“The successful woman has a secret. She’s learned that she owes it to herself, her children, and the world to make the contribution she was born to make. She’s learned to ask for advice and help, to insist on getting paid what she’s worth, and to set boundaries at work and at home so that her needs get met, not trampled. She puts her dreams at the top of her priorities list, not at the bottom. She feels great about being recognized for her accomplishments, and she’s totally OK with the fact that not everyone is going to like her when she stands up to those who would discount her or put her down.” –DEBRA CONDREN, Good Housekeeping, Aug. 2010
As the season shifts, I’ve recognized a familiar feeling. Oh yeah, this, I’ve had to say…again, it is my annual fall sense of needing something to change, of feeling overextended, overcommitted, and like other people are attempting to use me up or somehow consume me for their own purposes. I start to want to STOP. To take a break from it all. To retreat. I first consciously remember this feeling from November of 2009, the month that my third baby died unexpectedly during my pregnancy. Right before this, I’d been struggling with the feeling of being sped up and overcommitted and like I needed to pull back, but didn’t know how. Then, I experienced the birth-miscarriage of this baby and I did stop for a while. It was a crucible moment, a hinge upon which my life pivoted and changed directions. Though, the direction of the change is actually still in progress, still being birthed, even at this moment, four years later. Interestingly, when late fall rolls around each year, I experience the exact same thing.
When I first noticed the pattern, I wondered if it was an unconscious body memory of this miscarriage legacy, but I’ve come to think it is simply the season, and this is when I start to pay attention and make changes. I also know that this sensation of being “too busy” did not contribute to my miscarriage, as someone did actually once suggest to me, but is simply a regular feature of my Sept-Oct-Nov-Dec life. As I was working on this post, my mom came over to bring the kids back to me and she was also “sped up,” talking about her theater ushering commitments and her Halloween party and people coming over to learn how to make pottery (or another cool thing. My mom is the ultimate master of creative pursuits). And, I said to her as she was talking, “ah ha! I have a noble legacy of doing a lot.” I also remembered one of my realizations following my grandmother’s death earlier this year: one of the things I valued most about her was all the interesting things she did. She was vibrant and active and busy. She was always doing stuff. And, it was cool stuff and she was a cool person and I loved her and learned from her precisely because she was so busy and interesting all the dang time. I come from a long line of busy women with lots of interests…and abilities. Maybe that is just fine. When I attended the GGG this year, one of the realizations I came home with is that sometimes I feel like people are trying to get me to be less (more about this some other time). And, I remembered a session I had with a healer who did a somatic repatterning process with me—one of the beliefs she tested on me was, “I am not enough.” It got a marginal response, but then she tested, “I am TOO MUCH.” And, THAT is the one that tested as true. I wonder how much about myself that I try to change or that I struggle with actually comes from the fear of being, too much. Too intense. Too active. Too talkative. Too much thinking, too much writing, too many ideas, too many projects, too much waving of my hands and pacing when I talk. Too, too, too, too much.
So, I returned to this beautiful quote from Jen Louden in The Life Organizer:
“Would a weight lift off my shoulders if I realized that it’s normal to feel pulled between choices, that it’s normal to want to do more than I have time or energy for, and that it’s normal to have to choose between two equally wonderful things, that it’s actually a sign I’m a fascinating, amazing person?“
And, it said, oh yeah, this. I re-visited some of my past ah-ha moments and past November calls for change:
It is only when we silence the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of the truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.
~ K.T. Jong (via Kingfish Komment)
Some time around November each year for the last three years, I’ve had a feeling of being “sped up” in my life and a desperate craving of stillness and rest. I begin to feel like pulling inward, “calling my spirit back” and re-integrating fragmented parts. Aside from my family members, I stop feeling like being “of service” to others and their interruptions of my space or requests for my time or attention begin to feel like impositions. I begin to hear the distant call to “retreat.” I crave stillness, rest, and being alone. I fantasize about broad expanses of silent time in which to think and plan and ponder. It then takes me until February to actually act on this urge.
And, the sense of needing to take a break and or FINALLY figure out how to write short, snappy posts:
I don’t want to totally put my blog on hold, but I do want to, finally, figure out how to write SHORTER posts for the time being and save the involved, insightful posts that I put a lot of thought into for my winter break. I also just really need to give myself permission to be “off” here and direct my attention towards other roles.
I also found a most excellent reminder about over-blogging perhaps diminishing my “radiance”:
So, once again I’ve found myself staring at The Mountain of Too Much and a familiar a crisis of abundance. This happens routinely. I should be used to it by now! But, I feel this creeping sense of overwhelm and dismay as I look at my calendar, my commitments, and my neverending to-do list. And, as I continue to try to be more and do better and yet always feel as if I’m not enough. I feel myself getting ragged and I don’t like it. I also have a feeling that I’m forgetting the self-care mantra, “the things that matter most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” I keep getting distracted by little bits and bites and losing sight of what I most value. I’m also not taking care of myself—not eating enough, running out of time to exercise, being preoccupied rather than present, always doing the “should dos” instead of the “want tos.” I crave rest. I fantasize about just being able to rest. But, then I discover I’m not sure I know how.
