I better remember to tell my sister “Thank you!” For one thing, she is always there for me: nudging me into action with a kind word or a kick in the pants, collaborating on how to best help our elderly parents, listening to complaints about bills and insurance, or just sending words of good cheer and encouragement. But this specific nod of appreciation is for giving me a great little book: Oil for Your Lamp: Women Taking Care of Themselves (2010, Simple Truths, LLC). The book shares a deceptively simple message, but if taken to heart its truth can be life-changing.
The authors, Lisa Hammond & B.J. Gallagher, present stories, poems, photos and advice to illustrate the wisdom of Mother Teresa’s words: “To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.” The book is divided into two sections: How & Why We Let Our Lamps Run Low and How to Fill Our Own Lamps. The first section reminds readers how easy it is to let doing too much and doing for others take over our lives. In part, women are socialized to be care-givers—of others, not of ourselves. And we have internalized that expectation too well, giving it more and more control as we master the art of multi-tasking.
For me, one of the best features of the book is the many quotes interspersed throughout from a wide array of sources, including everyone from Mother Teresa & Oprah to Winnie the Pooh & Mark Twain. These quotes trumpet the lessons offered in the second section of the book. The advice on how to recharge is what sounds so simple, as it reminds readers of what we often know but do not put into action in our day-to-day lives. The basics include realizing it is okay to put ourselves first, to ask for help, and to simply do nothing at times. My favorite advice is the challenge to follow the edict so often given to children: Go outside and play! Personally, my playtime usually involves a sojourn into Nature—or taking a nice long catnap.
The book and its simple direct message are great gifts! Think about giving them to others. If someone gives the book to you, be sure you remember to say “thanks.” Paying attention to what is good and right in your life—perhaps through a gratitude journal—can help you keep life’s demands in perspective, which in turn can help you set the best priorities for yourself. So, the next time you are taking a day to detox, laying down for a nap, or saying “no” to a new commitment, also remember to give thanks. Of course, there is a lot in life worthy of appreciation: acts of kindness, words of hope or encouragement, a helping hand, a positive attitude, just an awareness of life’s blessings, or even the beauty of Nature. So count your blessings and jump-start the re-charging process!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call my sister—and maybe send some flowers to a friend.
“Don’t under estimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things we can’t hear, and not bothering.” Winnie the Pooh
“If you neglect to recharge a battery, it dies. And if you run full speed ahead without stopping for water, you lose momentum to finish the race.” Oprah Winfrey