Written and read by Andrea Bowers
A couple of weeks ago I over-extended myself.
I said yes to too many people, said no to myself a little too much, and committed a lot time every day, for about a week, to more than a human could possibly do in a day, a week, a month, or a year!
I agreed to do things out of obligation to people and circumstances, instead of living by love and listening to the Spirit. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get everything done, and honestly, I thought I was ok with that, but by the end of the week, I had a different feeling about it indeed. I felt like Alice (pictured above), my world was closing in all around me.
I was busy and I hate to be busy. I like my life to be full and enriching but this was busi-ness. I personally try to avoid being “busy”. My goal is to live intentionally, not on other people’s plans for me, but on the plans I choose for myself, to include other people, places, and things.
Sure, I have a lot going on, who doesn’t?
But I really, really, try not to be “busy”.
I never want to be too “busy” for someone who needs me.
Well, this particularly “busy” week left no time for no one, and by Saturday, I was exhausted and burnt out and mad at everyone in my family to boot!
In my mind, I told a story about how they weren’t helpful and intuitive enough to see that I needed help! How could they not see that I needed them to pick up the slack? How could they not understand that I was suffering in silence? I was the victim and I was mad at everyone for not realizing it.
Of course, I was too busy-and proud-to tell them I needed help outright. Sadly, unless I was dropping sarcastic hints, criticizing their efforts, or pushing them out of the way so I could get more done, I was practically giving them the silent treatment. I had no time to talk about it, action was what was needed in order to get everything done!
Their side of the story was much different of course, they did not know what was going on inside of me. They knew I hadn’t been around much, the house was a bit messier than it usually is, they hadn’t had any real food in awhile, and that I was grumpy, and that was the extent of their understanding.
As I stormed around the house, trying to get things done, telling myself this sad little story, that no one understands. I finally lost my cool.
I was cleaning up the house and my husband stopped me and- rather than asking if he could help me out- he asked me if I would hang out with him by playing a board game.
What???!!! I said (well, almost shrieked). Can’t you see I have a million things to do? Want to hang out with me while I do this, that, and the other thing? No? You want me to stop doing this so I can play???!!! What, who has time to play right now??? If I stop to play, I won’t to start all of this back up again and I need to finish. Cue the imaginary list in my head of all of the things I wanted to get done that day.
Oh, my poor family, I was on destructive path. I’m embarrassed to type this out. I’m embarrassed about how I felt and how I acted, but hey, I’m human and I’m weak, so I’m being honest.
Frustrated, I walked into my bedroom, mumbling about how no one ever helps me out-when the spirit struck me (metaphorically, of course) with images of how everyone had helped me in the last half hour.
Oh, for shame!
I saw in my mind’s eye, flashes of what each person had done –for me– in the last half hour. It was exactly what I needed to stop me in my tracks.
I sat down on the bed and was overcome with shame for a minute and tears came to my eyes.
I was throwing a tantrum and I just realized it!
As I sat there, I brought the images back into my mind and asked for forgiveness as I spent more time looking at them. The first image I saw was my husband. He was sweeping the kitchen floor.
I saw him sweeping, and when he heard me coming, he turned toward me. He had a smile on his face as he was holding the broom, I watched as his smile grew larger and he stopped what he was doing to look at me.
Next, I saw my daughter. She was walking toward me. I could see in this memory that she was trying to cheer me up, by showing me her adorable little hamster, a huge smile on her face. She knows I usually can’t resist smiling at her hamster, Wicket.
Finally, I saw my son, he was headed down the stairs to clean the bathroom. He turned to me at the last second before going down and flashed me a huge, “I’m happy to see you, I love you mom” smile.
I noticed their smiles and the love they had for me when they looked at me and I felt so bad for my behavior.
I sat on my bed for a few minutes and thought about how I had gotten to be so resentful and angry. I realized I was blaming everyone else for my choice to over-schedule myself all week and over-plan my day. I pondered why I was blaming it on everyone else. As I sat there, I had a few thoughts come to mind.
First, I thought about my week and how I’d been going and going all week. I hadn’t taken very good care of myself and I felt gross because of it. I hadn’t exercised much, hadn’t showered much, hadn’t spoiled myself with healthy food, hadn’t meditated, hadn’t practiced piano, and hadn’t taken time at the end of the day to catch up with my husband. I had just run myself ragged in every way and I couldn’t handle life in survival mode anymore.
Play really was what I needed, and a shower, and a really big hug.
Next, I thought about what I’d done all week instead and realized I was trying to live up to worldly expectations and strict schedules, instead of what I typically do, which is live according to the Spirit. I learned from this that I don’t really work that way.
Sometimes, I start to look around at the way other people live their lives and I compare myself to them. I see that I have so much freedom and I feel kind of guilty because of it- so I try to be really good with my time. I know it’s a privilege to create my own schedule. In this desire to be “good with my time” I end up breaking the system that works well for me. I think I’m being more productive becoming more task oriented and I end up losing sight of the mark.
It just feels so different from the way that others work. Sometimes I forget that for me, living less structured helps me get the most important things done each day. The most important things for me are loving people where they’re at and serving them in their need and I believe I can accomplish that in a lot of different ways.
The next thing I realized sitting on my bed was that I was punishing everyone else for my choices. That was what felt so bad. My husband and children managed their time well all week so they had time to play on Saturday and I was jealous and frustrated that I couldn’t play too.
My schedule wouldn’t allow it.
Rather than admitting to myself that it was my own fault for doing this, or letting go of my insane to-do list, I stuck to my guns and punished everyone around me. It was so easy to blame them all until I realized what I’d done. When I did, I immediately wanted to go apologize and hug and kiss them and dump my stupid to-do list out of my head.
Well, after this thoughtful time, I sunk to my knees, thanking Heavenly Father for eyes to see. I thanked him for the Holy Ghost and for stopping me before I ruined the whole day and the opportunity to have fun and play with my family. I asked for help to let go of my list, be better at admitting my faults and weaknesses, and for help to be more vulnerable around those I love. I also asked him to forgive me for being so prideful and thoughtless and for trying to be something I’m not. I felt his reassuring love and know my prayer was answered.
It’s been about two weeks since that experience, I’ve been trying to be me and no one else and I’ve been feeling a lot better. I’ve been listening to the Spirit more, worrying less, loving and connecting to my family more and I’m sure I’ll be taught this lesson again, but for now, it seems pretty fresh in my mind.
Have you ever found yourself in this kind of a situation? Leave a comment below to let me know some of the lessons you’ve learned.