Sunday, January 27, 2013

Balancing Act. Saying no to a baby, so I can say yes to everything else.

The past few weeks have been different for me.

I decided that this was going to be the year that I released some responsibilities, and embraced others. I was tired of offering to do things, and then feeling overwhelmed when people accepted my help, or frustrated by the chaos I now had to wrangle - even though I was the one who offered in the first place.

Oh, irony.

It took some soul searching to realize that so much of my frustration and angst was entirely self-created. If I would stop signing up to do stuff, people wouldn't ask me to ........... well, DO STUFF.

I like to help. But I need to stop offering myself up every free moment of the day.

The problem, for me, is that a totally free day feels empty. Wasted. Like I should be working or doing something or going somewhere. I want to say yes. I want to have every minute spoken for. The more the merrier. But I have to rein it in. Have to. Woah Nellie. Absolutely must. And this weekend, the reins almost snapped.

I am currently juggling three part-time jobs, plus a healthy dose of volunteerism, and then just regular day to day "buy toilet paper because we are out, and get a birthday present for that party you found about this morning - the one that starts at 2pm this afternoon - and by the way it's a potluck" mom-of-two-kids kind of stuff. And then on Friday the state called to ask if I could take custody of a baby, due to be born at any moment. Allegedly. (Long story). And when the social worker asked, I took a deep breath and said "Suuuuuuuure."

What I should have said was "sssssssshhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit".

How could I say no? Like my problems are bigger than that baby's problems?

How could I say no, but why would I say yes? I mean, really. I work 6-7 days a week. My work is not strenuous, and offers a lot of flexibility, so I think to myself "it's no big deal that I have a commitment every single day of the week - I can TOTALLY TAKE CARE OF A BRAND NEW FOSTER BABY." But then I tried to figure out how, exactly, I would be able to do it, and the only thing I could "totally" do was hyperventilate.

I wanted to say yes. How could I say no?
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present The Root of the Problem?

I want to say yes, and I spend a lot of time figuring out how to say yes - which in the end takes even more time away from the things I am already committed to doing. And that's usually when the hyperventilation comes into play.

It's not just affecting me, though. In the end, it is more than just my time that is being squeezed when I am the yes girl.

My family has to deal with my frustration and distraction as I try to get everything done.
My friends notice when I am not at the events and dates when we planned to see each other, because I either double booked or am hiding in my bed clutching a heating pad and feeling guilty for not being there.
My body is exhausted and my mind is racing through the things I am doing, and the things I am NOT doing - which are actually more upsetting to me.

I am a fucking wreck, and I find myself shutting down and cruising Facebook at night, ignoring the emails and bills and projects and my book - the one project that means the most to me, and is currently sitting on the bedside table waiting to be edited. When the heck am I supposed to find the quiet time to tackle that?

And so, last night I made a list. Does that sound simplistic? Hey, listen. I am no life coach. I just did what I needed to do. I wrote down everything. The vaccinations, the physical therapy, the playdates and activities, the work shifts and responsibilities  The things I have been worried about, the things I need to do. I just let it all out. It is a really long list.

And that is okay.

The List can evolve. It is organic and most importantly, I am in control of this list. It's not a To Do list - it allows for procrastination and last-minute changes of plan. If I don't want to do something, or can't, I just nudge it down to a new spot in the hierarchy. The List is written in order of priority, and that order can be rearranged as needed. It is on my phone, just a simple memo, and I can add and delete at will. It comforts me to look at it, calms me down, eases my fears. Everything seems totally doable when it is there on The List, mixed in with other things. And I am losing the nagging paranoia that I have forgotten something terribly urgent. Any time I think of something I have to do, or if I make a plan to do something - even something simple or fun like call a friend or meet someone for lunch, I grab my phone and add it to The List - before I add it to my calendar. It is one of the things I need to do. Adding those fun social commitments to The List is just as important as adding all of the tasks that I need to accomplish.

The List is how the mortgage got paid this morning, and the laundry got dried this afternoon, and the biodegradable paper products will be ordered on Monday for the event I am chairing three weeks from now.

And the most important thing about the list is that it helps me to put everything into perspective.
Even if I could do something, is it more important than the things I am already doing? Can I realistically fit it in? Will I be satisfied? Proud? Stressed? Miserable? And when I realize that shit is going south, that I am committed to something I cannot handle, or when I feel that people are asking more of me than they should be, I am able to see why it makes me feel bad. I have moved all of these things around on The List to make time for them, and now they want more? Well, no. I can't. Because I agreed to do this. This item right here on The List. I budgeted the time and money and energy and enthusiasm for this. And now you want that. That is different. And that isn't on my list. It is easy to say no, because I can see what I have already said yes to.

So I made this list, this crazy, long list, and then I panicked. Where the hell was a new baby going to go on The List? An entire person cannot be a list item.

This morning I lay in bed for a long while, icing my back and slowly realizing that I was actually afraid that the phone was going to ring and I was going to have a brand new baby dropped off at the house. The thought was absolutely terrifying. I looked again and again at my list. This is going to sound overly-simplistic, and in my mind it seems so callous to say it - but its the truth: I scrolled up and down and finally concluded that if a baby came to live with me this week, I would struggle to take on all of the things that baby would need. The doctors appointments and visitations and middle of the night feedings. I can't push everything else down on the list, to add something (someone!) new that would need to be put at the very tippy-top for an indefinite period of time. To say yes to that baby, was to effectively say no to everything and everyone else for the next 4-6 months.

Oh, it is so hard to accept. I have never said no before. I am sick with the guilt, and the wanting to help, to hold that baby who needs someone to put him or her at the top of their list. I cant do it. I can't do it to my family, I can't do it to all of the people who are already counting on me. Who I already said yes to.

So I put that baby right at the top of The List - temporarily:
"Call CPS and tell them I can't take the baby".

I never, ever thought I would say those words. But it is on the list.


Elly said...

Good for you, hey. Balancing acts are never easy, and saying no? Even harder. Still, I'm glad you're looking out for yourself - it's easier to do all the things if you take care of you first. :)

Jen said...

Oh, friend. This all sounds so familiar... and I have not really gotten a handle on it as much as it sounds like you have! There will be moments when you can take everyone under your wing and give and give and give, but they are only sweet because there are other moments when you need to pull back and handle the minimum. Sounds like you made the right call this time. xo

Sheri | Really Most Sincerely said...

Is it creepy to tell you that I love you? Because I think I just did. Good job on the list. Hope you gain some peaceful times as you cross things off the list....even if it's just a sweet head rush from seeing the list help take better care of Daffodil. :-)

Anonymous said...

My dear, I hope you can take a step back and see what I see. Your progress. Your willingness to take care of YOU first, in order to be better for everyone in your life. Your strength, though you may not feel strong. I'm sending you monster hugs and so much love right now. Proud of you. xox