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!

 

 

The Mommy Detour

To be so strong-willed and feel like I was broken somehow held me back from chasing my purpose. I put it up on a shelf. I look at it occasionally and committed that I would one day take it up again. It wasn’t until I overcame my fears and came back to myself that I realized nothing had changed. I was still me.

37_godwin-chuLiterally overnight, I went from being in a corporate atmosphere every day to being a homemaker with a baby on the way. It was my decision, after all, to take a few months off to get things in order before the baby arrived. I was ecstatic and relieved to have some focus and not feel pulled in so many directions. For the first time in a long time, I felt a sense of defined purpose and allegiance to a duty greater than myself – motherhood.

That feeling lasted about a week.

The reality of how lonely I felt started to creep in. Everyone I would normally confide in was at work when I needed to talk. When I did get the chance to chat with a friend, I would grow tired of answering the same questions, “So what do you do all day?” and “What’s it like?” Not to mention how depressing daytime television can be! I felt like the girl in the bubble – everyone was watching to see what I would do in my new habitat. It was a strange type of isolation.

I was expecting my first child. I had a long list of to-dos that seemed impossible to complete. As I got bigger, climbing up and down the stairs with loads of laundry became nearly impossible. It took me an entire week just to assemble a child’s dresser I bought online simply because my growing belly was in the way. I got winded easily. Basic things seemed so much harder and harder things felt impossible.

Eventually, it got better and I settled into my new role with its glorious limitations and I found purpose in the possibilities that each day presented. I lowered my ridiculous standards, set smaller and more realistic daily goals and allowed myself to rest as often as I felt I needed to. I found a groove and I channeled my energy into taking good care of myself and my husband. I tried new recipes, baked, made green smoothies daily and read birthing books. Within those 3 months, I successfully prepped for the baby’s arrival, put the finishing touches on the nursery and settled into an emotional space of eager expectation.

In May 2015, we brought our daughter home from the hospital and there was a new learning curve began. My mother stayed with us for two weeks and my husband took off of work for three weeks. Those first few weeks were a blur of sleepless nights, unspeakable joy and overall exhaustion. I honestly don’t remember many of the details and I slowly fell into postpartum depression.

I had anxiety so bad once my husband went back to work that I would only leave the house for doctor’s appointments and the occasional rushed trip to the grocery store. I felt suddenly alone and once again, isolated. I had this little vulnerable person that depended on me and the weight of that fact was crushing.

What if we get in a car accident?

What if I forget to pack something important in the diaper bag?

What if she starts crying and I can’t get her to stop?

What if I have to nurse and we are out in public?

What if there’s nowhere to change her?

What if…?

These unrealistic worries kept me up at night. They robbed me of peace and sanity. I nursed on-demand around the clock. I didn’t eat well. I didn’t take good care of myself. I barely showered or brushed my teeth. I was so baby-minded that I forgot myself. I forgot the purpose of the whole experience. I forgot to breathe.

To be so strong-willed and feel like I was broken somehow held me back from chasing my purpose. I put it up on a shelf. I look at it occasionally and committed that I would one day take it up again. It wasn’t until I overcame my fears and came back to myself that I realized nothing had changed. I was still me.

I joined a local La Leche League group where I found commonality and normalcy with women I didn’t know, but who were a lot like me. The adult interaction was refreshing. I saw myself in their struggles, successes and moments of weakness. They were real and made me feel like I belonged in a special club of warriors who took on the daily battles that no one witnessed or celebrated. I also took up contractual work on a seasonal basis, which required me to visit the office a couple of times a week and helped me feel connected again.

I’ve learned over the last two years to be transparent. I’ve learned through countless personal conversations, articles, blogs and vlogs that I am not the only one. It happens almost weekly that I have an encounter with someone who reminds me of why I am on this planet. My daughter was about fourteen months old when I gathered enough courage to start again, pick up the pieces and move forward.

