By Dr. Lori Monaco
I was having a crazy busy week recently and in my practice of mindfulness, knew I needed to take a moment for myself. I decided to go for a bike ride. It was a perfect day for it and it would allow me to get some exercise in while getting away from the craziness that is my life sometimes (that’s code for…I needed to get away from my kids for an hour! I love them…but…Oh my goodness sometimes!).
I asked my teenager to watch the little one. She grumbled a little bit at first but was happy to do it. Just as I was getting ready to go into the garage and get on my bike…my phone rang. I thought to myself, “don’t look at the phone…just leave it and go.” But I looked, and it was a friend, so I answered. Twenty-five minutes later…I was finally heading towards the garage. I could have got upset about losing those 25 minutes, but I understood that on the phone and speaking to her is where I needed to be at that moment. She needed some coaching and I was happy to help her. I put my helmet on and got on my bike. My phone rang again. Damn! I forgot to leave it in the house! Another friend…so I answered it. Forty-five minutes later I hung up the phone. Still standing there with my helmet on and the bike now leaning against the wall of the garage, begging for me to ride, I took a breath, looking at the time now thinking that my 60-minute ride had come and gone. I was not upset about taking the last call. I again understood that speaking to him was where I needed to be at that moment. I decided to get on the bike and take a ride anyway.
I sent a text to my daughter telling her I left late, and I would be back soon and off I went. I pedaled as fast as I could, feeling like I needed to make up for lost time and lost mileage. I pushed myself hard and managed to log in 5 miles in 20 minutes. I felt great. It might not have been as long as I wanted, but it was just as satisfying. I put my bike away, took off my helmet and gear, and walked back into the house thinking about my short trip and my long conversations, questioning if I felt it wrong that I gave up my personal time for someone in need. Balance is very important to me, especially these days, and it’s vital to make personal time for myself, especially when my day consists of working with people through challenging situations, so this was for me, a reasonable and relevant question to ask myself. I spent most of my adulthood putting others first and, in the end, rarely made time for myself. Balance was not in my vocabulary back then. But now it was, so again, would it have been better to just not answer the phone or, tell the friends I would call them back?
I realized that it was meant for me to speak to my friends. It was meant for me to take the time for them, and for myself. I managed to fit it all in. Okay, I didn’t take an hour bike ride (truth be told, I don’t think I could have ridden my bike for an hour…not yet at least!), but I did later that evening, make some time to stretch and do a little Yoga, something that I had not planned to do. The opportunity came up to do both and I jumped at it. It solidified for me that sometimes we need to redirect our original plan because sometimes we need to be a certain person at that certain moment. I needed to be a friend at that moment. I needed to listen and encourage and understand and to be empathetic. This time around…I was meant to be a friend. I can’t tell you how many times I started to do one thing and I had to redirect and be Mom at that moment. I’m Mom a lot…no complaints…toughest but best job I ever! I have needed to be a daughter, a sister, a teacher, a chauffeur, a landscaper, a business executive, an entrepreneur, a carpenter, a plumber…yes…I’m that versatile! You get the idea, right? At a moment’s notice, our roles can change, but understanding that at that moment, you are where you need to because of who you need to be. Being okay with that will allow you to create a peaceful state within you because no matter what, even if it doesn’t seem like it, you are in control. If you need to be the person who doesn’t answer the phone and goes on that bike ride at that moment, and calls your friends when you return, then that’s who you need to be. And I could be that person as well. There will be another time where I do leave the phone at home and choose not to answer, get on my bike, and call people back. When the situation presents itself, you will know who you need to be at that moment because you are self-aware, present, and self-actualized. You have the tools within you to ask yourself…who do I need to be at this moment?