“When did I decide I was actually never going to work out?”
I said that to my husband today. I looked him square in the eye because I was hoping he knew the answer.
I didn’t when I asked him. I still don’t.
Of course, I could give the standard troupe about parenthood. But here’s the thing. I do have time to work out. I could easily work out while my son naps on the weekends. I’ve just been choosing my side hustles (or this blog) instead.
No matter how many times I promise myself that I’ll catch the next nap, I can’t seem to do it.
Or I choose not to.
But this isn’t just about working out or not working out. This is about how I’ve made a whole string of choices–organized my life, really–around things other than myself. Even though my goal was the exact opposite.
“Your hair is dark for you.”
What my best friend meant was that my hair is grown out. A lot. It’s not actually dark for me, since it is my hair. The problem is despite the fact that we’ve been friends for more than a decade, she’s never actually seen my hair.
No one has.
Because I dye it. Well, I used to. I haven’t had my hair highlighted since last August. Or maybe it was July.
I never excelled at keeping up with my hair color, but it was streaked blonde on top of a light brown. So I could get away with only going 2 or 3 times a year. Now, though, I’m cresting the 9-month mark.
Initially, I thought maybe I was letting it grow out because I was curious what color my hair actually is. I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to spending time at stoplights inspecting my head for grays in the rear view mirror when the light hits my head just right.
But truthfully, I put my hair on the back burner for the same reason that I’ve put myself on the back burner. I’m overwhelmed with Mom Guilt and Money Guilt.
The last time I got my hair highlighted, I was a ball of anxiety. And not just because it appeared that Doogie Howser was my colorist and he made mention of my grays twice. (Honestly, I still can’t see them. I think it was a ploy to get me to actually commit to coloring my hair on a regular basis. Smart. Very smart.)
I felt so guilty because I knew it was time that I could be spending with my son. After all, I’m a working mom. So it’s My Duty to spend my free time with him. I would click open Twitter whenever the guilt got to be too much and Doogie told me it was OK to look down. Scrolling through my feed just made the foils on my hair feel even worse.
It was a splurge. A want. An indulgence. $100 now that would be worth $300 in retirement.
It was also proof that I was kowtowing to arbitrary beauty standards when I should really just focus on embracing my natural self. Didn’t I love me?
That was a painful three hours. No wonder I haven’t been back.
The truth is that I miss getting my hair colored. I miss working out. I miss existing without so much guilt.
An aside: I once snuck into a PG-13 movie with my friends when I was 12. I knew how upset my mom would be if she found out…so I left to get popcorn and called my mom on the payphone instead. I cried until she came to pick me up. Reader, I am no stranger to guilt.
To say that adulthood has exacerbated my anxieties and heightened the guilt that I feel is the finest of understatements. But by neglecting myself, I haven’t actually alleviated any of the guilt. It remains omnipresent like the bags under my eyes, the dark roots on my head, and the final five pounds that I haven’t even attempted to shake.
I let myself go.
And I miss her. I love my baby. I love motherhood. I love my full-time job, and I love my side hustles. I love so many things about my life. But my fear is that I’ve been so busy carrying out roles, reading lines off a script, that I have forgotten how to be myself. Or at least how to enjoy being myself.
I certainly don’t know how to make time for myself anymore.
One of the only goals I set for myself this quarter was to be more selfish, to spend more time caring about me and caring for me.
In the span of just under 90 days, I’ve gone out for coffee with a friend exactly twice (once was this morning!). And I spent 20 minutes getting an $8 haircut at Great Clips in between grocery shopping and picking up dinner.
This is akin to only flossing the day before the dentist.
I’m not sure I’ve ever failed at anything so spectacularly.
Unless you count track that I let my boyfriend talk me into joining sophomore year. Spoiler alert: You get disqualified from a relay if you fall. Even if you fall because the other runner crosses into your lane. Honestly, all these years later, I’m still shocked they actually have rules about falling. I know nothing about running despite a five-month season, but staying upright kind of seems like a given.
Unlike that relay, though, I’m not sure I ever even really attempted this goal. I’m not sure I knew how to attempt it. Because when you fill up all of your free time with more work, you don’t actually have free time. No matter how much you enjoy it or need it or want it.
“Maybe you should buy new jeans.”
I confessed a lot of this to my best friend when we met for coffee today. I even admitted the fact that I was no longer enjoying casual Friday because my favorite pair of jeans has an irreparable hole in the knee.
She suggested that I go shopping. I’m not even sure that I know how.
In my prior life, I shopped not just for enjoyment, but practically for sport. I was either hellbent on scoring the best deal, trying out a trend, or ponying up for a handbag that I had been coveting.
I used to go the mall on vacation. Christmas, spring, and summer breaks, yes. But I’m talking about traveling to far-flung destinations and spending time shopping. Lots of time shopping.
But I’ve tried so hard to double down on frugality and purposeful living that I seem to have forgotten how to just exist. I spent so much time reading (consuming ha!) about the evils of consumption that I seem to have overlooked the fact that I am a consumer. We all are.
Plus, the only thing more awful that shopping for new jeans sounds like shopping for new jeans with a toddler in tow.
Still, I’m going to buy jeans. And I’m going to do a whole host of other things. Because I’m tired of being the tired mom troupe. I’m tired of feeling like a Someecards punchline.
- Go to the doctor. This seems like a no-brainer. But like getting my hair done, I am a pretty terrible patient. I’m supposed to meet with my doctor twice a year to get my thyroid checked, but I usually stretch it until they won’t renew my prescription without an appointment. Mostly because my doctor’s latest appointment slot is 4 PM, and taking a “long lunch” doesn’t exist in my profession.
- Get my hair dyed. Because I want to. Not because I don’t think I wouldn’t be a lovely brunette or because I can’t think of a better use of $100. I just want to, so I will.
- Get a pedicure. My sweet, sweet husband got me a gift certificate for Mother’s Day last year. I’ve just clomped around on hooves since then, but I did notice that the certificate is only valid for a year.
- Work out 3x a week. I have been really good about logging 10,000 steps. For the past 15 months, I’ve missed less than 10 days. But I did an actual workout two days in a row, and I miss that hate-love feeling. (Hate comes first because it’s the stronger of the two emotions that I feel working out, even when I do my Grandma Fitness DVDs.)
- See my friends more. Some of my very best friends are my coworkers, and I spend a ton of time with them. But I’ve neglected my other friends something terrible. I feel so much guilt when I’m drinking coffee (even if I remember my travel mug like I did today!) or doing anything else with them. I can’t help but think I should either be with my son or side hustling.
When Your Goals Have Nothing to Do With Money
It seems weird, almost inappropriate, to write this post. This goal has nothing to do with money. Other than the fact that it requires me to spend it.
But I think that’s exactly why it needs to be written. There’s a spate of information on saving and banning. I already figured out how to do that. What I need to learn how to do is to participate in society and in my own life without feeling guilty.
I’m going to spend time and I’m going to spend money. I’m going to spend it on myself, and I’m going to have to learn to be OK with that.