What drives you? What do you want out of life? What do you want out of every day? Do you even know? Sometimes we get so caught up in the daily grind, taking care of everybody but ourselves, that we forget to think about it.
Some years ago I was looking forward to a weekend of alone-time because hubby was going fishing. I delighted in the thought of attacking my to-do list, not hearing the TV, not smelling cigarette smoke – well, this is my ex-husband I’m talking about so I’ll leave it at that.
Problem was, as soon as his truck disappeared around the bend, I sank down on the couch in such a funk. Completely lethargic. Blue, for no reason. Couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. It worried me. Was this depression, and where had it come from? Eventually I got up, walked from room to room, snacked on junk food, watched TV, and basically killed time until he returned. What a waste of a perfectly good weekend!
Eventually, we split for other reasons. As I worked through the divorce and learned new life skills, I came to realize that, much like women everywhere (and not a few men), I had been trained to place the needs of others before my own. I was reactive, not proactive, and when my motivation (other humans to serve) went away even for a short time, I was left with the question: “What now?”
And I had no answer. Back then, I had no idea what books I wanted to read, vacations I might want to take, movies I might want to see, or hobbies that lit me up. Nothing.
I wasn’t exactly wasting my life. I worked fulltime in a demanding job and commuted an hour each way, so I used up every bit of energy I had. When I had free time I tackled my to-do list. Given that reality, everything I “wanted” to do sounded like this: I want to clean out the linen closet. I want to organize my files. Yuck, right? But until this moment of clarity I hadn’t seen it.
I was unhappy to think that I had been so unsupportive of myself, that I was sleepwalking through my life, not appreciating the gift that it is. Time passes. You can’t get it back.
In the years since, I have changed. I now try to ask myself these questions regularly: What do I want? What would make me happy right now? The answer is usually simple: I would like to sit on my patio and read a magazine. I would like to phone my sister. Sometimes plans are longer term: I would like to play that golf course over in the next town. I would like to stay in Sedona a couple days. And maybe I plan it, or maybe not, but at least I’m more in touch with who I am as a person, as an individual.
Another tactic: Every night before I fall asleep I list five things that made me happy that day. Even if it’s simple (“I enjoyed the camaraderie at my book club”) it qualifies. I usually end up running way past five. By thinking about what made me happy I am able to value my days more powerfully, and again, be more in touch with what I enjoy.
I am not a selfish person, but it’s good to get in the habit of finding reasons to live for yourself. Even if you share your life with others, you have to be able to answer the question: What do YOU want? What would make YOU happy? Otherwise you might be in the same spot I was, having to respond: I don’t have the faintest idea.