As I sat in the salon chair waiting to be pampered, I took a good look at myself in the mirror. I looked like my normal self, other than a lack of make up showing off my tired eyes. But, that’s typical for any parent–we are chronically exhausted. As the stylist appeared, I casually mentioned how different my hair had felt. Her eyes widened as she touched my head. My thick blonde locks were noticeably thinner, not because of a medical condition, but simply because of stress. It was at that moment, two years ago, when I realized it was time to put myself first.
I’ll admit it, I’m a “people pleaser.” I don’t do it for gratification, I simply love to bring joy to others. Whether it’s baking, helping a charity or giving a hand to a coworker, I’m always ready to volunteer. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I tend to live life with a glass “half-full” approach; my sunny disposition is generally the normal side of me. Even after an unimaginable tragedy, I found the light at the end of the tunnel. After the deaths of two of my triplets, I found purpose and hope. I chose not to dwell on the sorrow, instead cherishing the little time I had with them.
As our surviving triplet grows up, life gets more and more jammed packed. Between school, gymnastics and dance, my daughter’s calendar is full. And rather than trimming my schedule, I continue to pile on the commitments. From working full-time, to public speaking, to writing, to charity work and raising a child…there’s little time to sleep! That’s my biggest flaw as a “people pleaser” — I hate to say no. As my calendar continued to fill up, some of my normal activities went by the wayside. My 3-4 visits to the gym per week slowly trickled down to 2 and then once a week if I was lucky. I used to love to lose myself in a good book, but I found myself staring at the same book on my nightstand for months. Some of life’s little pleasures were now a distant memory.
As I glanced at myself in the mirror, I saw a familiar face with some noticeable changes. The creases around my eyes have gracefully grown, showing happiness inside those laugh lines. The furrowed brow is more prominent, a combination of the grief I live with daily, along with the fear and worry as I feel the need to protect my lone surviving child. The bags under my eyes show my age, the exhaustion of raising a child, sprinkled with the middle of the night stress sessions. The smile is genuine, filled with love fore my husband and children. But deep down inside, I had been running on fumes.
That day at the hair salon two years ago was pivotal. As I sat with foils covering my head, I knew I had to make some changes. For so many years I had put others before me, it was time to take control of my life. I bought a planner and mapped out my schedule, closely looking at each and every activity. I jotted down things I long to do; activities that were abandoned years ago when life becomes too busy. I discussed my hopes and dreams with my husband and vowed to make the next year “all about me.”
In the past two years since that “aha” moment, I’ve experienced great progress. I have found time to make it back to the gym. I picked up that book on my nightstand and I even found time to catch up on reality television, a guilty pleasure that has been on hiatus in my life. I’ve spent time quietly writing at the local coffee shop and I’ve made it a point to create time to relax and catch up with my husband and spend quality time with our family.
Life is crazy busy and I know it’s will be for years to come, but I’ve learned an important lesson in not letting stress consume your life. Thanks to vitamins and a year of patience, my hair grew back, a sign that my life was getting back on track. And I realized that it’s not selfish to put myself first,learning to say “no” is not a bad thing. The healthier and happy I am with myself, the better mother, wife and friend I will be.