Making Myself a Priority
Last week, I wrote about climbing through grief. This week, I will focus on what I learned in the throes of the cycle of grief.
Several people share the opinion that I do too much. My cousin often says that he wants me to say no to people and projects. “Stop being so nice,” he says. Admittedly, I am an empath. I do too much. I care too much. I think too much. I feel too much. If and when I commit to something, it becomes a priority. I am an all-or-nothing kind of woman often spreading myself thin.
The valley of grief has revealed that very few people will sit with me in the dark. Honestly, some of the same people whom I accompanied through their storms of life have disappeared from mine. This remains the most difficult lesson to process, yet every day, I realize that self-preservation is key. I cannot hold another person accountable for the things I allow. If I do not prioritize myself and my time, how can I demand that anyone else do the same? The intent of this week’s column is to urge you to treat yourself with the same care and respect that you give to others.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated.” My mother did not pen this adage, but it was a guiding principle taught in our home. It served as the foundation for the career I chose, my dedication to the community, and the advocacy work I later pursued. My parents are community-oriented altruistic individuals, and I am proud to say I follow in their footsteps. I make a conscious effort to honor this principle.
People are important to me, and I won’t apologize for that. I will acknowledge that caring about the condition of people does not necessitate the forsaking of my needs. Accessibility occasionally attracts opportunists. Kindness is often mistaken for weakness. People will drain you of your time, care, emotions, and talents. They will deplete you and leave you with their emotional baggage. What are the benefits to that? There are none.
Time is a precious commodity, and a chronic illness diagnosis is not a prerequisite to discern its value. Unopposed, chronic illness dictates that we cautiously govern our time and energy. Navigating everyday life requires effort. Failure to set boundaries or prioritize ourselves is detrimental to our health. I believe in practicing empathy and giving back. I also understand that I will dehydrate if there is no water in my well.
In closing, this column is not written to deter anyone from practicing love and kindness. The world needs more of it. There is great benefit in living and giving with an open heart. I am simply requesting that you consider yourself foremost, practice self-care, and be assured that even darkness has a purpose. MS and chronic illness define us more than we’d like to admit. It is critical that we guard our hearts, minds, time, and effort. Make yourself a priority. It is empowering and necessary. You matter.
“Action expresses priorities.” –Mahatma Gandhi
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