I’m a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a nina, a boss lady, a housekeeper, a chef, a driver and a Jane of all things. I need a vacation from myself. I’m in the kitchen cooking, which I am not very good at btw, when the feeling comes. What started out as a small wave of anxious energy turned into a tsunami of stress and frustration, overtaking my entire body. The tense feeling lay deep within my being, tightening all my muscles and dulling all my senses. At that moment I waved my white flag thinking, “I give up! I’m throwing in the towel, I’m done.” I looked around the room for a small corner to hide in and rock myself like a baby. Instead, I see toys strewn all over the floor, back to school supplies laid out all over the table, a mound of clothes that has overtaken the couch, children wearing my latest MAC purchase, and my husband hanging out outside admiring the ocean view. Ugh! Like the pot of noodles that is currently boiling over, so too are my feelings of failing at this adulting thing. Then I shout out, as my emotional reflex involuntarily kicks in, “Calgon take me away!” (It’s an 80’s thing).
Life as “everything to everyone,” is hard. It tries your patience, runs you dry, and leaves you empty handed. Being the keeper of all things calls for admiration; it takes strength balanced with compassion. There’s just one flaw: when one is consumed by serving others, serving thyself is often forgotten. The challenge is that we put aside our needs to meet everyone else's. Don't get me wrong, there is a benefit to altruism. I admit it is nice to be important to others, to be called and relied upon. But what about the flip side?
In that moment I needed a life line. Mama’s can you hear me? And I began to wonder, in the famous words of Drake, “Kiki do you love me?” Kiki being my one great love of a husband.
The importance of taking care of oneself is critical to maintaining healthy and happy relationships. According to a recent article by Psychology Today, “When people are stressed, they become more withdrawn and distracted, and less affectionate. They also have less time for leisure activities, which leads to alienation between partners.” In fact, studies find that a couple’s response to stress can lead to breakdowns in communication, displaced frustration, and emotional distancing. It can rear what Dr. Gottman --guru of relationships, master of the universe, I mean he runs a Love Lab where he conducts his studies at the University of Washington, duh, he’s the master of the universe--calls “The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” These defense mechanisms (stonewalling, contempt, criticism, and defensiveness) ultimately lead to the demise of a relationship.
Snapping abruptly back into reality, which was signaled by the smell of burning pasta, I needed to make a quick mental decision about how I was going to manage my stress level in that moment. Remembering that one of the keys and skills in maintaining a healthy relationship is to do my part, I decided not to stuff my angst but to instead reach out to my husband, communicating my needs and letting him help. This is no easy task for a person who feels the weight and responsibility of the world on her shoulders (and who usually, copes by binge shopping).
I walk over to my husband looking like a bat-out-of-hell...deep breaths…”I need you,” I say. He replies back, with a loving look in his eyes despite my messy hair, tattered shirt, and stained shorts, and says, “I got you.”
Aja Ramos is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has the honor of leading the Spark program at WestCare Pacific Islands, focused on enhancing healthy relationships. A working mother of two young children, Aja understands the struggle of managing life and relationships. When not doing a bang-up job with the Spark Team, she enjoys spending time with family. Aja is most excited about exploring the world hand-in-hand with her lovely husband and her adorable "girlies" Isa and Lola.