I often write about the importance of taking care of yourself first—that way, you’ll have enough energy to take care of your loved ones. So I should know this better than anyone, right?
Except for when life gets really, really busy and everything swirls into one crazy-fast ball, and before you know it—boom!—you’ve hit the wall.
Well, I finally hit that wall, and let me tell you—it was ugly. At the tender, young age of 45, I found myself acting like a crazed adolescent, having all sorts of lady-like meltdowns and temper tantrums.
Because all the crazy, running around I’ve been doing for the past month was making me effin crazy (or cray-cray, for you grammarians out there). That craziness-making was also a giant red flag that I needed to get back to the grief memoir I’ve been writing since my mom died.
Because that book has been such an intense, emotional project, I’ve been taking lots of breaks along the way. In March, I hit a big, logistical snag, and somewhere along the line, I allowed my writing to get stalled.
During that time, I found myself overcommitting like a madwoman. Yes, I could do that school project! Yes, I could volunteer more time! Yes, I could drive the carpool! Yes, I could bake for the bake sale! (Never mind that I don’t bake.) Yes, I could solve your problems! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
No, no, no, no, no.
Meanwhile, I was spending my work hours taking care of all sorts of crazy shit I didn’t need to be worrying about, like starting 48 side projects and taking a class I don’t need until next year.
Have I ever told you how much I hate multi-tasking? I’m actually pretty rabid about not doing it—when I’m sane, that is. I mean, I just can’t juggle 47 things at once. Balls start falling and before you know it, I’ve broken some important ones.
Like my sanity.
The super-ridiculous thing about this is how crazily-extroverted I’d allowed myself to get—which is pretty ridiculous when you consider that I’m an introvert at heart. Meaning I need a lot of peace and quiet.
(By the way, here’s a quick definition of what that means: an introvert needs quiet time to recharge while an extrovert recharges by being around people. Most of us are somewhere on the continuum.)
Peace and quiet (not to mention sanity) were things sorely missing from my new soccer mom life. Yes, my kids’ after-school activities had become quite bonkers—true. But did we really need to have everyone and their brother over for dinner in the tiny bit of free time we still had? Did I really need to be acting like the super-human chatting machine I’d become? Did I really need to be giving people unsolicited advice they never asked for?
(If you’re one of those folks who received some of that unsolicited advice—yikes! Feel free to tell me to pipe down next time.)
Anyway. Here’s the real kicker about all that crazy-ass running around: it kept me from the things that really mattered. Because I was basically too busy with all the busy stuff to have enough time and energy for my priorities.
Meaning I had no time to write. I’d become so exhausted by my overcommitting that even when I did have writing time penciled in to my calendar, I didn’t have the mental or physical juice to do it justice.
I hadn’t given myself the downtime I needed, and it was showing. I was so burned out that I had nothing left—for myself, as well as for those I loved most.
Here’s how that shows up for me: I start getting cranky with my kids. I get pretty darn cranky with Ken. I bitch and moan a hell of a lot more than I’m proud of.
(Although I have to admit that I’m still gunning for a housecleaner. A cook would also be great. Pssst. Pass it around.)
On the bright side, once the dust finally settled, things started to get pretty damn clear. I remembered how much I hate that out-of-control feeling that comes with an out-of-control lifestyle.
Whenever this happens (and it happens far too often, I’m sorry to say), it means it’s time for me to take my life back. Rechart my friggin course.
This also means it’s time for me to stop over-scheduling myself as well as my family. To stop chatting with every person I run into, especially if I’m not feeling social. Basically, it’s time to stop trying to be someone I’m not and start acting like myself again.
This leads to some pretty damn important re-prioritizing. For me, part of this is
- writing consistently, and
- protecting that writing time.
Because getting this grief memoir out into the world is important to me. And surprise, surprise, it’s not the easiest thing to eek out a book when you’re trying to juggle 47 different projects.
So today, I’m cutting myself a break. I’m spending my work time (gasp) working on my book instead of the zillion other business-related tasks on my to-do list. I’m also (double-gasp) letting the household and school stuff slide until after I’ve put in my writing time. The phone’s on mute, and my email’s closed. I’ll get back to the rest of my life after I’ve filled up my well a bit.
There. I said it.
I can’t do it all. Nobody can.
So why the fuck do we keep trying?
Now it’s your turn.
What are you avoiding, and why? If you slow down the great, churning machine that’s become your life, what is your soul trying to tell you?
Leave a comment below.