A couple of weeks ago I posted about how choosing to do the harder things once in awhile is a good thing and how, when we do those things we can be inspired to be more creative and more present in our lives.
But what about the times we have too many hard things to do? We have too many uninspiring projects; too many must do things, and too many things that just seem to be slowly sucking the life out of us. How to we clear out our schedules and make time just to get some balance back in our lives?
First off, I have to admit that I am an expert a piling too many tasks on myself and expecting perfection out of each one. I am also great at putting myself last on the list of things where I really need to focus the most of my attention. But a lot of us do that, so I know I’m not alone. Also, I try really hard to curate the projects I’m interested in doing with the ebb and flow of life around our little homestead.
The stumbling blocks for me tend to be those unexpected things that come up. And around here, that seems to be a regular thing. I’m finding out that I just don’t plan well for the unexpected. And when they hit, my joy level totally disappears from the radar.
My other problem is that I really like doing a lot of different kinds of things. I may not do them well, but I like to try. Unfortunately, I can be like a kid in a candy store. I want one of everything. You grab enough of those projects, and pretty soon you have a pile of things that aren’t getting done, and a pile of guilt to go with it.
I am not a big believer in nurturing guilt; which gets me to my current situation.
Last month, I devoted a lot of time to helping out at the Dragon Lights Festival. And while I loved the festival and most of the things I did, by the end of the month, I was overwhelmed and exhausted.
I had tried really hard before hand to prepare my schedule, my daily chores, and my general life in anticipation of the extra hours I was working at the fair. I thought I was ready. I was working nights, so I was planning on doing the yard work early in the morning. I would get up at 6am to walk the dogs, then work in the yard for a couple of hours, get Greg his breakfast, and spend sometime with him before taking him to work. I’d head back home do some writing and tour prep, then take a nap, make Greg’s dinner, then leave for the festival. In an ideal world, this might have worked. But this isn’t an ideal world. So much of my plan hinged on my work schedule not changing and of course, that was the first thing that got tossed out the window.
When the festival scheduled us, they didn’t have enough staff. And while they had us review the work schedule to make sure we were okay with it, they didn’t check it themselves to see if it was workable. It wasn’t. They had wanted a full crew in the ticket booths opening night, and I wasn’t scheduled. So at the last moment, I was called in. I thought, “okay, just this one time would be all right.”
You can guess how that went. The next week, one of the ticket staff quit. They asked if I could fill in until they found a replacement. Then they asked if I could find a replacement. I was motivated by the thought that if I could find someone to help, then my schedule would go back to the actual plan.
I found someone.
But my schedule stayed the same.
We had a lot more visitors to the festival than they expected. That was great for the Arboretum, but the ticket booths were chaos.
Along with the festival, our weather decided to stay in the 100’s for just about every day during the month of July. My plants needed more water than usual. Things were drying out faster than I could tend to them. And while I was getting up early most mornings, I had less time. Greg’s long awaited job change at his work finally came about. But with that came a change in days off and hourly schedule. We have the one car, and his job is the priority, most of the day it seemed like we were driving some place. But halfway through the month, Greg offered to help out at the festival as well, as long as he could work the same times I did. That relieved some wear and tear on the car, but Greg was now working 11 hour days.
Other side happenings were needing to do a mailbox rebuild. This was due to some Saturday night high jinx with kids rifling through all of the community mailboxes two weekends in a row. Mail was stolen. We bought a heavy duty mailbox (heavy, being the operative word, here), and along with our neighbor, set some more poles to hold the additional weight of the new boxes.
We also had to say goodbye to one of our much loved cats, who had become very ill. That was such a sad day.
Now, we got to the last week of Dragon Lights. The gal in charge of the festival finally figured out that this week would be even more packed people than ever wanting to catch the show before it left. She wanted to schedule me for every night. I was scheduled to only work through Thursday, and I really wanted to leave it at that, but she gave me this “look,” and I caved in. Greg worked those days with me too, along with his regular job!
It’s been a week since the festival ended. We are just now getting back into a “normal” routine and I’ve had some time to assess how I handled things. I was pretty down on myself for a few days. But since I’ve had time to rest and recharge, I’ve decided to cut out my internal blame switch, and look at the past month as a teaching moment for me.
I over scheduled. Duh! Looking back on my daily plan, I had pretty much every hour scheduled with some task. Even though I thought I was well organized, I was really filling up every minute of the day to “maximize my productivity.” What I forgot was that “things happen.” When those occurred my day had no wiggle room.
I didn’t plan for any fun. You have to have fun! A person has to have something pleasant to experience in the middle of the day to edge out the stress; I didn’t allow for any of that. Even though my garden is fun, when it’s a hundred degrees outside, all I want to do is sit in the shade. I couldn’t do my normal fun, so I was stressed. Since I was scheduling myself, I could have found something else fun, but I was wrapped up in my wilting plants. So I ignored having fun until my internal self staged a revolt.
I didn’t figure in that even though this was a temporary job and a basically simple one, I would need time to get used to doing it. Such a simple thing, but I didn’t allow for that either.
Lastly, I didn’t stay true to me. I didn’t push back when things were changing in a way that caused additional challenges to my life. Instead, I agreed and then let it quietly (or not so quietly) bother me. Instead I told myself that it was short term, and that I didn’t want to make my co-workers have to do more. I should tough it out. Sometimes you can do that, and its fine. This wasn’t one of those times. Each situation is different, and I really should have listened to my instincts to say no when it was right for me.
Hopefully I will take these lessons to heart. But knowing me, I have to stumble along a little more before I get it. When I went to pick up my last check, my boss told me they were coming back next year, and she was looking forward to working with me again.
I just said “thanks.” For a fleeting moment I almost said “I can’t wait!”
Like I said, I’m going to stumble a bit more before I learn.