Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 168: I Don't Wanna!

I feel like throwing a good old fashioned tantrum.

I've spent the past few days not posting, but actively working through the issue of letting go of some of the things that are filling up my life. I've complied lists galore, diagrams, and even pie charts (that's right, I said pie charts) in an attempt to analyze which trumps the other and relegate a few to the gotta-go pile.

But each and every one of the things I'm involved in is important to me! In their own way, as much as they drain my time and energy, they fulfill, equip and energize me.

I feel torn. Is it better to impact a few people in a big way or lots of people in a small way? Do I prioritize the things through which I feel I have the greatest positive impact or the ones that are most personally fulfilling. Does personally fulfilling mean it feeds me individually or our family as a whole? And what part of me or our family needs to be fed? Do I go with the numbers and get rid of the things that require the most from me or the ones for which the effort-payoff ratio is smallest?

So many questions with so many possible answers, none right or wrong. Not a comfortable way to make a decision for this black-and-white mom. The bottom line is that I do the things I do because they're positive and productive and I'm passionate about all of them.

Of course the things I really wish I could ditch are the non-negotiables that don't stir my heart with excitement, but which are vital to our family and business. And through all the pie charting I've been trying to see those things in a more positive light - being thankful that I'm needed, a part of the "team" and able to contribute, and viewing that service to my family as meaningful instead of a drag, no matter how much I hate paperwork and the like.

My pie chart would definitely be the inverse. No, scratch that. It would all be eaten and there would be a picture of another pie labeled "next."

Once the tantrum subsided, I got all the details sorted out and dove beneath the surface to get a little more honest with myself. And there were a few front-runners for the cut. There were also some painfully obvious imbalances in terms of energy in vs energy out and the target of that spent energy.

Ironically, "set priorities" has literally been written on my to-do list for at least two months now without having been addressed - a sign that perhaps priorities aren't in line, you think?

So in establishing priorities, these are the conclusions I came to:
  • Spending my time and energy on positive and productive things, does not necessarily equal a positive and productive use of my time and energy if priorities are not set and honored. In other words, a good thing in general can be a bad thing for me or our family if it takes precedence over something more important.
  • I'm investing a lot of energy in relationships - a valuable and positive thing, no question. But I'm spreading that energy among too many people and leaving gaping holes where there should be more invested, namely within my extended family. The list of women I genuinely want to spend time with is so long it actually causes stress based on the number of phone calls and emails I "need" to make and play dates I "need" to schedule. I simply have to allow those relationships either weather the long periods between talks and time spent together or fall to the wayside if they're not hearty enough to do so. A tough task when one of my great passions is community building!
  • I'm not engaging in enough self-care to sustain the load I've taken on. The piling stress leads to poor nutritional choices, either from a lack of time to nourish myself with a good meal and sit down while I eat or because a brownie masquerades as a reward before causing a crash and burn reaction, to say nothing of the guilt and self-loathing. (Seriously though, if you haven't tried the peanut butter brownies at the Good Earth Co-Op, you haven't lived.) When I'm over-scheduled I don't have time to run, an essential for my physical and emotional well-being. And I don't have the "luxury" of listening to my body when it's telling me to take a short nap while the kids sleep or just take thirty minutes to rest and read one of the five thousand books on my as-if-I'll-ever-have-time wish list. These are simple things that have to fit in if I'm going to be effective.
  • Real life has to come first. My research and facebook addiction is easy to justify, not only because it's a form of activism which has led me to the opportunity to help quite a few women and their families, but also because our family has gained so much from what I've learned through all that reading, often after seeing something posted on a friend's page. But some things, like nurturing those real-life friendships and a little self-care, are more important than piling up more knowledge, no matter how useful. 
  • Spirituality, which could easily also fall under relationships, self-care, and real life, has to top the list. It is the glue that holds all the rest together and gives it all meaning. I'm not modeling the kind of relationship with and reliance on God that I want my kids to see, and they're not experiencing his love as they should because it's not able to flow through me when I give that relationship little time or attention. The kind of energy and strength I'll gain from prioritizing this aspect of life will fuel me to do more and be better in every other way. Seems like a no-brainer, right?

And the practical application goes like this:
  • I will post for myself a visible list of priorities and make to-do lists and schedule activities accordingly.
  • I will leave at least two of five weekday mornings open so we have more freedom and less stress.
  • I will take an evening run by myself at least once per week and use one of those free mornings and one weekend day to run with the kids.
  • I will invest first in my family relationships and closest friendships and only spread my energy further if there is enough to do so. I must trust that there's enough of me to nurture the relationships that are meant to be sustained.
  • I will sit down to eat lunch with the boys and make a plan for dinner each morning so we can also eat as a family in the evening. Less chaos at meal times will be good for all of us.
  • I will take a hiatus from facebook reading and posting. When we settle into a less hectic routine, I'll allow myself to return to it only if other priorities are tended to first, and only at a specified time of day and for a reasonable amount of time which will depend on how much "extra" is available at that point. For now I will log on once during nap time to admin the Holistic Parenting group I created and check my inbox. No homepage. I repeat, NO homepage!
  • I will continue to respond to and prioritize calls, emails, and messages from women seeking support or information as these fall under the "real-life" relationship guideline when directed specifically to me. However, I will not address general online posts with the same questions unless the need is urgent or the response so simple it's faster to post it than think about it again.
  • I will delegate more responsibility to my Holistic Moms Network co-leaders and if something can't be taken on by one of them, I will allow myself to let it go.
  • I will use my now screen-free time to focus on finishing La Leche League training. A real-life passion that has taken a back seat to other less-important reading.
  • I will read a Bible verse each morning with Jackson during breakfast, a great way to also make sure we're sitting down to that meal together. Here's hoping I can answer the slew of questions that will come my way about each one!
  • We will jump back in to our church and seek relationships there, not just attendance.
  • I will ask for the specific help I need. I am blessed with a husband that is endlessly supportive, parents who bend over backward to help out, and in-laws who would do anything they could for us and I simply need to be organized enough to identify where and how they can relieve some pressure. This will not only help me (and as a byproduct, the kids who have to put up with me all day), but it will make our family function more as a team and deepen relationships as we rely on each other.
I think the goals are realistic and achievable. It's really all riding on staying focused. I'm easily distracted by so many things I want to accomplish and ways I want to contribute, but if I honor that list of priorities, I'll have no choice but to stay on track.

And when the pressure starts to lift, joy is abundant, and love flows more freely, I hope the rewards will be enough to make maintaining balance come a little more naturally.

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