One day recently I was really struggling to get words on paper.
This was not new. Some version of writers block has been plaguing me for weeks. But on this particular day my husband suggested I go for a walk and I took his suggestion. I hadn’t showered in a few days and I was starting to get to that dark place I go when I don’t shower.
I needed an excuse to get out of the house.
So I walked, and as I did I tried to listen to myself. This is something I’ve been practicing lately—being present with the sensations in my body and using them as a guide for what I was feeling, underneath the thoughts floating through my head. I walked and listened and prayed God would help me see through the cloudiness I’ve been feeling in this season. And within a mile or two of my walking, this phrase came to me, without thinking:
Take care of yourself first… others second.
At first, everything in me cringed at these words. Although they felt true in the deepest part of me, I immediately wanted to push them back down. Consider myself first and other second? Wasn’t it supposed to be the other way around?
All the phrases of my upbringing fought with the phrase that had come to the surface in that moment. The last shall be first, my brain argued. Lose yourself to find yourself, my thoughts challenged. But no matter how hard my thoughts fought, I couldn’t ignore the intention that had risen up from a deepest part of me. I couldn’t explain it, but I also couldn’t ignore it.
So I walked home with something that resembled a thought but that also felt much deeper and more powerful than the “thoughts” I usually had.
Yourself first, others second.
It felt more like an intention, like a meditation, than a simple thought. I didn’t know what it meant or what I was supposed to do with it, but I just held onto it, trusting the rest would become clear over time.
Later that day, an idea came to me I wanted to get down on paper. Feeling an energy I hadn’t felt in weeks, if not months, I opened my computer and started typing. Before long, I got an email from a coaching client who had a question she needed me to answer. I got a text message from a friend who was wondering if I wanted to go for a walk. My husband was asking me what we were going to do for dinner. And yet, for some reason, this phrase kept rising to the surface of my heart: yourself first, others second.
I texted my friend and asked her if we could walk later that evening, or the next day. I asked my husband if he wouldn’t mind picking up take-out for dinner. I assured him he would have my full attention in an hour or so. And I closed my email and resolved to respond the next day.
Miraculously, I was able to get a few thousand words down that day.
With the “myself first, others second” intention in place, I was able to clear the blockage and get moving again. It was almost like my body, my spirit, knew what I needed to do. It knew the solution to the problem even more than my mind did. But in order to get there, I had to get quiet and be able listen to myself.
What would happen if we listened to ourselves a little more often? What would happen if we stopped ignoring our instinct, our intuition, our fear and our pain? Maybe we would find relief from our worry, our anxiety. Maybe we would uncover happiness. Maybe we could give ourselves permission to stop caring so much about how many many people like us or hate us, or how viral a post we write.
Because with this in mind, we would have what we set our for all along—not fame or fortune or popularity, but a small and growing semblance of self.