Burnout: When What You Have To Give Is Not Enough

I used to think, how does one lose herself? Is she not attached? Where did she go? Now, I get it. I see it. I feel it.

Since the start of February, I’ve had the urge to break up with my life. I’m not talking about an all-out divorce, but definitely a trial separation. I think my life and I need to evaluate what we want from each other. We need space and time to determine whether we are meant to be together.

My life demands eager attentiveness, ingenuity, constant motherhood, gracious servitude and loyal wifedom. Life doesn’t care that I am physically unable to keep up at times. She runs ahead of me, occasionally looking back to mock my aches, pains and sleepless nights. She doesn’t think it’s important that I’m indeed exhausted and in need of quality me time. My life snickers at my daydreams of packing a bag and leaving for a solitary weekend sabbatical. She knows that I’m too loyal and unselfish to follow through.

She simply says, “Get on with it. Pull up your big girl panties and be WOMAN!”

I would rather play in a sandbox and artfully craft a beautiful rock garden, roll in a grassy field underneath the afternoon sun or write for hours in blessed seclusion and reflection. Could I hop aboard a last-minute flight to an unfamiliar city and explore? I promise to leave a heartfelt note and detailed instructions for the care and feeding of the toddler. I am, after all, a mother.

As I write this on the back of a piece of paper I found at the bottom of my junky purse (the first thing I’ve written in over a month), I sit alone, but not at all lonely. I’m at one of my favorite restaurants, dining on Japanese noodles and salad. I’m enjoying a forbidden sugary soda – something I can’t have at home with a child around because she wants a bite…a piece…a sip…a lick of EVERYTHING she lays eyes on! I’m grateful to not be sharing, talking, answering, explaining, wiping tables, fingers, and cheeks or instructing. I’m just sitting, eating, thinking and in this long overdue moment of clarity, I’ve found myself unexpectedly writing.

This wasn’t a planned lunch date, but a personal intervention of sorts. My life dictated errands and grocery shopping for the afternoon. I was on my way to the supermarket when I suddenly found myself turning into the parking lot. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I hadn’t eaten and I hadn’t noticed. It was 2p.m. If one could be brought up on charges for neglecting themselves, I would be a candidate for serious time.

So, I’m soaking this time in. I am in no hurry whatsoever.

somehwere-along-the-way

I’ve heard women say it countless times, but I didn’t understand the meaning of the phrase until now… “I lost myself.”

I used to think, how does one lose herself? Is she not attached? Where did she go?

Now, I get it. I see it. I feel it.

When I return home today with a trunk full of groceries, there will be meals to plan for the week, a potty training toddler to wake, a heap of laundry to fold and food to put away. I will have help, but I am the sergeant. I must be vigilant, present and give specific guidance. Then, my life will quickly demand the a change of clothes, waking the toddler and explaining the necessity of going to the potty again, dressing and combing of hair, packing of snacks, water and more snacks and off to church service. After that, my life will yell for more of my time and energy, but I won’t dare think that fare ahead.

My life has all of me, but I feel the need to set boundaries with her and take some of my control back. There is so much to do and so many people to please and care for, but what about me? Life’s demands have filled my calendar and restricted my freedom and creativity. I stopped striving to be perfect a long time ago, at least. All I want in this season of my life is to be balanced, healthy and sane.

I don’t want to look back in sadness and utter those words, “I lost myself.”

I realize now that what I have to give will be enough when I purpose to regularly give myself enough of what I NEED – time, peace and quiet, space to be creative, meditation, relaxation, exercise and the regular feeding of my soul. I cannot continue to try and give what I don’t have.

My interpretation of what life wanted, left me in my current position – last on the priority list. I’m not even penciled on my own calendar anymore! For this relationship to work, life has to start treating me like she used to with intellectual stimulation, date nights, lunch dates, massages, hair appointments, pedicures and good sleep. I also won’t mind the occasional pair of shoes or new handbag – she can afford it.

I might have to sneak away for a few hours and allow some of life’s needs to linger, but I purpose to do it without guilt because guilt has brought me to this uncomfortable place on the edge of reason. Guilt has worn me out and left me empty.

Here’s to more solitary lunches, walks in the park, coffee shop visits and shopping trips in my near future!

 

 

Don’t Consider Yourself Small

I didn’t believe that behind my small stature and little voice there was a purpose. I didn’t believe anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t believe that what I had to say was of value. I was wrong!

