As some of you know, I had seizure a few weeks back that landed me in Cardiac ICU for a few days. I am not telling you this to get your empathy or to have you worry about me but rather to send a message and remind you to slow down. Life is short!
As educators, we live in a world of helping and caring for others. It can be easy to go and go and go as there are so many students to help and there is so little time to do it. But the reality is if we don't take time to help and care for ourselves, we cannot be emotionally available to help others. We can only be as good for others as we are to ourselves.
For many years, I have been going and going without thinking about the toll it has put on my body. My focus has been on being the BEST teacher, mother, wife and friend I could be and unfortunately in that order. For years, I have let my job define me. If I had an IEP due or a big presentation I needed to complete, those tasks took precedence, and in my mind they had to be done with 100% perfection. Whether that meant missing quality time with my children or ordering out instead of making supper for my family, I HAD to complete each task with perfect success. This only added to the stress of feeling imperfect because while giving all my energy to being ‘perfect’ professionally, I wasn’t being ‘perfect’ in my personal life as wife, mom and friend. It is like I was juggling two balls at all times: a professional one, as teacher, co-worker, and colleague and a personal one as mom, wife, and friend.
Leading up to the seizure, my TASN ATBS team and I were hosting day five of Kansas' Early Childhood Academy. Things were going very well with my ‘professional ball’ when all of a sudden I stood up, let out a screech, and fell to the floor in a seizure, with no warning signs. I personally don't remember the event itself. Instead I remember the disbelief, embarrassment, shame and sadness that followed the moments and days afterward.
I had dropped a ball! A ball I didn't even have in my possession! The ball that encompassed taking care of myself. Remember how I said there were no warning signs; well in hindsight, the warning signs were flashing loud and clear. I had not been taking care of myself. I wasn't sleeping, eating, exercising or finding joy in the little things in life, I was truly just going through the motions of 'being perfect'.
My whole life I have been striving for this image of 'perfect' that was in my head, which eventually took its toll. At the ripe old age of 35, I had anxiety out the roof, feelings of not enough-ness, and depression so bad it hurt and that is when it hit, a seizure and a three-day stay in the hospital that changed how I think about everything.
I am not perfect nor should I ever strive to be perfect. The harder I tried to be perfect and good for others the more miserable I became. The reality is, I can only be as good for others as I am to myself, which is a hard pill to swallow after years of thinking that taking time for myself was weak, selfish and unnecessary. The reality is it is all about balance! Balancing myself within my personal and professional life.
My job can no longer define me. My mission is no longer to be ‘perfect’ but instead to be perfectly happy with being imperfect. I don’t have to complete that IEP with extreme precision, or develop a presentation that is better than any I have done before. Nor does my house have to be clean every moment or do I have to make the cutest holiday treats for the kids at home and school. Instead I can spend the energy it takes to appear ‘perfect’ on the outside to find balance on the inside.
A concept that is much easier said then done, but one I am willing to work on and one I hope you are willing to work on too BECAUSE YOU MATTER! Like I said at the beginning of this post, as educators we live in a world of helping others. In the midst of the day-to-day tasks of teaching and support students it is easy to lose ourselves, as we strive to be perfect, when in reality perfection is not the goal. The goal is to be honorable human beings that model balance and a well-rounded life of joy to our students and those around us. If we are always going and striving for the next best thing, then those around us will do the same, but if we strive for balance and the ability to be present with ourselves and those we care about, then our students and children will learn the life lesson that knocked me on the floor in a full out seizure. . . It is okay to be imperfect and it is okay to take time for yourself!
With that I encourage you to join me on a journey to find balance by taking care of ourselves and be perfectly okay with being imperfect in all aspects of life both personally and professionally.
More to come . . .