Our girls go back and forth between two houses. When they were little, when I was first in the picture, my husband and I decided that in order to make this back and forth feel less jarring, we needed to create a stable, even keel, calm, and structured environment in our home. When they were little, that had a lot to do with bedtimes – always early and always the same, baths, schedules, etc. We were hell bent on sticking to our self-prescribed rules, schedules, and guidelines so they would always know what to expect at our house.
We also realized, early-on, that their feelings of safety, security, and sanity depended a lot on our feeling safe, secure, and sane. They thrive when we thrive. We agreed that we too had to commit to keeping ourselves in good shape, mentally and physically, so we were strong and good for them.
For my husband, that means going to the gym almost daily, keeping up with a crazy pace at work, and when he was in school, studying and keeping up with his classes. In addition to meeting up with friends over poker or a cigar.
I’m much more flappable than he is in the sense that when things get challenging for us in one way or another, my tendency is to hunker down and do whatever I can to make my family’s lives easier. I stop taking the time to write, I stop going to the gym and/or paying attention to nutrition, I see my friends less, and I am present in the thick of things at home. I feel the need to race home to them after work, to be sure everyone is okay, to be there for anything they may need (no matter how trivial).
This past fall we had to deal with some things and once again, I kind of dropped everything. It was the only thing I could think to do – just be there. My husband knows me annoyingly well – I can’t tell you how simultaneously f-cking irritating and great that is. In late September, he asked if maybe it wasn’t a good time for me to go back to my therapist. To which I of course responded that I didn’t think I needed to, but if he felt like it was necessary, then FINE. I mean – screw him.
But oh my goodness, the second I was in the waiting room, I was so relieved to be there. When you go to therapy with other members of your family you forget how glorious it is to have a therapist to yourself for an entire hour who only wants to talk about YOU. Heaven. It didn’t take long for me to realize I’d really let things slide – for me. My family was of course doing fine, but they would continue to be fine if I came home an hour later because I’d stopped at the gym, or if I shut my home office door and went back to writing.
Because of course, it’s easier for them to thrive when we thrive.
I talked to my family and told them that, for me, it’s really important to do some things that allow me to be at my best. My nonnegotiables. They are writing, working out, eating better, seeing my girlfriends – even if it’s on a weekend when the girls are with us, and check-ins with my therapist whether it be monthly or every couple of weeks depending on the stuff we’re dealing with. The girls were like “yeah! Go to the gym! Write! It’s fine!” Clearly, everyone in my family can see how important these things are to my sanity – except sometimes me.
I rejoined my old gym, I started writing again, and I rejoined Weight Watchers. I made a commitment to myself to always, ALWAYS, make time for my nonnegotiables because I’m tired of figuring it out and then letting them go and subsequently starting over – over and over again. I want consistency and maintenance. I want the things we’ve always tried to provide for the girls.
I finished 2019 going to the gym regularly, 13 lbs lighter than I’d been in September, and with new ideas about what I want to do next with my writing.
Imagine my dismay when this past Friday, just three days into 2020, I found out my gym was raising prices by 64%. I’m sorry, wha? I was already having some doubts about being there again but I didn’t have any solid reasons to switch or ideas of where else to go – until now. I researched boxing gyms (my workout of choice) like a Ninja all weekend, tried a new one last night (new gyms = SCARY!), and I officially joined tonight. Last September, had this happened, I would have waffled and it would have taken me months to make a decision. But finally, at 43 years old, I know myself well enough to know that if I hadn’t made a swift and definitive decision, my fitness would have once again slid.
I’m not doing that again.
Holding true to my nonnegotiables allows me to be a stronger and healthier (mentally and physically) mom, wife, friend, daughter, employee, and human. This world is not one for the weak – especially right now – so I’m grateful to be in a place where I am self-aware enough to keep myself in-check (yeah, yeah, and to have a husband who will always tell me like it is, even when it’s not what I want to hear).