I’m on a journey to finding what I call my center. I’m mindful of this. I’m spending a lot of time focusing on all the things that support me in a way that I can be the best that I can be, but also finding happiness and contentment there. It’s a difficult journey in our society, trying to find that delicate balance. Even with public pressure to embrace mental health, there still is rampant competitiveness in every aspect of our lives. People aren't ready to look at themselves within their worlds.
I think, in general, people look at mental health in broad terms. They don’t realize or admit that the stresses they put on themselves every day are not beneficial to their well being. We are constantly pushed to take on more at work and try to be ahead of our peers. We are supposed to be super-parents, by balancing work, keeping up our homes, getting our kids to their programs and helping with homework, all while being up in the middle of the night tending to our children too. And through this, we stand in front of a mirror and challenge ourselves to have the body we had when we were 20. We shame ourselves if we don’t make time for that. We shame ourselves again when we forget. We shame ourselves in silence if we feel we have failed. We do all of this and then start the next day, a little more wrinkled and our spirits a little more dimmed.
It’s not realistic. Even when we hear in our friend’s voices, the cracking of tension as they explain how they are trying to keep up, we empathize and nurture them, only to run back out to our cars with our superhero capes flapping behind us, anxious to jump back into the grind. We are so busy worrying about where we stand amongst everyone else, we have forgotten to just notice where we are within ourselves.
One night, as I lay sleepless in the silence in my home, mentally listing the things I had fallen behind on, I wondered, why? In the end, who really benefits from this way of living? How has having 26 hours of things to do, but only 24 hours in the day to achieve them, become our accepted norm? The constant state of adding to our list of things to do, people to see, places to go, a list that is completely unattainable, and one that just pushes our spirits down, is toxic. Certainly, my kids don’t benefit. I can’t be in a headspace of centered when I feel pulled in so many directions. Certainly, my colleagues don’t either. Who does then?
And then it hit me. There was a shift in my thinking. What was this competition for? Where were the rules on how to win? What was the invisible prize at the end of this life long race? I realized that we do all this, not for ourselves at all, but because we are so concerned and aware of how others perceive us. Do I really care though? Truly, I only want to surround myself with people who think I’m amazing, strictly on the makeup of my character and my achievements in my life thus far. I am quite certain that I do wonderful things every day. I am quite certain that I am a good person. A real friggin' amazing person. With this switch in my head, came the realization that all those other pieces; the work, the recreation, the family, AND the health, all can begin to fall into place when you just focus on being the best you can be and stop comparing yourself with others. And you can still wear the cape if you need. Or want to. When centered, you are surrounded by the people who think you rock, by virtue of how you've made an impression on them. And that’s pretty cool. It’s pretty healthy too.
In our society, we are always a minute late or a step behind. Does it matter though? I just look at it differently now. I’m lucky to have that minute. It’s an extra minute I can spend snuggling with my children, writing a note to a friend or just sitting, taking a breath and focusing on me. Am I a step really behind? The truth is that I win in putting me first. And you know what? I kind of like hanging out in this place where we don’t care if we are in the lead. This is my place. These are my people. I found this all on my way to my center. I'll be honest. I'm still navigating the hills and valleys. But it's an adventure I control.