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Professional Development

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A Refocus … For YOU

I am failing at life right now. Failing.

My house looks like I went through every room pulling out stuff I might want to sell in a garage sale, and then after that we got robbed, and then after that a giant gust of wind swept through the entire house, and then after that a class of kindergartners came over for a field trip and played for the entire day unsupervised.

I'm two years behind on "thank you" notes.

I have multiple overdue tasks at work, and—thanks to one lovingly passive-aggressive online project management tool—get daily e-mail reminders on specific tasks I'm overdue on.

I still haven't created the family photo calendar for 2017, and 2018 is just over a month away ... and I haven't printed a fresh picture of my children for over a year.

The bag of potato chips I'm eating for lunch right now reminds me how I'm failing with every crinkle and chop.

My gym membership has gone entirely unused for going-on-six-months now. I'm sooo happy to be contributing to their rent.

I sometimes neglect to bathe my children.

Or myself.

I also don't play with my kids as much as I should, and find myself saying "just a minute ..." or "hang on ..." when there is actually nothing important that I'm doing in that moment.

I haven't reached out to friends I hold dear in months. Many of them with life issues of their own that could use some friend-TLC.

And those are just the easy things ... The ways I'm failing that I'm willing to talk about.

Mom. Employee. Family Member. Friend. Housekeeper. Health-Conscious Human. Human Human.

Yep, I'm pretty much failing in all the categories of life.

And the holidays are coming.

A time of "Do this!" "Be here!" "Look this way!" "Make your house look that way!" "Make your own presents!" "Bake a thing from scratch!" "Smile pretty for the camera!" "Make memories!" "Only XX many shopping days left!"

The thought of all that makes me want to bury myself deeper in the potato chips and add vodka.

And so, self-care?

The thought of "self-care" and "treating yourself and your body like a temple" in these times becomes laughable. I'm offering this temple potato chips for lunch, thank you very much.

The thought of "time out for me" becomes a guilt-ridden thought. "How could I possibly take time out for me when the garage sale/burglars/wind/kindergartners ransacked my house?"

The thought of even taking earned vacation time from work becomes stressful. "But I have so many things to do! And if I step away for (gasp) a week or (gasp GASP) more, there will be so much MORE to do!"

And so, it spirals.

Ah! But therein lies the rub, my friends.

Because if we don't hit "pause" every once in awhile. If we don't stop and breathe every once in awhile. If we don't look up at the sky—or just look up, period. If we don't, well ...

We know how this story goes.

It's overused, but astute (which is why it's overused). A because-no-one-has-come-up-with-a-better-way-to-describe-it analogy: the whole oxygen mask on the airplane deal.

You HAVE to put yours on first, even if you're with your own child. Because without yours on first, you're dead. And dead, well ... You can't help anyone else.

I've taken self-care moments amid my life-failing current state of being. I'd be lying if I didn't say they make me feel guilty and like a terrible person.

Until I remind myself about the oxygen mask.

Because our children need us. Whether they are our children, or they are the children we serve, or they are simply the people around us.

They need us.

So. What is one to do in the conundrum of "I'm failing at life" + "I need to take time for self-care" = "What the heck am I supposed to DO already?!"

(I'll take any answers you've got right about now: Call lines are OPEN!)

In the end, I think it always comes back to this:

Forgiveness and love.

Forgiveness and love.

Forgiveness and love.

Of myself and of those around me.

We're all just doing the best we can. Sometimes we're on top of the world—at the peak of the mountain—and sometimes we're in the deepest valley ... a valley so deep that darkness shrouds the mountain itself. And sometimes we're in the middle of the climb.

Forgiveness and love.

Self-care can look like a lot of things. It can look like a saltwater float. It can look like a vacation TAKEN. It can look like binge-watching your favorite TV show. It can look like anything that gives you a "time out."

But it can also look like a simple refocus.

As Faouzi Skali reminds us: "My friend, stop searching for the why and the how. Stop spinning the wheel of your soul. Right now where you stand at this moment everything is given you in utmost perfection. Accept this gift. Squeeze the juice of the passing moment."

Sometimes, self-care is looking past the house that has been ransacked by garage sales/burglars/wind/kindergartners and seeing what ELSE is there. For me, this is there. This tree, in my backyard:



When the "I'm failing!!!!!" demons come clutching for you, kick them away with a refocus.

I hear the wind right now and it's kicking up the leaves that have fallen from the trees. It sounds like some kind of waterfall, or wind chime.


Whether you're at the peak, in the valley, or in the midst of the climb ...

How can you refocus, for yourself, today?

Currently a speaker, author, educator, blogger and mother, Erika Petrelli has been in the field of education for more than 15 years. She currently exercises her dynamic education experience as Senior Vice President of Leadership Development and self-proclaimed Minister of Mischief at The Leadership Program.

Photo Courtesy of Erika Petrelli.