This last week I found my stress levels rising, brainpower depleting, and energy levels waning.
One remark from my youngest at bedtime on Thursday night was the crunch point, and after a good cry, I knew I needed to take some time to reflect—I couldn’t let the single parent syndrome kick in again.
I considered: what am I actually feeling? And, Why? Where have these emotions come from? What were the triggers? And most importantly, how am I going to stop them from recurring?
Whilst all these thoughts were swimming in my mind, I was presented with a question from someone whom I greatly respect. She asked, “What about your pots? How’s the Amy pot doing?”
If you’re not familiar with this analogy, start by imagining you have a number of cooking pots in front of you; on each of them is written a word or two. In my case, they say, “Children,” “Work,” “Relationship,” “Family,” “Friends,” “Community,” “Other Responsibilities,” and “Me.” Everyone has their own bespoke collection.
By considering how much time and energy we are putting into each pot, we can seek to find a happy balance, or at least a peaceful one. It’s also a great way to evaluate where we want to invest our resources. When the pots we associate as most important are being drained whilst we fill up the ones we consider less so, we can start to feel a sense of unease and imbalance in our lives.
I had not been filling those pots in a way that was healthy for me, so whilst focussing on one or two, a couple that are significant to me were in need of some serious attention. I had to consciously stop and change where I chose to exert my energy and also when.
However, I’m someone who naturally puts others’ needs before my own, and so my pot is often forgotten and left unattended for long periods of time. On Friday morning when she asked the question, it was close to empty.
Over the last few years I have learnt about maitri, I have listened to Waylon discussing how it isn’t about self-care, and I understand the difference—but it struck me that actually, I think self-care can be closely connected to maitri. Surely if I were truly my own best friend and loved myself unconditionally as I do my loved ones, then I would be investing more time and energy in caring for myself?
I would be saying to my friend, go do something you enjoy, cook that soup you’ve been wanting to try, make the nice coffee you like in a morning but never find the time for, and spend those few extra minutes enjoying the sensation of the water on your skin in the shower that you often cut short.
So, on Friday, I wholeheartedly participated in a pilates class, enjoyed an hour and a half walk with my border collie dog through the local countryside, and played a couple of computer games with my youngest that he was proud to have designed and had been longing to show me.
For this week at least, I will be mindful of my pots and experimenting with where I spend my time and energy. I’ll also be ensuring I make a little effort filling my own—every single day.