What have you done for you lately?
What I Know for Sure
I remember the first time, about a decade ago, that a psychologist on my show urged women to prioritize their giving and put themselves at the top of the list. She was nearly booed off the stage.
That's because as women we've been programmed to sacrifice everything in the name of what is good and right for everyone else. Then if there's an inch left over, maybe we can have a piece of that.
We need to deprogram ourselves. I know for sure that you can't give what you don't have. If you allow yourself to be depleted to the point where your emotional and spiritual tank is empty and you're running on fumes of habit, everybody loses. Especially you.
I never thought I'd hear myself say it, but I've grown to enjoy lifting weights, and I've learned from doing it. I relish the sense of strength and discipline that comes when the muscles are forced to resist. I've tried varying schedules—lifting every day, every other day, two days on and a day off. The every day approach was the least effective. I get the best strengthening results when I give myself a break. Constant lifting begins to break down the muscle tissue.
The same is true with mind and spirit. Without giving yourself a chance to reenergize, you begin to break down all the connective fibers of your life. I used to just give myself Sundays off. Now I'm scheduling downtime in the midst of everything—and "everything" includes two magazines (the one you're reading and O at Home). It also includes building a house in Hawaii, working on an ABC movie (Their Eyes Were Watching God)—and, oh yeah, my day job. Keeping it all straight was beginning to feel a little stressful. So I had a sit-down with my vigilant assistant, Libby, and explained that just because I have ten free minutes on my calendar doesn't mean I want to fill them. "Let's practice what my philosophy preaches," I said. That means breathing space has to become part of my daily routine.
So instead of having people lined up outside my office after the first show—I tape two a day—I do nothing for at least ten minutes. Sometimes I just rub my dog Sophie's belly and throw a ball down the hall to my other dog, Solomon. Or I take a stroll through the Harpo café to literally see what's cookin'. Other times I just sit still at my desk. The change has worked wonders. I have more energy, and I'm in a better mood for the second show and all the business that comes afterward.
A little restoration goes a long way. Now that I have the summer off to sit under the oaks reading, napping, writing, and thinking, I know for sure it's time well spent. There's not even a twinge of guilt about having no plans, no schedule. I'm refilling my tank so that by fall, when the new season begins, I'll be fired up and ready for whatever is to come. Fully restored.
From the July 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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