It’s so difficult to keep one’s priorities straight in life and not lose sight of them, and, most importantly, to make enough time for the most important of them.
In recent days, I’ve met a couple of amazingly well turned out women. They are working women, and they are moms. Yet they manage to look like they do nothing but sit around and take care of themselves all day long. If you think that sounds catty, let me be absolutely clear: I mean it as an honest and sincere compliment. It’s great to be able to make the time to do that, when you have a job and a family to look after. I wish I could do that.
My priorities are family, work, and self, in that order. Self encompasses: author ambitions; interests such as Archaeology, music, travel, photography, tennis etc; health (a distant third); and of course social life in terms of keeping in touch with friends and family. For all of this to be crammed into the small space left over after the demands of work and kids… means there isn’t a whole lot of time and energy for any of it. And yet, all of it is important.
It’s not that priorities are fixed and unchanging entities. Far from it. They should and often do change from week to week – and sometimes from day to day – depending on circumstances. Tight deadlines? Work is top priority. Kid falls sick? Work is forgotten! I’m fed up to the gills with work, the kids and everything? It’s time for some rest and relaxation, for a day spent with friends, or with a book (or a week spent in Italy!). But once I’m done with the r&r, it’s back to work and family and ‘self’ goes onto the back shelf for a while.
I have managed to do a few things for myself over the years, despite the combined demands of career and family. I have kept up my tennis fairly regularly, though I might not be playing as well as I used to. And I have resumed my online Archaeology course, though in my opinion I’m making a complete hash of it right now.
It’s difficult to know whether it is more important to do something, or to do something well. When I decided to resume and hopefully complete my Archaeology course, I chose to ‘do something’ and practically gave up on ‘doing it well’. I’m now aiming only to complete the course; I know I’m not going to be able to do it justice. That’s not nice, really. Obviously, I want to do it and I want to do it well. But I can’t, I have to choose. So I’ve chosen to just complete it, somehow. If I wait until I can do it well, I will never complete it, because you have a five year period to complete it and four years are up already.
Now, as a consequence of resuming this course, there are, naturally, some other things that I’m not doing. For one thing, I’m neither sleeping nor exercising as much as I’d like. That’s probably also taking a toll on my tennis. So not only am I not doing justice to my studies, I’m also not doing justice to my tennis, nor to myself (by sleeping too little – a crime against nature; I’m a firm believer in the criticality of getting enough sleep).
All of this is fine. My course finishes by Christmas, and then I can reconsider my priority list yet again. But each time I do so, the difficult part is keeping the top priorities balanced and giving each one sufficient attention at the right time. It’s easy (unavoidable, in fact) to let some things slip. And the least “crucial” things are the first to go. In my life, that includes some of my varied “interests”, health (which means diet and exercise), and – top of the list of things to let slip – taking care of myself.
Taking care of myself comes so much lower on the list than everything else, that it usually falls right off the bottom before I even notice it’s being neglected. Looking good, or at least as good as you can, takes time and money, just like anything else. You have to work at it, to be the right weight, dress the right way, use the right creams and stuff, go to the ‘parlour’ every other week or so. I don’t have time for any of that. I’ve never had time for any of that. Heck, I’ve never even had time to sew a button on to a shirt, much less enhance my wardrobe. It’s just never been high enough on the priority list.
And yet, these thoroughly glam women that I’ve happened to meet recently seem to be doing it all… I wonder how they do it. What’s worse is, they make it look so easy!