Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Are you pulled in too many directions?

It happens. Our calendars fill up. Demands on our time increase. We run ourselves ragged throughout the day and collapse into bed in states of total exhaustion and weariness. Did you ever stop and ask yourself why? Maybe you should.

Image by Gerald_G

As someone who's been there far too often, I want to encourage you to do something. Sit down. Breathe. Even if it's just for a minute or two. Close your eyes and imagine being somewhere else. The beach. The mountains. In your sweetheart's arms.

Now grab your calendar and take an honest look at it. Is there anything on there you could eliminate? Do it. Is there something that causes dread when you think about it? Do you have to keep that appointment? And please note: I'm not talking about doctor or dentist appointments you may be dreading. Keep them! But maybe there's an upcoming social event you feel obligated to attend, even though you don't want to. Ask yourself why you are going.

I know a woman who used to gather with high school friends for every birthday. The group of women would go out to dinner and every time my friend would complain about it. She didn't enjoy being part of this group anymore. She'd outgrown them. So why was she still filling her calendar with these gatherings? It was an obligation. When she finally realized she didn't have to continue being part of this group, the burden was lifted off of her and she was able to free up quite a few evenings in her year. Ahhh... relief. Did the others understand? Maybe not. But who cares??

So often, we live our lives to please others. I'm not saying we shouldn't put others first at times. But there has to be a balance.

After my first husband died, I decided to go back to college and finish my degree. At the time, I was a 32-year-old single mom with two small children. I met with someone at the university and discovered that many of my credits were no longer valid because they didn't offer the courses anymore. What? That made no sense to me. So instead of being a senior, I was going to start back as a junior. I originally double-majored in theater arts and creative writing. I no longer cared about the theater degree, so I planned to pursue a degree in writing. As they looked at the courses I'd taken, they said I had already fulfilled all of my writing requirements. They set up a schedule for me. It included chemistry, calculus, and some other lame-to-me courses. One thing was clear -- I was going to hate school. I had to do some soul searching. Why did I really want the degree? It was a simple answer: I wanted to do it for my mother. Once I knew that answer, I looked at what my life would be like if I enrolled in the next semester. Since I didn't have any family in Pittsburgh, I would have to have babysitters care for my children. I would have to drive into Oakland and find parking, despite the weather. I would have to listen to boring lectures about subjects I had zero interest in. And my evenings would be spent studying the aforementioned subjects. Fun times. The end result would be a miserable mommy for my little girls. What was all that for again? Oh yeah, for my mother.

I decided to skip the degree.

And you know what? It's okay. I did what was best for me and for my family at the time. And not once since then, have I ever been asked if I had a degree. I now teach writing at Carnegie Mellon University for their Osher program. I teach writing at conferences. I present writing workshops. I run a writers' group. I coach writers. And not taking chemistry or calculus has affected me in any negative way. Sometimes, you just have to let go of other people's expectations.

So look at your calendar again. Look at it honestly. Are your kids in activities someone else wants them to be in? Are you pushing them to do things they don't want to do? Would it be so bad if your kids didn't participate in everything your sister's kids participate in? Is there a competition going on here? Just some questions for you to ponder.

Freeing up some time can rescue you from the Gumby syndrome. After all, it's really not that cool to be stretched in that many directions. Let me know if you find a way out.

Sharing my thoughts on life,

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