My daughter, Skye, stuck out her foot and plopped it on my lap. She was laying on her white daybed, covered by a pink fleece blanket with only her watermelon colored hair poking out of the top and her bare foot poking out from below.
"Do you remember when I used to watch Kipper when I was sick?" She said, her face half-turned into the pillow. Sitting at the end of the bed, I took her foot in my hand and started massaging it.
"I do," I replied with a nostalgic feeling. I remembered many nights with her tucked into bed beside me and the soft spoken, mild mannered, perfectly British cartoon dog playing on the TV to distract her from her ailments while I tried to sneak in a few more winks. There was no Kipper today, just us, the cat, and the spicy scent of the oils I was rubbing into Skye's feet.
Today she'd been vomiting; at first that morning on the way to school, then four more times before noon. She was tired, but in good spirits for someone who'd just been dry heaving.
"Should we put some Kipper on now?" I asked.
She laughed, "No," and then pulled back the foot I'd been working on and put the other one in my lap. I grinned, took the new foot and began to give it fair treatment. I'd been able to cancel all but one of my meetings for the day and it was over; she was my only concern now.
I was enjoying this quiet time together. It occurred to me that not so long ago it wouldn't have been possible: I would have been checking my watch every two minutes and running through the checklist in my head of all the things I wasn't getting done; I would have missed her perfect smile, just visible above the edge of the blanket; I would have missed the knot in her foot that needed a little extra attention; I would have missed the wistful remembering of toddler sick days in bed with Kipper.
So why was this moment different?
At some point I came to realize that all my timelines, my to-dos, and my commitments were created by me, even the commitments I'd made to others. The idea that I had to do my work perfectly, prepare a healthy dinner, have the house clean, and make sure my kids had all the proper enrichment — I made that up, no one else.
And thank goodness it was me who made it all up! That gave me the power to unmake it, to let it go. Yep, my house is pretty trashed right now. I have a number of emails that "should" have gone out last week. And my new website, which I thought I'd have done months ago, and for sure weeks ago, is still in progress -- and yet all is well.
The only person to send me to "hell" for my imperfections is me, and I don't do that so much anymore; instead, I get to sit with my sick daughter and relish in the fact that she still wants me there, that I can still bring her comfort, and that I don't need to worry about my work at all, because it's not going anywhere.
What ideal or timeline have you put yourself on the hook for that's causing you misery without any real gain? What would it be like to give that up?
*Above photo by Anelya Okapova