Photo of a heart-shaped leaf for you as St. Valentine’s approaches….
In just a few days it will be my birthday. It’s always a time for reflection, isn’t it? Here is a poem I wrote on my birthday in 2016. This was a time when I was feeling the pain of having had to reduce my work at Langara College to half-time (my day-job where I teach Latin American and Canadian Studies). I desperately needed more time for self-care. The poem is about the sweetness of forgiving myself for this loss, and opening up to the possibilities less paid work would bring.
February 12, 2016
Of the idea that my self worth
Is only wrapped up in my paid work
Of perceived notions of my future
Of the idea that I will lose connection and
respect if I focus on my needs, my health
Of resentment and anger at what is now my
Need for self-care
All the ways I am good: a mother, a daughter, a friend, a citizen – a smiler
at strangers passing by: this does not change if I take care of myself
Creative energies I can harness if I am less
stressed/busy/enmeshed in paid work
The beauty of each moment as I have space to be there for them
A sweet forgiveness of myself for not being able to do some things
And an embrace of other things I can do
Including sitting on this sunny, oceany bench
And cultivating good energy to swoosh out into the world
I remember so vividly the tremendous angst I felt at this time: guilt, the worry that others would see me as ‘less than’ for working less, the fear of less human connection. Those worries were unfounded. No one thought less of me for doing what I needed to do. Connections at Langara College did reduce, but it opened doors for new, deeply meaningful connections in the world of mindfulness. All that said, I know I am lucky; some people cannot return to any level of paid work and as such they have an even deeper life-change to process and grieve.
In my case I never once regretted reducing my workload after I’d done it. As is so often the case, the anticipatory fears I felt were so much worse than reality. That said, I know I’m tremendously privileged for having the financial stability to work less – not everyone can. Still, you might want to ask yourself this question: Can I afford to work less so I have the time for self-care? It may mean there is less money for material things, but you may find that it’s well worth the pay-off (if, of course, you can afford it).