And I know now that it’s perfectly okay. I am doing it. I haven’t given up. I will not give up. I just needed some time to gather myself, shake off the dust and refocus. I took a mommy detour, but I still have work to do. I still have a passion to help others, but now I have a small audience. There is a beautiful, chocolate, brown-eyed little girl watching to see her own potential in me. She thinks I can do anything. I am starting to believe that too.

I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, entrepreneur, dreamer, life-changer, leader, encourager, counselor, confidant and writer. I am all of these things. I was made to be all of these things and my purpose dictates that I can do them all with excellence.

I stepped away, but now I’m back!

 

 

My REAL Motivation

Everyone is motivated by something. If you’re not motivated in life, you start to deteriorate.

In college, I was motivated by the prospect of successfully completing my degree. Then I was motivated by securing a job with a living wage. But once I was working full-time and had some experience under my belt, I found myself motivated by the paycheck I could count on like clockwork twice a month. Eventually, it morphed into a motivation for the weekend or the next vacation because the work I was doing didn’t drive me.

Looking back, I realize my motivation was constantly changing because I was looking for a reason to keep going. I targeted a tangible reward in order to psych myself into believing that what I was doing was fulfilling. I was like a horse chasing a carrot in vain.

About three years ago, I was convicted to start living with purpose. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it became the hardest thing I have ever done. Living each day with purpose meant that I had to approach every decision minute by minute, hour by hour, stop…think and ask myself, “Why?” before I said or did anything. It changed me as a persona and has made me more present in the day-to-day. It has made me a better wife and a more patient mother.

I learned how to say, “No” easily and without condemnation. Before my purpose-driven life, I was a people pleaser. I put my own priorities and goals on the back burner when I thought doing so would enable me to keep the peace. I compromised unnecessarily. I compromised a lot. I finally began to understand that what I was doing was stealing from myself.

“No, I cannot stay late and work tonight.”

“No, I am not going to bail you out of jail.”

“No, you can’t drive my car.”

“No, you can’t have that last piece of pie! I am planning to eat that!”

Dozens of emails I frantically typed that  full of emotion and passive aggressive language were never sent. There were phone calls I decided not to make and lies I chose not to tell, even though I thought the truth would hurt. It was difficult at times to be so honest, transparent and real in my attempts to be purposeful. However, I gained so much peace and comfort from it. I let myself off the hook finally and excused myself from the expectations of others.

 

In the spring of 2015, my husband and I welcomed our daughter. She was the child we had waited and prayed for. She was our first and is still our only. She became my motivation in a way that I never expected. She’s the reason I wake up in the morning with eager anticipation even though I’m not at all a morning person. She is the reason I choose to build businesses and leave a legacy that will carry on generation after generation. She is the reason I want to be a better person, a wholesome example and strong woman. She is the reason I want more than ever for my marriage to work even though it can be tough at times.

I don’t need any other reason. I will never again need a surrogate reason to live my life.

Whatever drives you shouldn’t be temporal. It should be something that takes your hopes and dreams beyond today, beyond the end of the week, beyond the end of the year. It should be something that speaks to your heart and the essence of what’s important to you.

If you’ve identified money as your end goal – what happens when all of your financial needs are met? What happens if the money stops coming in? Do you really think you’ll be on your deathbed and say to yourself, “I wish I had made more money”?

If you are motivated by beauty – what happens when the beauty fades? What happens if your health status changes for the worst?

If you are motivated by feeling wanted or loved – what will you do when the love is gone? What will you do when that person no longer meets your needs?

My daughter being my motivation means that everything I do is done with the purpose of making her life better. It’s a sacrifice that only I can make. I went through a rough pregnancy and recovery just to have her. I’ve sacrificed sleep and comfort to do the best I could for her. I put her first in my daily decisions so that she can have a healthy, happy and stable childhood. She can’t do anything to repay me. I do it willingly and without regret.

Failure is not an option.

Saying that, “I tried” will never be good enough.

I look into her eyes and know that she completely depends on, needs and trusts me. That’s the way it should be and that’s my motivation to be even better than I thought I could.

