I remember learning, years ago, about the need to keep my emotional “input” and “output” in balance. I remember reading that if we are not careful, we will have times in our lives when we are pouring out more emotional energy than we are taking in. The analogy that was used was a watering can, in a garden. If you keep pouring out water, without refilling the supply, the container will run dry.
For years, I kept that analogy in mind as I did my best to be a loving mother, a supportive wife, a loyal friend, a giving daughter, a caring teacher. I was usually fine, because by taking on those roles, I assured myself of many sources of emotional “input”. My watering can was refilled in conversations with friends, hugs from my parents, time spent with students, and especially with the love of my husband and the kids. With some attention and care, I generally managed to keep the bucket relatively full.
Now, though, in this new phase of life, I am finding it harder and harder to get my refills. Maybe it is the combined toll of too little sleep and an aging body; most evenings I feel physically drained by the efforts of the day. Maybe it is the shrinking of my support pool as I have gotten older. I no longer have my Nana or my Dad around to nurture me and make me feel like a treasured child. I no longer have the built in contact of other parents at sporting events and concerts and school plays. As the years have passed at school, I no longer have the large group of colleagues with shared life experiences; I am one of the dwindling group of old timers who still remember the principal for whom the building is named.
Here’s what I think, though. I think that I just don’t have as many places to pour out my care and love, and so I don’t feel the sense of replenishment that I am so used to having. The kids don’t need me nearly as much. My young school colleagues rely on each other. It is April, and the warm wind reminds me that very soon my students will be moving on, away from my care.
There are moments when I realize that I would like to spend a day or a week completely alone, without another voice. A time, contrary to what you might think, when I could absolutely and totally NOT reflect on anything emotional. A lull. A rest.
The fact that such a thought could even cross my mind is proof positive, to me, that my watering can is running very low.
Maybe its time for a puppy.