Yesterday, while more than a million women joined together to march in historic solidarity through cities all over the US, I was sitting in the parking lot of Home Depot, scrolling through pictures of overpriced coffee tables on my smartphone while Bruce went inside to buy spackling paste.
When my kids ask me, years from now, what it was like to participate in such a profound and unprecedented demonstration of female unity, I will undoubtedly say something misty and proud about love and justice and giving a damn, before catching myself mid-reverie with a nonchalant eye-wipe, and ending on a deprecating comment about feeling claustrophobic in crowds.
But inside, I will know the truth.
And the truth is not that I didn't want to be there. It's that I wanted to get the security deposit back on our old apartment -- where the walls were still riddled with holes -- more, and yesterday was the only chance we had to do that.
Now, you can imagine how easy it would be to tell myself a story about how this episode of social delinquency makes me a bad person who doesn't really care about women or human rights or civil liberties or social justice, boo hiss! (And if you are a woman who also did not make it to a march, you might have tried this story on for size as well.)
But the truer story to tell, and the one I wish more people could tell themselves, would be about the limited bandwidth that we all have, as humans, to prioritize the things we decide are important.
Ask yourself: at this moment, how many things are competing for your attention as "important"?
I'm willing to bet the answer is numerous.
Living as we do in a world of proliferating options (and proliferating awareness of said options), the question of opportunity cost has never been so poignant. Haunted by perpetual FoMO, we try to do ALL the things -- which invariably leaves us feeling exhausted, depleted, and as though there is "never enough time."
So much so, in fact, that exhaustion ITSELF has become a sort of status symbol.
You see this when your colleague brags about being at her desk until 10pm last night while you went home at six; or when you ask your neighbor how she is and are bombarded by the laundry list of tasks she has to complete that day.
Here's a radical idea: What if we ALL gave ourselves the permission to NOT do/be everything all the time?
What if we collectively decided, "you know, there's no doubt that all these things are worthy of doing. But if I were to try and do them all, I'd be exhausted -- and it's no fun being exhausted, for me or anyone who has to deal with me. Instead, I'm going to forgive myself for having limited bandwidth, and use my energy to do only the things that are most important."
And what if we then collectively expanded the definition of "what's most important" to include resting hard, and taking care of ourselves?
How much more effective would we be, if we were not perpetually exhausted from trying to be the person who can do ALL the things, without ever taking time to replenish?
Because, spoiler alert: This person does not exist.
Rather, she exists in our imaginations, where she has been cruelly cobbled together from disparate shreds of social evidence by our own whip-cracking inner demons. She is nothing but a ghost, and she will haunt you accordingly for as long as you let her.
Today, I invite you to cast this ghost out of your house and replace her with a vision of yourself that is full of energy and wildly effective when it comes to getting important things done -- precisely because she makes it important to care for herself.
Today, I invite you to make whatever it is that YOU want to do, the MOST important thing for you to do today.
Go for a long, meandering walk? Read a cheesy romance novel on the couch? Unpack those damn boxes? Use the unpacked boxes as a footrest? Take a leisurely, candle-lit bath? Go to a movie by yourself? Cook that piece of fish that's been sitting in your freezer for a week? Eat takeout noodles in bed -- even though you promised yourself (and others) that you wouldn't?
Whatever it is that YOU want to do today -- make it important.
Think of it as "Self-Care Sunday." Do whatever it is that will replenish you today, that has no purpose other than to make you feel good. Do it for yourself; and maybe also do it in solidarity with all women, everywhere.