 

Declare Your Worth or Someone Else Will

I spent years trying to show myself worthy of the title I had been given on my business card. Not only did I work hard. I overworked. I came in early during the week, often getting there before my staff started their day. I left late, skipped lunches and put my personal life on hold. I worked weekends often and holidays. I alienated my husband at night so I could “get work done,” often staying awake into the late hours, pounding the keys by laptop light to the sound of him snoring next to me. I used vacation time to schedule doctor’s appointments, surgeries and overdue household maintenance. I had to feel like I was on death’s door to take a sick day. I never stopped.

I was like so many people, looking for meaning in all the wrong places. I expected that a pat on the back and “good job, girl,” at the end of the day would make it all okay. I expected to feel like I had accomplished something. I became a person who was not confident in my own abilities. I convinced myself that if I stepped away, took a breath or unplugged that it would all fall apart and the destruction would be my fault.

But when you are not operating in your God-given purpose, He has a way of putting a mirror in your face. He showed me to myself in the way that only he could. I had settled and made excuses for why I couldn’t move on. I saw others leave and chase their dreams and I was truly happy for them…and jealous. Why couldn’t I let go too? Why couldn’t I get off of the train?

Then I would go put out a metaphorical fire and say to myself, “Well, I can’t leave. I’m needed here. What would happen if I wasn’t here?”

It would be unfair to say that my so-called career was holding me hostage. No, I wasn’t being forced to do anything. In seeking constant approval and waiting to hear that giving my all was enough, I did that to myself. My personal relationships were suffering due to neglect and my marriage was a roller coaster of disappointments, miscommunication, anger and sadness. Marriages are like houseplants after all, if you don’t feed and water them, they die. I actually surrendered my two dogs because I no longer had the time to care for, walk daily, groom and take them to the vet on schedule. I chose work over everything.

So, one day I found myself in a bathroom stall at work, crying and struggling to breathe in between blubbering sobs. Someone had just made it clear that they didn’t value who I was. I felt crumpled up and thrown away. I put my emotional breakdown on a schedule. I had a meeting in 15 minutes, so I had to pull together by then. I wasn’t an emotional person, but I cried a lot in those months – in the car on the way to work, in the shower or pretty much anytime I found a quiet moment alone. I would tell myself to “stop it,” because nothing was wrong. I should be grateful. I had a job and others didn’t.

I covered my face and asked the question out loud, “I have done EVERYTHING for these people! Why isn’t it enough?”

I called my husband, expecting him to give me one of his speeches about how I would be okay, but instead he said to me, “Don’t worry about it. You won’t be there long.” He saw how hard I worked and what I sacrificed. He was empathetic, but I could also tell he was mad.

That was what I needed – permission. I was loyal to a fault. I would stick with someone or something with the optimistic hope that it will all work out, even when it’s toxic or no longer beneficial. But my husband let me off the hook. He let me know that all I had done was more than enough and it was time to gracefully bow out.

Over the months that followed, I continued to work hard, but I also let go. I let go of the worry I carried about not being liked, appreciated and acknowledged. I stopped caring about all of the superficial things that had kept me bondage. I began to pour my energy into my marriage and my husband, we took a vacation to Florida and I totally unplugged. I didn’t care if the building caught fire. I knew no matter what happened without me, they would figure it out.

My stress level was the lowest it had been in about 4 years. My husband and I discussed a timeline for me to resign and exit my job. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do next, but I chose to trust God in guiding my steps to the next season of life. About two months after our vacation, I found out that I was pregnant after two and a half years of trying! So there it was…my purpose defined. I began to do research and plan for life as a homemaker and mom and I have never looked back.

I am a beautiful, creative, ambitious, intelligent and independent woman. I am not the type to walk into a room of strangers, shake a dozen hands and chat it up like a politician and that’s okay. I don’t care what people would like me to be. I know now that I am who I am meant to be. Never again will I put myself in a place where I work so hard to be like someone else.

We are who we are for a reason. I worked for eight years helping someone else fulfill their life’s mission before realizing how far outside of my own I actually was.

Life is too short to live it outside of my purpose.