There I was, freshly graduated, moved out on my own, two months into my first new job and in the middle of a fairytale romance, when a car struck me and my life completely changed. The accident gave me a head injury and my inability to concentrate and perform simple daily tasks affected my job, all of my relationships, my health, and eventually my sense of identity. I was broken, and I turned to my new relationship to be my crutch. But soon that relationship became to me not only my crutch, but also an escape from my loneliness, a cover-up for my inner confusion, and an answer to my lack of identity. Under that much weight, the crutch broke and I was left with the realization that no single person could fix me. I needed someone as big as God to help me face my wounds. I needed to re-order my life and be a healthy individual before I could have a healthy relationship.
So what did I do?
I let go of everything I was using for my crutches—my relationship, my schedule which kept me so busy so I wouldn’t have to face the silence, my old living situation, my bad habits—and slowly I discovered something surprising…I was able walk on my own.
Making taking care of yourself a priority is not a selfish thing. On the contrary, if you are a healthy individual, you are able to give more to others. Once I went back to the basics of going to the doctor, eating better, working out regularly, and resting, my brain began to heal and my desire to do things I loved to do before the accident returned. Then naturally, without even trying, this new peace and confidence breathed life back into my relationships.
We must be healthy ourselves in order to be healthy for others.
I used to think that the more I changed my own needs to fit others around me, the more I would be able to give. But the opposite happened. The more I neglected my own needs, (which were really needs, not just preferences or my lack of coffee), the less I was able to give because I was exhausted and expected others to fill my voids. The gifts I wanted to give became a burden instead.
Once I decided to put my focus on getting healthy, one of my roommates encouraged me to “date myself.” When I gave her a weird expression she said, “The best thing I did for myself after a breakup was to continue to enjoy life. I took a day trip by myself, journaled, kayaked, went to lunch…and you know what? I was really fun!”
If you’re waiting to live a full life until you’ve gotten married or gotten to a certain point in your career…stop. Stop waiting and start living. The best thing you can do for your current and future relationships is face your inner wounds by allowing Christ to fill the voids, and then to hurl your energies and gifts into the opportunities that are before you right now. Here are some tips to get you on the right track to a better you.
Silence is good
Don’t be put off by a car ride without the radio, a walk by yourself outside, or an empty pew in the chapel. Silence can sometimes give us anxiety because it’s so foreign from the fast and noisy pace of the world. It also is where we are forced to be honest with ourselves and what we’re feeling. But honesty is the key to positive change, and it comes with the reminder that our silent thoughts are being heard by something bigger than us, and He not only has control over the outcomes, but also wants to give us the desires of our heart. This should bring us peace.
Sometimes no plans are the best plans
You have nothing on the calendar tonight? Instead of frantically texting your friends to see who can fill the gap, revel in your newly found “me” time and do something relaxing that you love. Read a book, play guitar, buy paint supplies and paint, or write a letter to your friend. These days will renew your energy for the next night out.
Just do it
You’ve always wanted to take a cooking class but you don’t have anyone to cook for? You’ve thought about volunteering at that charity event but no one you know is doing it? You’ve desired to join a gym but you haven’t gotten around to doing it yet? Here’s some advice: Just do it. We are not guaranteed the next day or even the next moment, and you never know who you’re going to meet in that pottery class who loves chocolate ice cream as much as you do. So burn those scented candles you’ve been saving for a rainy day!
Do all of these things with vigor and passion. And in the midst of experiencing all of these things, you will learn more about yourself—your desires, strengths and weaknesses—you will meet people from all backgrounds, and you will learn when you need to give, and when you need to take a step back and receive.
Your life doesn’t need to be perfectly in order before you enter into a relationship, but the relationship you have with yourself and with God is what will allow you to love someone else freely and sacrificially. Or, as the Muppets movie taught me, it’s ok to have a “Me party” once in a while, so when that special someone comes along, you’re truly ready to transition that “me” into a healthy “we.”