So, I very much appreciated this extremely thought-provoking audio-blog Women in Cyberspace ~ Our Blind Spots – IndigoBacal.com. She makes a lot of important observations about how women use social media, including blogging, and she shared: “What I discovered was that sharing as much of myself as possible, as much of my inspiration as possible [online] was actually diminishing my radiance…”
And, the sensation of being splintered and pulled:
Sometimes I think I just like and care about TOO MANY things. All of these things splinter my attention in a million ways however, and also leave me with a persistent sensation of, “well, I didn’t get everything done today.” I continue to try to make sure to unsubscribe from email lists and blog subscriptions to cut down on this immediacy sensation that a constant influx of new information and ideas promotes. As I told my husband, “if I
didn’t get that newsletter, or click on that article, or open that email, I would never have known about all those things I could have gotten done today.” Plus, there is always a new batch tomorrow! And, then I get a little depressed thinking why the rush to get things done and to finish? So I can die with a clear to-do list?! Come on!
And, about maybe needing to quit blogging:
During this time, I abruptly decided this was IT, I HAVE TO STOP BLOGGING. I cried and cried. I don’t want to quit, but, if I can’t do homeschooling properly I certainly don’t deserve to be a blogger. And, then I remembered these quotes about stories and I especially remembered this one:
“As long as women are isolated one from the other, not allowed to offer other women the most personal accounts of their lives, they will not be part of any narratives of their own…women will be staving off destiny and not inviting or inventing or controlling it.” –Carolyn Heilbrun quoted in Sacred Circles
And, also this one:
Telling our stories is one way we become more aware of just what ‘the river’ of our lives is. Listening to ourselves speak, without interruption, correction, or even flattering comments, we may truly hear, perhaps for the first time, some new meaning in a once painful, confusing situation. We may, quite suddenly, see how this even or relationship we are in relates to many others in our past. We may receive a flash of insight, a lesson long unlearned, a glimpse of understanding. And, as the quiet, focused compassion for us pervades the room, perhaps our own hearts open, even slightly, towards ourselves.
–Robin Deen Carnes & Sally Craig in Sacred Circles
However, I also don’t think it is my imagination that the pace of life and the requests/demands for time and attention have increased exponentially in the last couple of years. I don’t know if it is just my own stage of life, or actually the whole of modern society. I feel like it is society (or Facebook?!)—there is a LOT to DO all the time and prioritizing and choosing between those things can actually be a painful process, sometimes resulting in dropped balls, misunderstandings, and the sensation of apathy amongst people, that I don’t think is really true–I think it is more-to-do-keep-track-of-than-is-literally-feasible. I have reach a point in which the time in my life for several of my birth-related committed has passed and probably did so a couple of years ago, but I have continued out of loyalty, friendship, responsibility, obligation, and the fact that I DO still care a LOT, just not as much as I used to. I read an article some time ago (that I cannot manage to relocate) that continuing with work that you really feel finished with is the same as “sleeping with your ex.” Though I’ve never had an actual ex to sleep with, I can appreciate the metaphor and I feel like I DO need to acknowledge the areas in my own work/volunteer life in which I’m “sleeping with my ex,” rather than heading in the directions I feel called to pursue. Birthwork as a whole, with the exception of birth writing and birth art, has become that sleeping-with-my-ex territory for me, but it is SO HARD to let go, especially because the work is connected to important friendships and past experiences and, and, and.
In the last year, I’ve taken on regular (unpaid) blog contributor commitments with multiple other blogs. I’m recognizing that some of these experiences feel rewarding and enriching and some feel more like I’m being “used” to contribute to the project of another person without a lot of gain for myself. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past couple of weeks both pondering how to be less hard on myself as well as about the role of blogging in my life…where does it fit? Is it inhibiting other work I could be doing or contributing to it? How do I make the transition between focuses, or, is it possible to maintain multiple focuses and multiple blog commitments…? This reminded me of an article I read about healthy boundaries, which are really important for those of us who like to be of service to others…
Boundary setting is hands-down the most important lesson we women need to learn: “Healthy boundaries are like having a front door with a lock on it. You have the right to keep out unpleasant visitors.”
Boundary setting was certainly my most important lesson to learn in order to become empowered, because without healthy boundaries I created unhealthy, dysfunctional relationships . . . and I didn’t even realize I was doing it!
As someone who has tended to over-give, over-do, over-protect, even over-try, I have to remind myself when I begin taking on more than I feel comfortable with — whether it be helping a friend, counseling a family member through a rough time, or offering to “pick up the slack” for someone who has “bitten off more than they can chew” – to back up, slow down, and really ask myself:
“Do I want to be doing this?”
“Is this improving my life or exhausting me?”
“Has this started to become a co-dependent relationship with me as the ‘mother / caretaker’ and them as my ‘child / responsibility’?”
By being aware of how I feel (i.e. drained, frustrated, even resentful), I’ve learned how to catch myself from stepping into chaos, drama, and dysfunction much sooner than I used to.
~ Crystal Andrus
I have some more thoughts and some quotes from blogs to share and I don’t yet feel actually finished with this post, but that’s okay and I will go ahead and continue with Part 2, tomorrow, even though part of me is saying, “no one is even interested in your lengthy mental machinations, why are you going on and on and on in your too muchly manner?!”
And, I’ll leave you with this cool video from an online event I’m attending tonight: