We all get stimulated through interaction with friends, people, loved ones. We simply were made for relationship. Whether we are communicating at work, parenting, or out with friends, we are accustomed to having another person on the other side of our conversations.
Although relationship is great, there are times we need to create space to spend with ourselves. Our mental health cannot solely rest on how others are engaging with us every day. There are times when they will not be able to meet our emotional needs and vice versa. I have heard common reports of experiencing depression, anxiety, and a decreased self-esteem due to less stimulation and interaction. Why does this often hit our self-esteem so hard? In a world where we are constantly emotionally rewarded through likes, loves, emojis and entertainment, I feel we have somehow lost our ability to simply be content with ourselves. Subsequently, we have also become uncomfortable with quiet moments.
As a single mom of three and recent empty nester, I came face to face with this crushing reality. I realized my home was always filled with energy and noise. The debates, funny jokes, nerdy conversation over meals; working out, making someone else grab my keys while I'm rushing to get out the door. We are close and we did everything together! I was always responsible for driving my kids to school, doctor visits, performances, a.k.a #allthethings. When my youngest child went off to college, that stopped. I came home from a seven hour drive from his campus to the "quiet". Nothing moved. I couldn't feel any energy. Everything was just still. I felt uncomfortable sleeping in my room so I slept on the couch for the first 6 months close to the front door. I did not feel needed anymore and I did not know how to be alone.
I began to excessively incorporate tasks. I stayed at work longer, developed daily cleaning regimens, workout schedules, and more. Anything to fill the space because I no longer felt "safe" outside of my identity as mom. Who was I before anyway and where in the heck did she go? I started second guessing my choices. Do I go back to making music again? Performing? Dance? Finish writing my books? Start finalizing paperwork for my ministry organizations? It was a mess!
Why now? Why are the things I love so much showing up in the quiet? Now, I'm feeling unfulfilled! Like I have failed somewhere. Was I not on top of the world just 7 hours ago before I dropped my son off? Did I really let being a single mom overrule the creative things inside of me till now? And the dreaded question of all time....what's next? From someone who loves the Lord so much, I began praying for clarity, direction, and peace of mind.
We must learn to be content with ourselves! What I discovered is that I was living "reactively" out of responsibility to meet the needs of others verses carving out purposeful "me" time to live "proactively" in my own life which requires our direct intent. Some individuals may look outwardly to find a partner to fill in the gaps and meet emotional needs but I began to date myself. I did not call friends or family. I sat and processed my feelings and allowed myself to feel and grieve the loss of "the daily mom life". I went out to dinner by myself regularly and felt the initial awkwardness but have grown to love it now!
Through developing relational intimacy with myself, I learned all my gifts and talents were not hidden and coming back to haunt me. They have always been there, just not functional for the season I was in as a full time clinician and single mom. If we aren't careful, we can find ourselves overreacting to our feelings which can present as a midlife crisis sending us into spiraling crevices of misdirection and undefined purpose. So take time for yourself! Learn how to be content outside of those defining identity roles we play as mom, employee, sister, brother, father, boss, caregiver, or supervisor. If we cling too close, when those people or things are gone, we no longer know ourselves.
So, practice carving out time for you this week. Journal and reflect on your thoughts. Sit alone. Eat alone. In the photo I've shared, no one is across the table at one of my favorite places to eat and its intentional. If we learn to be content in silence, we can discover so much about ourselves! So don't be afraid to take time to enjoy all the creative things that makes you "uniquely you" outside of the roles we have in our daily lives!