Last week I shared in a post on Instagram that I was “not OK.”
. I am not OK. A friend asked yesterday and I gave an honest answer. . . I’ve known for a while that I do too much: the running, blogging, coaching, retreat planning, fundraising, running apparel, writing, homeschooling…all while building a house. For the most part I can keep all the balls juggled, with some help from my husband, really early wake-ups and snagging time here and there while staying at home with three kiddos. I can do it all, but every few months I get really stressed, vent, cry, decide to quit everything, go to bed really early then wake up the next morning with new resolve and start juggling again. Except a few weeks ago I woke up and knew something had to change. . . You can do it all, but the problem with doing it all is that someone or something pays the price. Sometimes it is your health sometimes it is the people you love. Lately we’ve been spread thin as a family and I’ve come face to face with the fact that the more I try to do it all, the more the ones I love pay the price. Lately my kids have been paying the price, I’m physically present, but just not really there. . . So often on social media we see the highs, sometimes we see the lows but often the low has been navigated and you just see the person re-emerging with it all figured out. But I’m here in the thick of it and I haven’t figured it out. Not yet. I do the things I do because when I started doing them they added value to my life, but some of those things aren’t adding value anymore and it’s hard to let go. . . As someone who prides themselves in relentless persistence, letting go and stepping back feels like failure. And failure makes me want to slink away and hide, but hiding doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. . . In the grand scheme of things it probably doesn’t matter what I do (it’s a very first world problem to be stressed by doing to many good things), but it does matter that I’m authentic and I can’t possibly share the highs if I’m not willing to also share the lows. It’s OK to say that you’re not OK-to admit that you’ve backed yourself into a corner and you’re not sure how to get out. It’s OK to step back and let go. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.
I learned that I am not alone in finding myself “backed into a corner” overwhelmed by the things I’ve said “yes” to–many of you feel the same. For most it seems like we said ‘yes’ because whatever we said ‘yes’ to added value to our lives at the time. Or maybe we said ‘yes’ in hopes that further down the road the time and effort would pay off and provide more value or freedom.
Often we add responsibilities and obligations, but we never subtract any. We just keep saying ‘yes,’ until we break or the people around us break.
As a family we’ve always tried to make decisions that enhance our relationships with each other and bring freedom. Looking back at some of the major decisions Mark and I have made, I can easily see how the majority of them have brought us more freedom with our time and finances. There are times we’ve gotten into situations where our time and resources are spread thin, when that happens the things that matter most suffer: our marriage is strained, we’re easily frustrated by our kids, we withdraw from friendships. There’s a general disconnect.
I’d guess that a lot of us are there. We’re “white knuckling” life, as my wise friend Tara Newman said to me last week. We’re not connecting with our spouses, because by the time you’re together you’re to tired to talk. We’re yelling at our kids, because we can’t contain our own stress and we take it out on them. We’re wondering why we’re so unhappy and looking forward to the next vacation, hoping that will bring relief.
We’re in so deep in that we don’t have time to stop, look up and breathe, let alone make a good decision. So we keep plugging away without making any changes.
The thing is we don’t have to live that way. We can introduce margin back into our lives.
Last week I put everything I’m doing up on a chopping block and started hacking away. If it doesn’t bring me joy, it has to go. The hardest part though is letting go of things that do bring me joy and when it came to those decisions I had to ask, “does it bring me closer to my family?” And the answer to that was often “no.”
I’m pairing down a lot things and I already feel so much better. Making space is hard, but incredibly freeing.
We’re not really out of the weeds yet as a family-I don’t think we will be until this house is done. However, eliminating a lot of my responsibilities has brought our values back into focus and in the process some much needed joy.
Have you ever found yourself backed into a corner? How do you create margin in your life and keep obligations in check?
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