I removed a perfect little square of dark chocolate from its purple foil wrapper. I looked inside to see the phrase, “Save the best for first.”
The words stopped me in my tracks.
Had I ever done that?
It seems I’m always waiting, wishing, hoping for the next chapter of my life.
I do what must be done each day. I work a stressful job in an industry I don’t love. I’m a single mom. I do the mom things—the cooking, cleaning, shopping, walking the dog kind of stuff. I get so busy with the responsibilities I feel like I should be focusing on, I neglect the things I love the most.
When work is busy, when the kids need something, when the house requires my attention, those things move to the top of my list. My writing projects move to the bottom, along with any kind of relaxation, quality time with people I love, and my own self-care routines.
Sometimes this feels very much like a punishment. I’m six years old again, forced to sit at the kitchen table until I finish this plate of life’s chicken and peas, in hopes that when I’m done there will be chocolate cake left for me. Except, there’s so much chicken, and the peas are so yucky—I don’t know if I’ll ever be allowed to leave the table. I may be stuck here forever, staring at my plate of obligation.
When I was married to my ex-husband and life got tough, we would talk. We would look to the future and say things like, “Our schedule will calm down when the kids are older. We’ll be happy when we sell this house, or buy that car, or get a new job…” Before I knew it, I had invested 13 years—in waiting.
Waiting for that next thing to happen, so we could be happy.
The problem was, happiness didn’t come. Happiness was not something we could arrive at when our children blew out a certain number of birthday candles. Happiness is not included with any purchase. Happiness wasn’t waiting around the corners for us—that’s just not how happiness works.
In fact, happiness wouldn’t have been possible for me as long as I was holding onto that relationship. I didn’t have the space I needed to be who I am, and I wasn’t living according to the guidance of my own heart and soul. This resulted in years of anxiety and depression, and feeling like a complete failure as a wife, mother and woman.
Ending my marriage was a huge step toward creating happiness. I learned so much about myself in the process of creating a new life. I made a promise to myself then to get healthy and happy. I discovered dreams and talents I didn’t know I had. I found my tribe—friends who love me just the way I am. I found my voice again, after years of censorship and criticism. I stepped back into my power.
Today, I’m happier and healthier than ever before—there’s no doubt about that. But, I still feel stuck. I’m much freer, yes, but I’m still doing the things I should. I’m still spinning my wheels in corporate healthcare, when what I want to do is write, travel, speak, and share my experience with others. It feels like I’m still stuck at the table with the chicken and peas.
I’m ready for my goddamn cake.
I’m tired of leaving my dreams somewhere on the horizon. Waiting. Wishing. Hoping that someday I will have the life I desire—the life I deserve.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we save the best for last? Why do we allow things like guilt, fear or the expectations of others to dictate our priority list?
Aren’t we the ones who suffer when the list gets too long for the good stuff to fit on it?
When did health and happiness become a luxury?
Why are we content to wish away the days waiting for the weekend, or next year, or the day when happiness will magically find us?
I’m giving myself permission, once and for all, to save the best for first. To put my dreams at the top of my list. To allow myself time to do all the things I need to do for myself to feel good every day. Time to eat well, exercise, write, socialize, and sleep—really sleep.
No matter how oppressive our responsibilities feel sometimes, they are a choice. We always have the power to choose how we spend our time, who we invest our minutes with, and which items on our lists are most deserving of the most valuable resource we have.
Time is precious. Life is fragile and fleeting. There are no guarantees.
It’s time to save the best for first. Time to move the things that bring joy to our lives to the top of our to-do lists. Time to make our real life look just like our dreams. Time to reward ourselves for all the years we did what we should.
That’s right. It’s cake time, baby.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman