Have you ever stopped to think of how many times a day you ask for permission to do something? How many times a day are you asked permission by someone else to do something? Could be a friend, spouse, sibling, co-worker or neighbor. Lord knows your child does it. Constantly. “Mom! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Mama! Mama! Mama! Ma! Ma! Ma! Ma! . . . ”
I woke up this morning and decided to keep track of both numbers. I failed. By 8:27 AM I couldn’t keep up. Yup, that early. It was just too hard. I had a feeling that people asked me for permission countless times a day, BUT I never realized just how many times I ask for permission in a day.
“Mr. X, would it be okay if I observed student Y in your first period class today?”
“Mrs. A, can I please see student B at 11:00 for testing?”
“C, I really, really have to run to the bathroom. Can you please listen for my phone because I am waiting for Mrs. Q to call me?”
And so on, and so on, and so on . . .
See, the problem with me is that in my personal life I need permission to do what it is I need (or want) to do. If I do not think it is the right thing, I will be overcome with the Irish-Catholic guilt I am all too familiar with. Yup, THAT guilt. The only competition it has is Jewish Grandmother guilt – which is probably why the Catholic Church is against “mixed marriages.” A combination of Jewish Grandmother guilt and Irish-Catholic guilt would be way too much for one person to handle – though some lucky therapist would make out like a bandit.
Amongst the many things I feel guilty for on a daily basis:
• Not calling my parents enough
• Not keeping in better touch with extended family
• Not getting to every single student who needs my attention
• Not being a good enough friend
• Not being a good enough mom
• Sitting down
• Doing anything for myself
Imagine my guilt when my daughter and I faced a crisis last spring that took every ounce of my time, energy and being. The week prior I made two TMR appearances, and then *poof* I vanished into thin air – and basically stayed there until fairly recently. Forget about writing for TMR; I didn’t even read TMR. I couldn’t. I had nothing left. I barely communicated with my TMR family. They had a basic idea of what was happening, but even they, my soul sisters and brother, did not know the details – the day-to-day happenings and the strain it was putting on me. They said they understood. They covered for me. They forgave me, but I didn’t forgive myself. I could give them nothing, so I kept my distance. They gave me permission to take all the time I needed. They sent encouraging messages and texts that often went unreturned because I just couldn’t. Here was the question, if they gave me permission, why is it that I could not grant myself the same permission?
Over the course of the most stressful and painful three months I have faced as a mom, I had everyone from coworkers to neighbors to friends to my own very concerned mom basically tell me I looked like shit. They worried. I said I was fine. They expressed their concern. I told them not to. They asked if they could help. I said no. I did not give myself permission to not be okay. I didn’t even want to talk about it – it was too painful. Even in the aftermath, it still is.
As the crisis came to a close, I found myself becoming more and more tired. You know how it is: you hold yourself together while you have to, and then . . . crash! Everything became a challenge, and my immune system tanked. I would get through the busy work week only to fall completely apart every single weekend. The recovery process was almost as difficult as the trauma, but I would not acknowledge that. Just keep going . . .
Then, about a month or so after things began to settle down I had an appointment with a practitioner who remarked at how incredibly tired my entire system was. At first I heard it with a “duh, I know I am tired” sort of mentality. Then it sunk in, and the exhaustion seemed to get worse. For the first time I acknowledged to myself just how much our life’s events had taken from me. It didn’t matter who else gave me the permission, I needed to take time and recover. I had to. Me. No one else.
One of the hardest things I have ever done was grant myself this permission – and realize that it is NOT a sign of weakness, but one of strength. It was by pretending to be strong, when I had no right to be, that I demonstrated weakness. I have recently become a strong believer in affirmations. This is my new one:
“It is okay to not do it all. It is okay to let people cover for me. It is okay to accept support and love even when I have nothing to give in return” (Yes, that third sentence is the hardest one to stick).
I am still taking time to recover, and have no idea when I will be able to jump back in with both feet. The exhaustion just doesn’t go away. I have tons of topics that I want to write about, and will do so when I can, not when I feel I have to. My hope in sharing this story is not just so you will realize I was not voted off the TMR island, but that maybe I will have reached someone else who is also a guilt-ridden Irish-Catholic Jewish Grandmother and thinks that they have to do it all even when they are falling apart in every way possible – and that when they can’t, they are undeserving of reaching out for help. It doesn’t matter what anyone else says; it only matters what you say. Please, give yourself permission to ________________ (insert whatever it is you need or feel). I for one have felt a calmness since I gave myself this gift. I am not always waiting for that bell to ring and for things to change – to suddenly feel better. No need to panic. It WILL happen.
It. Is. Okay.
Please be well and take care of YOU!
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