There was a time I wore my To Do List like a badge of honor. I did it all: held down a full-time job while raising three children; volunteered for local charities; entertained on the weekends. Want something done? Give it to the busiest person…. ME! I was the mythical, fantastical Super Woman. She seemed to be a great person to be. That is, until she wasn’t.
One cold, raw February, my body surrendered. I was struck hard by pneumonia. Overnight I morphed from a well-dressed executive into a bedridden heap of flesh in a sweaty nightgown. All my work and all my roles fell apart. I couldn’t do anything. In that debilitated state, I had an epiphany. I realized that for far too long I had been taking care of everyone but myself. When, I thought, did I start believing that the only gifts worth giving are the ones we give to others?
In a flash of insight, my soul spoke up loud and clear, “You need a week of your own. You deserve to find out what it feels like to be by yourself in a place that speaks to your heart. You are depleted and drained. You have to start loving yourself right now, or next time you will pay a higher price. Pneumonia was a wake-up call. Listen to me and take time for yourself. NOW!”
And listen I did. I started keeping a journal, writing about what my perfect week alone might look like. The words spilled from my pen onto the pages of my notebook, and the ones that kept appearing again and again described an Irish island I had visited six years before. That’s it! An island, alone, for a week, across the pond. No one can reach me there to pull me into their dramas.
The following spring, on June 22, I left my family, my colleagues, and my aging father to fend for themselves for a week. I followed my heart to the Great Blasket Island off the west coast of Ireland where I filled my days with writing, wandering, wondering, but mostly discovering my authentic self – a self who deserved to be loved and appreciated for all her gifts of strength, courage, and determination to listen to the voice of her soul.
A week of my own kindled a love for myself and a confidence in my abilities. And with that newfound confidence came a sense of power that I could create any kind of life I wanted. Since that journey, my life has changed dramatically. Now I think very carefully before I take on new challenges. I’ve learned that there is a profound difference between selfish and self-love. Now I live more joyfully. And, oh by the way, I haven’t had pneumonia since!