I have a therapist. She is amazing (and also adorable—I have a mad girl crush on her). I saw her for a while about two years ago when I was going through a colossal mid-life crisis. She told me this metaphorical story about pie.
“If you look at your life as though it’s a pie,” she said, “and think about how you’re constantly giving out pieces, right? To your kids, to your job, to your family and friends and the dog and whoever else is demanding the pie. Well, at the end, if you don’t save a piece of pie for yourself, you’ll starve.”
Starving, she pointed out, doesn’t help you continue to perform any of those roles very well.
Life went on, and then mine got boring so I stopped seeing her. I just didn’t really have anything left to say. I realize now, amidst this really tough year I’ve had, what an amazing gift it is if you find yourself bored. If your life is ho-hum, good for you! It’s a hard thing to appreciate while it’s happening but man, when things are insane, you wish for a time when they were boring.
So recently, when all the cards of my black year had finally fallen, I went back to see my therapist. She clucked and hemmed and hawed at all the grief and despair, and I cried. There’s always a box of tissues handy at your therapist’s office. Yes, she’s exactly like paying to have a friend. It’s like paying a hooker for sex, only you’re paying someone to listen to your bullshit and be a pro at pretending they care.
We talked about the kinds of things therapists talk to you about. She asks what do you need? She says you need to talk care of yourself. Even if it’s just something small. Go for a bike ride. Save a few dollars change from the groceries for a few weeks until you have enough for a pedicure. Read a book while the kids are at school. Little things. I knew she was right, but I’m not really good at that kind of thing.
My migraines have gotten out of control. I never related them to stress before, and had always blamed hormones or sleep problems, but she’s right, I need to see that migraine specialist. Some “self-care” things are luxuries, and then some are just necessities.
And so now again, my therapist reminds me about the pie. I hadn’t thought of it in awhile but it makes even more sense now. The pie concept isn’t about being selfish, really, it’s about taking care of yourself so you can be happy and do a better job at taking care of the other people who need the pie from you. My brother bought me and each of my family members “grown-up” coloring books and crayons this year. What a great gift—I sat and colored with my husband and kids and it was so low-tech and peaceful and fun.
I mentioned keeping a gratitude journal. When I wrote a whiny piece the other day about holiday depression, a book club friend sent a list of 15 things she knows about my life that are great, and she was correct about every one of them, including the one about our book club (motto: “reading between the wines.”) Maybe a time or two in a week, I could write a pie entry in the gratitude journal—what did I do this week to take care of myself?
As moms, as parents… as humans, I think we spend a lot of our time giving out pie so hard that we forget to take any for ourselves. Starving is boring. Which can only mean one thing. It’s time to spend some grocery money at the spa.
—Follow Mary McCarthy on Twitter @marymac.