“ME FIRST”

I don’t mean “Me First” in a selfish way. I mean “Me First” in a pragmatic, self-loving, self-preserving, strengthening, productive way.

I was driving out of my condo complex this morning and it occurred to me that I must keep putting myself first, as I have lately been striving to do. There’s an issue with the HOA management that’s been driving me crazy. I was going to turn around and deal with it. I hadn’t yet had my breakfast, and not even my coffee (disaster!) So instead of turning around and dealing with the B.S. (it wasn’t going to work anyway), I stuck with my original intention. I chose to keep going and went to get myself some breakfast and coffee.

That’s what I mean by putting yourself first. Those of us who are “caretakers” and “pleasers” and “tolerators” must be vigilant in taking care of our own needs first — especially basic needs like proper food, water, rest, shelter from the elements, boundaries with intimidating and abusive people, etc.

Changing destructive and unproductive habits is difficult and it’s usually ongoing in some way or another, but creating new and healthier habits is the only way to deal with FLEAS, TICKS and just life in general on this nutty planet.

I am very fortunate to have a wonderful young primary care doctor. He’s an absolute doll: patient, accessible, an excellent listener, very supportive and always forthcoming. (Plus he’s cute haha) I told him yesterday that I often feel as though my body is now falling apart, because I ran around crazy for 35 years, working frantically, commuting long hard hours, raising children, taking care of pets, dealing with my Jekyll/Hyde N mother, other N relatives, friends and acquaintances, difficult employers, bosses and co-workers.

I just didn’t take care of myself properly. I knew it but for many years I couldn’t seem to change it. I always simply took some ibuprofen and went to work sick or injured. I didn’t relax enough. I drove myself to have a really clean house, well-dressed clean children, proper “real” food (very little junk or fast food or processed food), and many other neurotic hang-ups around the idea of perfection or damn near close to it.

I ended up in the hospital two or three times with double pneumonia because I didn’t set boundaries on myself or my employers. One time during that phase which, thankfully, has long been over, I bought myself a refrigerator magnet that read “Only Neurotic Women Have A Clean House.” I used to look at it and think to myself, “Yeah, but…” I just couldn’t let go of having a clean house, car, up to date laundry, up to date errands, clean pet cages and litter boxes, perfectly tended plants, hand wash always done, etc. etc. At that point in my life, I even knew where everything was, even if it was stored away in boxes in the garage. (OK I still do wish that were true, but well, it ain’t and I admit I now get a silly pleasure out of it being so out of control.) I can actually laugh at what a “piggy” I think I’ve become.

It’s definitely not like the cartoon above at my place, but I’m still finding the balance between a certain amount of clutter and my health/sanity. I love cats, dogs and plants, not to mention saving too many papers and stuff. That makes it difficult. I now have a lot of time on my hands and I’m often home. It can’t stay perfect. So I’m looking for a balance, and putting ME FIRST — meaning my dog’s well-being, my cat’s well-being, and most of all, my own well-being. Rest, food, water, relaxation, exercise. All of that is so much more important than a tidy house.

Some of us just naturally know how to take care of ourselves. But most of those who are survivors of abuse do not. We’re very hard on ourselves, criticizing ourselves, driving ourselves to distraction over various non-important issues.

I took a long trip recently, and I was packing and preparing to leave. I forced myself to focus ONLY on what needed to be done right then. Nothing extraneous. I had a deadline! I asked myself “does this HAVE to get done right now, or before I leave?” Many times, the answer was no.

So… ME FIRST. Because a happy, healthy me is a fun friend, and an enjoyable mother/daughter/sister/aunt. The housework will always be there, the HOA management will always be lacking in some way, at least one of the neighbors will always be driving you nuts with their slovenly careless ways, but your health won’t always be there unless you take care of it.

“Make your actions count!” That’s my latest mantra.

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