I’m currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that many of my “depression lessons” from my fight through postpartum depression and life, are succinctly mirrored to her monthly bids at happiness projects. While she wished she had more of a platform of hard life experiences to draw on in order to relate to her readers, I’ve had more than my fair share, and yet we both write about the same things – finding more happiness, embracing our imperfections, trying to enjoy parenting when it really sucks the life out of you, and above all, joyful abundance of self-care.
My project has been more of a Bring Me Back to Life Project, as I’m working to retrain myself to experience joy again after so much hardship and tragedy, but I find the same basic principles of Rubin’s Happiness Project at the foundation of my daily work. I’ve been put into a situation with PPD/PPA where I’ve been forced to make my own self-care and happiness a priority. When my husband, Kory, went to rehab, he was forced to do the same thing: put his self-care first, and that’s why he’s still sober two years later. Both of us are “recovering everythings” in our own unique ways. Our journeys to healing are what have kept us together; our devotion to our own ritualistic inner and outer daily maintenance the basis of our success in staying together, and raising a generally contented family of six.
Even as we’ve faced the stresses of parenting four kids through PPD/PPA, even as we were putting our family back together after Kory went to rehab, we’ve both made self-care a top priority, knowing this alone would keep us afloat. These last eight months since our daughter’s birth, as we’ve watched unwashed laundry piles grow legs in every corner of every room, dog poop piles fill the side yard, and weeds grow between the cracks of the front walk way, we’ve simply sighed and acquiesced, knowing we could only do so much. Yet still, we made sure Kory got to the gym a few nights a week, at least. Still, we drug our way through hours of reading Vroom Vroom Llama Llama or breaking up, “He pinched me!” fights, so I could get time to write or he could leave the house to feel the freedom of NOT being a parent for an hour.
At our worst, Kory shortened his morning ritual from 40 minutes to 15 so I could sleep, but he still made sure he meditated for 10 of those 20 minutes, and before he got in the shower, he woke me up first and gave me 10 minutes of HEAVEN to start my day off with less of a deficit. 10 minutes of Heaven each, saved us, and our marriage, empowering us daily to keep fighting our individual, and collective beasts.
In many ways, PPD and years of tragedies have dictated our abilities, shunting our capability to do more, be more, or have more. But, in many other ways, we have not let any of it stop us from getting exactly what we needed to THRIVE, instead of SURVIVE. Our hardships have actually forced us to build bright glow sticks to hold up and revel in, as we fight together, each darkness that confronts us.
Each of us in this world has our own crutch or cross to bear. Yours may look more like parenting a special needs child while trying to build a home business or care-giving aging elders sooner than you were ready to. Every one of us will at some point feel like we have to make sacrifices – to let something “give” because we just can’t do it all. For you, it may not be the laundry, it may be the dream of a larger home, but the smaller one with the lower rent or mortgage affords you mini-vacations and little luxuries, so you do it. Or, it may be less time for manicures and nail polish or even just a close shave – but you let those things go willingly so you can squeeze in those two hours a week at yoga class.
It’s ok. This too shall pass. I won’t have PPD forever. You won’t have your crutch or cross forever. But, soon, we will have different crutches and crosses to bear, that’s one thing that’s certain, isn’t it? It never stops. It never ends. There’s always this give and take of put a little more on this side of the scale, a little less on that one. That is parenting, that is life, with PPD or special needs or elder parents or grief, or without.
Whatever you are balancing right now, whatever you are forgoing, I hope you do not cross yourself off the to-do list. I hope you make time for YOUR TEN MINUTES OF HEAVEN as often as you can – be it reading, meditating, yoga-ing, writing, exercising, doing nothing mindfully likethis guy suggests in his TedX talk, practicing gratitude like this blogger William Lloyd, or spending time in nature. I hope you use your unique crutch to propel you to more self-care, instead of less. I hope you realize that the only way to survive the tough times is to build reserves in the good ones – to be devoted to filling your well daily, regardless of circumstance. And if you have excuses – lots of good ones, I’m sure – for why you’re not carving out that time for you, I hope you think of Kory and I juggling addictions, deaths, depressions, recoveries, illnesses and hospital visits, and tell yourself to just get creative and find a way to do it. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving, I guarantee you, and I speak from a hellavu lot of experience!
If you’re not sitting around biting your nails waiting for my next post, I hope you’ll be levitating off the ground somewhere in your unique little ten minute slice of heaven. What does your TEN MINUTE SLICE OF HEAVEN look like and how are you MAKING it happen for yourself today, or how you swear to do it tomorrow? Comment below!
See you again soon. I’m trying to post more frequently!