So, one thing about being mid-divorce and, ahem, unemployed, is that money can be tight. Like: no we can't get a pizza tonight, but I can maybe make one with these bagels and pasta sauce tight. That's fine. I'm not a materialistic girl, and my kids aren't either. But while trying to find gainful employment, I have been on the lookout for quick and easy ways to make a buck, trying to resurrect my old freelance editing contacts, that kind of thing. When I came across an offer for a "wellness coach" through my health insurance, I jumped at it. Because it paid $75! The wellness coach would be calling me three times over the course of a couple of months, to help set some sort of health goal that I was sure I'd ignore as soon as I had my money in hand.
On our first appointment-call, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my wellness coach sounded exactly like the actress Frances McDormand a la Fargo. She was full of "you betchas" and "dontcha knows" and quirky midwest charm and she instantly made me feel at ease. So I rattled off my various health challenges (stress, divorce, lack of sleep, lack of money) and listened to her sympathize. She'd divorced when her children were young, and understood completely. Then came the coaching. "Ya know, the most important thing to remember in times of stress is to take care of yourself. Ya got kids. Ya got stress. Ya got endless demands. But if you don't take care of yourself first, you're no good to them." And the weird thing was, my Frances McDormand-sound-alike was exactly right. It was the same message I'd heard from my Reiki Master friend Heather. The same thing my doctor had said. The same thing my 8-year-old told me on occasion. But if the universe was sending me the message yet again, then maybe I still wasn't doing it.
Frances wanted me to do one thing: schedule a half-hour of "me" time every single day. She wanted me to tell my kids about it, so they'd (1) hold me accountable to myself, and (2) so they'd see me not just as mom, but also as a human being with actual human needs. She wanted me to set a reminder/alarm on my phone so I'd never forget. She wanted me to spend my half hour doing something that benefited no one but me. And with Frances' permission, I set my reminder. I had lofty notions of hiking and reading and taking yoga classes and doing things that involved not having children around, but that's just not my life. Due to their dad's travel schedule for work, I have my kids about 90% of the time. Daily alone time is a fairly distant memory. So instead, I settled for listening to half hour meditations in my room while the kids watched a half hour of TV and ate their after school snacks downstairs. A totally unproductive half hour for myself every day? Prescribed by someone my own health insurance sent to me? Such indulgence! Frances was my new favorite wellness coach, therapist, best friend, caller, and benefactor, all rolled into one.
About two weeks into it, my six year old came to me as I was working on my computer one afternoon and said, "Shouldn't you go upstairs and rest now?" Because here's the thing: not only is it a half hour of me time ensconced in my bedroom each day, it's also a half hour of kids-behaving-well-unsupervised time. It's a test for all of us. And somehow, we're passing. That's not to say that I never get a kid walking in during my half-hour meditation-time to ask me to open a stubborn package of snacks or wanting to know where her favorite headband is. I'm a single mom. That's the deal. But the fact that I can say to my girls: "Okay, I'm heading to my room for a half hour," and they give me hugs and settle down to do something quiet until I'm done? That's amazing. And the realization that it might not take them 40 years to realize they get to come first, for at least a half hour each day of their lives? That's the best part. Thank you, Frances.