I’ve always been small in the literal sense. I’m five feet tall exactly and it’s been that way since middle school. Because of that, adults and peers alike would assume that I was insignificant and I allowed it in a lot of ways. I mastered the art of being invisible. I would be in a classroom full of kids and my teachers would forget that I was there. I was quiet. I kept to myself. I didn’t want to be seen. I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. As far back as I can recall, it’s been that way.

In middle school, I remember going through the lunch line on a particular day, as I did every day. At the register, the lunch lady asked me, “Who are you here to visit today?”

I looked around, confused. “I go here,” I told her, trying to straighten my shoulders a bit to look taller.

Her eyes widened and she laughed a hearty laugh, slapping her thigh. “Oh, I thought you were visiting your big brother or sister! You’re so cute.”

In high school, I felt wearing colors would make people notice me in the hallways, so I avoided them. I wore long sleeves most days, even in the summer I wore jackets or sweatshirts all day. I sat in the back of my classes and didn’t speak unless I was spoken to.

It wasn’t until I started to pack for college that I realized how sad of an existence I had made for myself. I opened an empty box and took several pairs of pants out of the closet and off of their hangers – five pairs of khaki pants in various shades, three pairs of jeans and six pairs of black pants. I didn’t have any shorts because I didn’t want people to look at my scrawny legs. For the same reason, I didn’t wear dresses or skirts. My wardrobe was a reflection of my attitude about life; there was no color and there was no excitement.

In college, I walked into a popular intimate apparel shop in the mall near my parent’s house. I was on break from school, bored and looking to kill some time on a free afternoon. I browsed for a few minutes before I was approached by a saleswoman.

“Where are your parents?” She asked, without offering an appropriate customer service greeting.

I didn’t understand the significance of her question at first. “They’re at home…?”

“They let you come to the mall all by yourself?”

“I’m older than I look,” I told her as she starred at me in disbelief. “I’m in college.”

I don’t remember her response after that, but I was so embarrassed that I left. I couldn’t even buy a pair of panties without judgment! It would be another three years before I mustered the courage to enter one of the stores again.

In my mid-twenties, I went to a pharmacy to pick up over-the-counter cold medicine. Due to the local law, it required a signature at purchase. The older male pharmacist looked past me and over my head at my husband who was standing off to the side and asked, “Are you the father?”

He laughed and shook his head, “No, this is my wife!”

The pharmacist looked at me for the first time and offered a weak apology, but no smile. He begrudgingly rung up the medicine as if he didn’t believe me.

—-

This has gone on for long enough. I accepted it at first because I considered myself small. I saw myself as a grain of sand in the world with little to contribute and nothing much to offer. I didn’t believe that behind my small stature and little voice there was a purpose. I didn’t believe anyone would want to hear what I had to say. I didn’t believe that what I had to say was of value. I was wrong!

Not only do I contribute to the world, but I have a beautiful family who love and depend on me. When I speak, people actually listen. I’ve had the responsibility and privilege to sow into the lives of so many people that I can’t count them all. I am a woman of faith, a teacher, motivator, an encourager, mentor and leader.

I am a person who matters in the world and so are you.

Don’t consider yourself small. Don’t allow the issues of life to knodont-consider-yourself-smallck you down and then just resolve to stay seated until it all blows over. The power of change is in your hands. You deserve to live a peaceful, happy and fulfilled life, but that requires your participation. My desire is to see you emerge from the shadows and corners of life and find the seat at the table that was made just for you.

It won’t happen all at once. It won’t happen overnight, but if you work at it, it will happen. And when it does, you’ll look back at the disappointing times in your life and laugh at how much has changed. I look back now at the little girl with puffy hair, wearing hand-me-down clothes two sizes too big, lugging around 10 pounds of books, concerned about being teased in the hallways and I wish I could share with her what I know now. I would tell her that it gets better and she shouldn’t take life so seriously at such a young age. I would tell her that she will impact the lives of millions. I would tell her to believe and not to lose faith in the goodness of life and the kindness in people, because it still exists.

I would tell her, like I am telling you – you are worth it! You matter. You have purpose and your life has meaning.

Stay encouraged. Don’t give up. Get to know the sleeping giant inside of you. You aren’t small. You are just beginning.