How do you care for yourself when the balance of your life goes out of whack?
I went to White Plains Beach this morning to watch a friend get promoted from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant. It was a small and somewhat intimate ceremony involving five People in varying versions of military uniform, at varying levels of friendship, and varying status' of service (the promotee had his civilian girlfriend in attendance). Though some of us in attendance barely knew each other socially, the military bond of brotherhood lent itself to the warmth and fellowship of the group.
We arrived at the beach just before sunrise and the ceremony was a quick one. As we stood around afterwards, drinking coffee and eating the Malasada's the newly promoted Lieutenant had brought, I threw a casual glance toward the water just in time to see the sun breaking the horizon. In that moment, comfortable as I was with the group, I was overwhelmed by a moment of peace and introspection. My happy place has always been the coastline (be it of the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, or the shores of the Persian Gulf), I tend to be most content and do some of my best thinking when accompanied by the slow gentle lap of the waves coming to shore.
In this particular moment, against the backdrop of a beautiful yellow fireball engulfed in a sea of orange and yellow fiery clouds (all beautifully framed through the fronds of a thriving palm tree), my mind was flooded with feelings of serenity, images of those things which bring me the most joy, comforting thoughts of the meaning of all of this and it really launched me into thinking about my life in general.
I learned from a young age that, in order to be successful, I needed to ensure I had a solid career, a financial foundation which would become the base of the life I wanted to build. Arguably, this is pretty solid advice. It would have been difficult to become the person I had always wanted to be had I been unable to afford the lifestyle that person required to be happy. The problems began to manifest the day I began to hold more importance over chasing more financial freedom and began neglecting my personal/spiritual needs.
I'm wandering slightly. Back to my introspection, the realization I came to, though it's always been there (maybe I shook it loose in a meditation last night). While I have, financially, built a very comfortable life for myself and my family, it has come at a significant cost.
Standing around and shooting the breeze with these "friends" made me realize: I don't actually HAVE any friends (with the exception of my bestie, AJ, but even she would argue there's a difference). The nomadic nature of our lifestyle has not necessarily lent itself to the cultivation of close relationships with anyone other than those in my immediate family; which is awesome, mind you, but having friends truly leads to a higher level of self-care that doesn't equate.
I've realized that my priorities are wrong. I dedicate so much time and energy to an organization that, quite honestly, won't remember nor give two shits about me once I retire from it. I've spent countless hours paying more attention to work than my own two children, often to the detriment of their personal emotional satisfaction, and (this might be the worst of all) completely neglected my own emotional well being in service to my career. While I will be provided fairly nice retirement compensation, I have to wonder if it's really worth it to consistently break my own metaphorical back over and over again to maintain the financial foundation of a life the walls of which are crumbling around me.
The insight I came to this morning is: Hell no. One of the most difficult tasks we have to manage in our adult lives is finding that equilibrium between work/family/self. Personally, I typically feel that caring for myself feels selfish, like I'm neglecting my wife or children by giving myself time to decompress. I often find myself (due to upbringing, mismanaged work ethic, what the hell ever) on the wrong end of that work/family/self spectrum and I think it's about time I stop.
I think I owe it to myself to reframe how I go about prioritizing the things in my life. I owe it to my children to start giving them a higher slot on my priorities list. I owe it to my wife to stop bringing my garbage home from work, and to stop giving said work more importance than I give her. I owe it to my personal happiness to remember that: while work is the means to financial ends, those ends won't be there to fund if I don't care for them.
So you ask, Mr. Stapp, "What's this life for?". It is to be happy to be yourself. It is to enjoy every moment you have on this earth while you have it.
Thanks for sticking with me. You readers have my heart and I thank you for your time!