Many of my patients inspire me, including "Deborah." She was an executive in a highly specialized chain of retail stores. She had worked her way up the corporate ladder and now earned a large salary. She was happily married to her husband of 30 years, they had two children in their 20s, and her mother and sister lived nearby. Deborah and her husband lived in a beautiful home in an expensive neighborhood, and they both drove fancy cars. One would think this was a pretty charmed life, but it wasn’t.
Deborah’s job required almost constant travel. She spent most of her time flying between several states. She lived in hotels and ate in restaurants. Then when she was home, Deborah wasn’t really home. She spent long hours in the car, or working in the local stores.
This lifestyle was taking a toll on Deborah. She had serious pain in her neck and back from lifting heavy boxes of merchandise. Too much restaurant eating and too little exercise caused Deborah to gain weight. She had debilitating headaches and she was perpetually tired. She was using prescription pain medicines for relied. Beyond this, Deborah grew weary of missing nearly every family occasion, declining invitations from friends, and even passing on trips with her husband.
Finally, Deborah realized she’d had enough. She quit her executive job, and together, she and her husband sold their dream house and downsized into a very modest home. They got rid of their expensive cars in favor of more practical, cost-effective versions. They divested themselves of what they realized wasn’t really important.
Now Deborah’s life is completely different. She is self-employed, doing marketing for a small medical group. She works about three days a week. She no longer takes pain medication, and she hasn’t had a headache in years. Deborah and her husband frequently drive out of state for quick weekends of hiking and other activities. She is healthier and happier than she has been in years.
Deborah had the courage to do what many of us aren’t willing to do. She made the hard choices. Deborah had once managed to achieve the pinnacle of the American Dream, but the cost was just too high. We only get one life, and we only get one body. We are in charge of it. If there is no time to move our body and strengthen it, then something is wrong.
If we only have time for drive-through food and meals eaten in the car, it’s not OK. If there’s no time for music, books, or friends, then what’s life for?
If there’s no time to nourish our spirit with our faith, community, or family, then it’s time to take that hard look at life.
As women, sometimes we have trouble making room for ourselves in our own lives. We may need to clean out some clutter in our schedule. We may need to draw a proverbial line in the sand and learn to say “No.” We may need to ask for help. Some of us may even need a radical change, like Deborah. Every situation is different, but when it’s needed, I hope each of us can embrace the hard choices.