Thursday, September 16, 2010
Yesterday I got a phone call from my older sister Tina, who now lives in Alabama. Despite not getting too many breaks in life, she really is amazing. In addition to being a single mom, having given birth to ger first child at the young age of 42, she also has a demanding full-time job and is working on a degree through the University of Phoenix.
I barely got out a “hello” when she started reading me her current assignment, a tinge of desperation in her voice. Feeling overwhelmed, she wasn't sure she understood the question -- let alone the solution. Yet, pretty quickly I was to help her break the problem down into manageable bits, find her confidence and realise she actually knew the answers.
I have to admit that it’s somewhat gratifying when Tina calls me asking for homework advice. Growing up, she was “cool.” Me? Um, not so much. I was a Glee kid. It makes me happy when my geekiness adds value.
Despite being considered a few fries short of a Happy Meal when we were kids, the truth is that my sister is smart.
I’ll never forget when Tina first moved down south from Boston. She called home after being there maybe two weeks. In her quickly adopted southern drawl she explained, “All these years everyone told me I was slow. Turns out, I was just born in the wrong part of the country.”
In our conversation yesterday, she also shared that she's trying to figure out how to best balance motherhood, work, school and her own wellness.
I live for these conversations of course. (Thus, the blog. Hello.)
Like with Tina's homework assignment, sometimes we just need a manageable view of what is in front of us and the belief in ourselves that we can do it. (Perspective, prioritization, confidence...yada, yada, yada.)
However, lately I've been really focused on that last question about appreciation. Sometimes the truth hurts. Whether it’s our kids or our partner or our boss; the reality is that they really don’t have a full appreciation for what we do every flippin’ day.
Hey - it's our own fault. We do way too much for everyone else and make it look too damn easy to boot. Can we really complain about people crossing boundaries which we've neglected to set?
It's only natural that people take for granted what they’ve come to expect as the status quo.
Oh, they will say they appreciate you. My husband (and my kids and my boss) might actually be offended at the insinuation that they don't appreciate me.
If you ask me if I appreciate having electricity, I would say “yes.” Of course I do honey.
But the truth is that on a day-to-day basis, I've taken for granted that the lights come on, the fridge keeps food cold and the toilet flushes.
UNTIL 70 mph winds come through and rip down the power lines so all of that is gone for two days, such as happened in my neighborhood this past weekend. Yikes.
Your life balance lesson for today is ridiculously simple: DO LESS.
This means setting boundaries before your sanity blows away to the Land of Oz. (And, before you become the Wicked Witch of the Western hemisphere.)
As soon as you have the sense that you’re doing way too much and you are losing that precious inner balance – trust that feeling and make a change. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Whining doesn’t count. (Did somebody call a waaa-mbulance?)
We’re "doing it all" because we’ve created that pattern. But why? Why oh why have we gotten ourselves into this unmanageable situation? More importantly, how do we get out of it?
Here are three myths which get us into trouble at both work and home:
1. If I want it done right, I have to do it myself. You know that whole confidence = capacity thing I am always blathering on about? That applies to our confidence in others as well. The people in our lives are way more capable than we give them credit for. Stop being such a freakin' control freak.
2. If I admit I can’t do it all, they won’t love me. Attention fellow perfectionists and over-achievers: There is no one on this earth holding you anywhere near the standard to which you are holding yourself. Let it go.
3. If I don’t do it, nobody will. The main reason nobody else is doing it, is because you are. Unfortunately, the idea of just not doing it and seeing if anyone will pick up the slack doesn't work. (I tried going on "strike" from doing laundry once; my husband just started buying new clothes.) Sadly, if you want others to take over some stuff, you will need to ask them to do it. If you're thinking, “I shouldn’t need to ask.” Get over it. You do.
Rest assured that when you start setting boundaries, you may meet resistance for obvious reasons. Or not. I have definitely been surprised before. (See #1)
Bottom line is to tune in and know when what you are doing is not sustainable. Although most likely you created it, know that it is also within your power to make it better.