What Makes Me Come Alive?
by Rachel Hecker
I’m a list person. I can’t function without them. If you look around my house, you’ll find little pieces of paper on random surfaces with everything from grocery lists to reminders to pump milk. In fact, somewhere there’s probably a reminder to clean up all these lists. I used to view my life as a to-do list of reminders that made up my day. That is, until I found what makes me come alive.
Certain things don’t make my to-do list because they happen so frequently I don’t need reminders, such as laundry, dishes and meal making. But my life became the sum of these lists. Even the fun things like going ice-skating as a family was assigned and checked off. Yet there was little joy for me in these fun activities I had planned. Spontaneous joy wasn’t ever on my lists. And how could it be? With endless cleaning and tantrums, dirty diapers, sleepless nights and a pleasant, but not particularly passionate, marriage. How was I supposed to inject excitement and joy just for me?
I needed to find out what would bring me some excitement and joy. Last Easter before my daughter began her Easter egg hunt, she literally shook with joy. She was so excited that she could not contain herself. I wanted some of that joy. So naturally, I made a list, a list of everything in life that brought me incredible happiness. When I started this list, my thoughts went straight to my family. What makes me happy is my family. But, I wanted to go beyond that and let go of the guilt that lingered when I did. As a woman, what were some things that could make me come alive? It was difficult to come up with ideas at first, but the more I wrote, the easier it became. Here’s a sampling of what I jotted down:
- Adult get-togethers that do not center on parent talk, but rather on discussions about art, books, spirituality or travel.
- A great date night – not dinner out where we inevitably talk about kids or finances or home improvements.
- An amazingly good dessert (scale be darned)
- Creating something with my hands for someone outside of the family.
- Finding an outlet for artistic expression.
For me, the realization was that adult joy must be cultivated and even nurtured. The woman that is hidden behind the mom and the wife needs coaxing and encouragement to come out.
I know I desperately need to be energized by my joy findings, so I can give the endless resources my children demand of me. When I am emotionally and spiritually fulfilled, I can pour that joy back into them. If I am depleted, there’s obviously nothing left for me to give, and I find myself getting lost in my to-do list.
Rachel Hecker lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and two children.