My Polish classes started a few weeks ago—five adults gathering every Tuesday evening at a Catholic church, each with our own reason for wanting to learn this difficult language. My classmates are all new to Polish, but I have been studying it off and on since 2009, including Rosetta Stone at home and a two-week immersion course in Krakow in 2010.
I had wanted to enroll in this class last winter, but my work schedule got in the way. This fall, though, I am committed to attending Polish classes.
As I left the building at the end of the first class and walked across the parking lot to my car, I felt a deep sense of joy, and that feeling has accompanied me to each succeeding class. I love this class. It makes me happy.
It is not that joy is foreign to me. I have known many joyful times in my life. But the past ten years seem to have had more hardship than happiness and I think I had grown accustomed to the sadness.
More joy is what I want and what I believe God wants for me. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete,” Jesus says. (John 15:11)
Talking with my spiritual director about the joy of my Polish class, she suggested that perhaps I have been overly-focused on the needs of others for the past number of years, to the detriment of my own needs. She recommended that I look for more opportunities to do things that are just for me.
Her suggestion reminded me of an incident from a past job. A colleague and I were looking at calendars, trying to figure out when we could schedule a meeting, I noticed her calendar had “TFM” marked each day. Thirty to sixty minutes were blocked out every day with this three-letter notation.
“What is ‘TFM’?” I asked.
“Time for me,” she said.
“Every day, you take time for yourself?” I asked somewhat incredulously.
“Good self-care,” she responded.
Even then, I knew that I was not particularly good at self-care. I promoted it to others—“be gentle with yourself,” I might say or “take care of yourself,” but I am not good at following my own advice.
I take quiet time in the mornings, but once the day starts, I tend to steamroll through, often ignoring the signs of stress or exhaustion.
Perhaps it is time to revisit the concept of “TFM” and plan to do more things that will bring me joy. Perhaps it is time to resurrect that list of things I like to do—sewing, going to plays, hiking, visiting museums, walking through gardens, poking around in little shops—things that make me happy, and schedule them into my calendar.
The thing about self-care is that no one can do it for me; I have to decide and then follow through. Only then will I know more joy.