“What Not to Wear” was a show that, despite every episode following the same monotonous formula, viewers never seemed to tire of watching. I think the allure was both Stacy and Clinton’s candor, and seeing the transformation of everyday people who had lost themselves along the way somewhere. There was an authenticity to seeing how these folks — many of them caregivers — had “let themselves go” in the pursuit of serving others. By the makeover part, they were often in tears seeing what a few minutes of TLC (tender loving care, not The Learning Channel) could do for them. They almost always broke down.
I think parenthood can become a lot like this if we’re not careful. What I mean is we can lose ourselves, our own hobbies and things we like to do. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve often wondered who is looking out for me and my needs, and that I’ve harbored resentment at times about all that falls on my shoulders. We talk about “carving out time for ourselves,” but the very act of carving can indicate we’re looking for scraps around the “meat” of life. We can be intentional about our passions in a way that is a healthy example for our children.
Admittedly, this is easier said than done. Just like on “What Not to Wear,” where family members or friends nominated the contestants and had to provide evidence of the person’s need for intervention, my family staged its own sort of “intervention” for me this week.
You see, last year right around my birthday, Greg and I rented race cars through a special event and ran them on a real track with instructors. It was the most exhilarating, exciting, scary and fun experience I can remember in a loooooooooong time. The day had such an impact on me that I continued to share about it with anyone who would listen as recently as a few weeks ago.
Knowing this, Greg began researching how I could do this as a hobby, and you really have to have a car to drive if you want to race. He started a search in February, secretly bought me a car in June, had racing tires and other work done to make it track-ready, and hid it in the garage of his office building for the past two months. On Monday, he and the kids surprised me with it right before we were leaving for an overnight trip to celebrate our 19th anniversary. When I asked him why he did it, as I am still trying to wrap my brain around such an incredible, generous and thoughtful gift, part of the answer was, “I knew you’d never do it for yourself.”
It’s not selfish to do something for you in this season; it’s the opposite.
The lead up to my track day yesterday included a lot of acid reflux and anxiety. It’s one thing to drive someone else’s car on a race track. It’s entirely different when it’s your own. I thought after four runs on the track yesterday my body and mind would relax, but I couldn’t even sleep last night because now my mind is “racing” about how I can improve and get faster. I think I still have adrenaline pumping through my veins.
I realize the magnitude of such a gift and both the ability and permission to pursue something like this are not in the cards for everyone. But for you, maybe it’s some other sport or exercise. Or perhaps it’s something artistic, and signing up for a painting, drawing or calligraphy class would push the right buttons for you. Or maybe you love music, so it could be instrument or singing lessons. It could be as simple as loving Legos and all you really need to do is organize a neighborhood Lego swap and share so you can let your imagination run wild. I’ll never forget when one of my mentors told me she did improv on the side. It doesn’t have to be over-the-top. If you have a nursing baby, it could be getting in a walk ALONE or a long bath with no interruptions. The point is, don’t wait for someone else to do it for you (like me).
It really is never too late to try something new or reignite a former passion. Even if you are in a life phase of caregiving, whether an elderly parent or an infant or toddler, or have a demanding job, it’s not selfish to do something for you in this season. It’s actually the opposite, because when you are recharged, you are better able to help others.
It’s hard not to feel on top of the moon, incredibly loved and completely overwhelmed. Like on “What Not to Wear,” the people who nominate their loved ones for these transformative, lavish gifts see us and want us to feel the love we give to them. It is humbling in the most incredible way.
If you have lost yourself in parenthood, begin with carving. Baby step by baby step, get back to something you love. By so doing, your kids will learn that becoming an adult doesn’t mean you lose yourself or that you are too afraid to try something new. After all, you don’t want to be the person who resurrects that 360-degree mirror wondering how you got to this mom jeans moment as the lead actor in a “What Not to Wear” intervention.
P.S. I peed in peace seven times at the track yesterday. SEVEN.