Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Pieces of Myself

A patient and I were talking about regrets one day. She said something that has stuck with me for a very long time.

"What I regret the most, is that I gave away so many little pieces of myself."

I found that quite profound, and when I asked her what she meant by that, she said that it was really hard to explain, but she felt she had given a bit of herself here and a bit there over the years, and did not concentrate her efforts toward any one thing in particular. And that those small pieces now felt wasteful to her. That they didn't add up to anything important.

"It is better to pick a few special things to put your energy toward. Trying to give too much to too many is not so good."

I think I know now what she was talking about.

Everything tries to grab our attention constantly. Our cell phone, email, silly computer games, the laundry, the car pool, the volunteering at school, the endless driving for errands, the run to the grocery store, the TV, the endless paper piles. You know the drill.

And what does it get us? Mainly stressed out. Feeling like we have been pulled in a thousand different directions.

And all that time that we spend doing it. Does it really define our lives? Does it define who we are?

How much time do we really spend doing that? Defining ourselves?

We all say that we have no time, but if we thought about it, I bet we could come up with at least 30 minutes a day to spend doing something that is special and meaningful in our lives. Something that says, "This is me. This is what I am all about beyond my role as wife, husband, parent...etc."

And that is what I think the patient was talking about when she said she regretted giving away so much of herself. After all, she raised four kids who were wonderful adults, had many cherished friends, a beautiful home and a devoted husband.

"I love my family and my friends and my home. But that is not just who I am. I am much more than that. I just never got around to it, that's all."

We need to be more selfish in our lives. We need to take the time to start that project we always wanted to do, or to take a lesson or just start moving toward our true selves by reading about something we wish to be doing in the future. All paths start with that first step

"I wanted to be a writer." she finally told me. "And I could write. I just didn't do it. Everything else always came first. I always felt there would be more time.... another day, another year. And instead I filled that time with a lot of meaningless tasks that really never were that important. And now I am out of time. If I had to do it all again, I would make myself more of a priority. That is not to say that I don't love others or don't want to care for them. That is an essential part of me. What I mean is all the other clutter that stood between me and who I wanted to become. And that clutter was something I created. Don't do that to yourself. Learn from my mistake."

I learned a wonderful lesson from her that day that I have carried with me for years. I am so grateful to her.

I still give away a few pieces of myself that I wish I could get back; but I pay more attention to it now and I try to make myself a priority now and again.

And I must say, it does feel pretty good.

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