When I used to maintain an overly-full schedule, I thought it was all about contributing great things to my family and community. Wasn’t it admirable of me? Working part-time; going to school part-time; raising two kids; maintaining a household that, over the years, included goldfish, a lizard, three dogs, and six rabbits; volunteering every week at school; being the secretary on the church board; attending Bible Study; teaching Sunday School; and making homemade meals every day became a normal way of life.
Truthfully, I didn’t have a clue how exhausted I was. There was an invisible force compelling me to continue this insanity. I didn’t know it then, but my busyness was the best solution my subconscious had to prevent me from feeling my emotions and dealing with memories. To top it off, I just couldn’t say no. My hungry ego was fed each time I was ‘needed’.
There wasn’t a magical day when I woke up and said “Wow! I’ve overextended myself!” But, over the course of several months I began to feel depleted. I finally made a conscious decision to take one year off from volunteering so I could ‘catch my breath.’ It was a challenging process to say the least.
Thankfully, the earth continued to rotate just as it always had. No great catastrophes happened as I dropped one outside activity after another. It was a bit demeaning to my ego, but nevertheless I said ‘no’ to new requests for help, and didn’t replace positions that expired. Ironically, as my ‘free time’ grew, so did my exhaustion. I think I finally slowed down long enough for the physical fatigue to register in my weary brain. The year off turned into two, then even more as I came to grips with just how dead my battery actually was.
My history was catching up with me and the onslaught of flashbacks and nightmares drained nearly all my energy. It felt like I was losing my mind and I sought professional help. In addition to processing my abuse, I learned about my tendency to be co-dependent. My default is to say yes even to the detriment of myself and/or my family. I’ve learned how to decide if want to say yes instead of automatically doing so. I’ve also learned about setting boundaries.
Over the last year, my battery finally began feeling recharged, and I’ve slowly been adding outside activities back into my schedule. I recently realized I’d gone too far, though, when I was asked to be on the board of the Writer’s Group I joined last year. I was flattered and excited to be asked. Only about a week in however, I felt I’d slipped over an invisible line. I’d accepted this board position about the same time as I’d committed to writing for our church newsletter, joined a book study, and I took on more hours at work. I’m also preparing to go see my mom. Everything seemed to collide at once and I realized I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
It was at once encouraging and depressing. I was happy to know I’ve finally learned to recognize when I’ve gone over the line, but was very discouraged to discover my plate doesn’t hold as much as I want. The board President was very gracious and understanding when I notified him I would have to renege on my recent appointment. It definitely helped the sting and embarrassment of the whole situation.
Maintaining a healthier marriage, continuing my relationships with my kids and their spouses, writing, running my business, and growing healthy friendships takes most of my time and energy. It takes a considerable amount of both to be emotionally connected instead of just being busy.
I guess I’m still figuring out how to do it well instead of do it all.
How about you? What does your schedule look like?