Time to Plug Myself In

It was 12:45 a.m., and my husband, Lancelot, and I were stuck in the Charlotte airport. Our flight to Dayton had been cancelled and we had been rescheduled for a flight boarding at 5:25 a.m. We were exhausted, starving and a bit stressed out, and our first thought was, “Where can we find a place to charge our phones?”

Not, “Where can we buy food?” Not, “Is there any place we can comfortably sleep?” No, our minds just immediately went toward our technology.

It’s not as bad as it sounds, truly. My parents were watching our 2- and 5-year-old sons for the first weekend away we’d ever taken. What if they needed to contact me? Plus, I was meeting my cousin following day – I had to be able to call him. And we had to drive from Dayton to Indianapolis – we needed the GPS! Not to mention the camera once we got there! We needed our phones!

With the perspective of a few days, I can now look back and realize we were a bit insane. We needed to take care of ourselves. We needed to charge ourselves up for the next busy day ahead of us, not just plug in our phones. It also made me realize that this was not an isolated incident. There have been countless times when I’ve been so exhausted and weary from the daily grind that I could barely function, when I’ve pushed myself to stay awake an extra hour or two to return emails and sign permission slips, or grabbed a cup of coffee and a handful of my kids’ leftover Goldfish crackers on my way to the car to run yet another errand, putting aside my own most basic needs for nourishment, rest and rejuvenation in the effort to get stuff done … but at those times, I’ve always, always plugged my phone into its charger.

Why do we charge our phones more often than we charge ourselves?

Just hours after the phone-charging crisis in Charlotte, Lancelot and I were getting settled into our airplane when the safety demonstration took place, and the well-known chorus commenced. “In the event of an emergency, secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” It was as if a voice from the universe was screaming in my ear. Take care of yourself! You are no good to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself!

I wish it was that easy for me to accept and put into practice. I have an incredibly hard time prioritizing my own needs. I value and admire those who serve others, and I want to emulate their kindness and compassion. I consider myself strong and capable (though clearly not as young as I sometimes think I am), and I figure it’s no big deal if I’m a little tired or hungry or stressed out as long as the world around me and all the people in it are okay. I feel such a sense of responsibility to ensure my kids are happy and healthy, my friends can turn to me when they need to talk and my husband has adequate rest and good food to keep him energized for work. I naturally and happily put myself on the bottom of the pile of priorities.

It’s not good or healthy, though. There are moments when I just feel like I’m going to break. They are usually the most random moments, like when I’m texting a friend who’s going through a hard time while I’m burning pine nuts on the stove and little Huck Finn comes up to me begging me to play Minions with him, when all I want more than anything in the world is to get the Ibuprofen I’ve been meaning to grab for the last three hours to deal with my insane headache. At those moments, when I’m so near collapse, I can hear a tiny voice inside of me telling me that I need to take care of myself. I even believe that voice. It’s just hard to put it into practice.

Everyone needs a moment to recharge, just like our technology does. Our phones do incredible things for us – they keep our calendars straight, allow us to stay in touch with the colleagues and loved ones that matter to us, help us when we are lost, save our grocery lists and record our memories. We recognize all the things they do for us by giving them what they need – an occasional time-out in a docking station.

I do incredible things, too. I keep everyone in my family in the right place at the right times, reach out to friends and family in good and challenging times, rescue lost items, buy and cook the groceries, and actually make and share in the wonderful memories. Clearly I deserve an occasional time-out as well.

Surely I’m as important as my phone. Surely I deserve a chance to recharge.

It’s my responsibility to plug in my phone so it’s ready when I need it. And it’s my responsibility to re-energize, rejuvenate and restore myself.

I just made myself a note. It’s really fancy.  It’s a post-it note on my docking station at home, and it reads, “Charge yourself up!”  I hope it will be a little reminder to myself when I plug in my phone that I matter, too.

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