In one of the last emails Daniel sent to me before he died, he asked me to please make sure that while I was trying to take care of him and take care of Grayson too, that I also take care of myself. He made the statement that I was the last line of defense for our family and that for all of our sakes I needed to be well-cared for and strong. At the time I assured him that I was in fact taking care of myself, and I believe at the time I thought I was telling the truth. Years later, I can see that I wasn't taking care of myself as well as I should have, and this trend continued from that point until not too long ago.
I am still the "last line of defense" for our family, but our family is smaller now and in some ways my responsibilities are greater. I am the head of household and the final decision-maker in all matters. Sometimes the responsibility is overwhelming. Sometimes when I have worked and worked and worked both personally and professionally, and when I feel like I've reached the end of my rope....I take a long look around and realize that while I'm still breathing in and out, my breaths aren't near as deep and fortifying as they should be. Its at those times that I shut it all down and focus on me. Maybe it's only for an hour (or even only 15 minutes). Maybe I'm not even truly alone in that moment, but I just shut out the world. I breathe, I notice my own heartbeat, I take stock.
As a single parent, my moments alone without a pressing task to complete are few and far between. When I get them I relish them and I am protective of them. I need those few moments to reconnect with myself - get a pedicure, read a book (or a blog!), sit quietly on my back patio drinking coffee and listening to the birds. Anything can work, but I need to take the time. Just a few precious moments will help, and suddenly I'm okay with being the last line of defense. It doesn't take much to get me back on track, and for that I'm eternally grateful.
I am doing a better job of keeping this promise I made to Daniel. I am taking better care of myself, and I am making my own happiness a priority. Happy parents have happier kids, and I keep reminding myself that Grayson will only benefit from any future happiness I can create. Its tough to do some days. But I'm practicing. Practice makes perfect, I don't think I'm perfect, but practicing is a good place to start.