glasses, which I’ve been putting off for weeks.

I keep thinking that I need to get up and go check on my motorbike because I really wanted to take it to work tomorrow. I really really do. It’s been such a long time since I rode my bike and I miss it. The weather is perfect right now. But I can’t move.

It seems a miracle that I managed to do as much as I did. This includes writing anything at all.

There is still time. I can still jump on my bicycle and visit the parking garage to check on my bike. I can still enjoy some sunshine and the warmth they bring. I can still buy some grapefruits.

That’s what I keep telling myself, even though I just want to take a nap.

The question is, do I need to pull myself together and go out to do what I feel I should (perhaps even must)? Or do I allow myself the rest my body clearly needs?

Will I regret not checking on my bike and therefore definitely not taking it to work tomorrow, instead of cycling as usual, which also provides a lot of enjoyment in weather like this?

Will I regret not getting up to get myself fresh grapefruit?

I could do one and not the other. If I decided to check on the bike, I have no excuse not to also go to the grocery store as it would be on the way home anyway. But since the garage is further away than the grocery store, I might still go to the latter and only have half the regrets when skipping on one but not both errands.

We all have arguments with ourselves very much like this all the time. We are tired or even exhausted and still have a bunch of things we want to do or could do or even need to do. We feel bad for being tired. We feel that we need to pull ourselves together and simply do what we must, and things will perhaps sort themselves out. We can always sleep later.

Or we want to avoid feeling guilty over the things we leave in favor of resting. We want to avoid regrets down the line.

Often it is really just about small things, a bunch of errands or chores. But bigger things can be involved as well, commitments, decisions, or people. I’m not going to get into the big questions of life, mind you. Not right now anyway.

The fact of the matter is my body tells me no. It needs rest. It doesn’t want to jump on a bicycle and ride anywhere. And I will survive not riding my motorbike to work tomorrow. I will also be able to do without a grapefruit tonight.

And perhaps, in an hour, I feel up for it after all.

We generally know when we are still capable of pulling ourselves together for one reason or another. We have enough energy left to do just that. But there are times, when it shouldn’t be necessary, and it shouldn’t leave us with feelings of guilt or regret either.

We shouldn’t ignore when we need a break or proper rest.

We’re always told to have healthy boundaries with the people in our lives. We must also have boundaries with ourselves, which includes recognizing our needs instead of pushing them away.