Take Care of Yourself, Please

Dear Friend,
You have got to start taking care of yourself. We, your friends, are starting to notice. We wish we could help more.

A lot of us of a certain age think that taking care of ourselves means being selfish. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s the common saying these days to put your own oxygen mask on first. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t be a model for healthy living for those who are taking our time and energy, and more important, we can’t really help them. In the short term, maybe. In the long term, no. And even though our long term is not as long as it used to be, we still have some time left to enjoy life.

Some of you are taking care of ill spouses. Some of you are helping your children. A number of you are doing both! You know who you are. If the people you are helping don’t care if you are taking care of yourself, that is, don’t care if you are eating well, sleeping, relaxing a bit, in short, having a life, then I say you shouldn’t be giving your life to them.

If there’s something inside of you that won’t let you say no, that makes you believe you are not worthy of your own good life, then please get some counseling. You, your best self, is needed by the world. Not you as an exhausted shade of yourself.

I know about this. I use to be one of the biggest martyrs in my family. I could be a martyr about anything, like feeling put upon after inviting family over for a big holiday gathering, or volunteering again and again for one of our homeowners committees because I thought no one else could or would do it and it was all up to me. Or even saying yes to an invitation/obligation when I wasn’t feeling well. I’ve pretty much climbed down from that cross. Nobody really appreciates it anyway.

Of course, like anything else, we make choices. One of my choices during most of the 20 years of taking care of my husband was to try to stay healthy and have a little life of my own. Even though I developed hypertension and got headaches (!) I did take some time for myself. Thank God! I wonder what shape I would have been in if I hadn’t.
If you do not take care of yourself and have the life you know is right for you now, you never will. We don’t have that much time left. Don’t you think you deserve some time to yourself, just to be, just to muse on what has been your life up to this point, just to plan what you want to do until you leave this planet?

Yet, I believe that service is one of our important activities in this lifetime. I also know that most of the women I know have raised their children to the best of their ability, taken care of a spouse or two, and have paid their dues as a member of the human race. Plenty of service there.

I hate seeing you tired and running yourself ragged. You’re not the only person who can do whatever it is you’re doing. Really. If you weren’t there, someone else would take care of things.

We, your friends, love you. We hate to stand by and watch you drift farther away in health and help. Please do what only you can do. Take care of yourself.
Your friend,
A Wise Widow.