I cried the whole way to work. And back. An hour and fifty minutes round trip, most of which was spent at hurtling down the highway at 75 miles per hour with tear-blurred vision.This was when I decided life as I knew it was no longer productive nor sustainable.
Each day I worked around 10 hours in the office, commuted close to 2 hours, and went to night school for my MBA. To exercise I had to get up at 4:00 am, so I did. To spend time with my boyfriend I had to see him after 9:00 pm, so I did. Needless to say I was exhausted. My stomach was in knots, my head hurt, and I often cried before, during or after work.
Because I was stretched so thin, I was hurrying and making mistakes. And let me tell you – the only thing a perfectionist hates more than making mistakes is other people noticing them. So I spent an increasing amount of time checking and rechecking work. Mine and my direct reports. I micromanaged people into the ground and was a nightmare to work for. Honestly, a nightmare to be around in general. I was crabby and short tempered. I was moody and unpredictable.
Another byproduct of this season of my life was my house was a dump. Not hoarder level, but I was not comfortable in my own space. A giant pile of papers needed to be filed. I had clothes to iron and put away. I never ate at home because I was always too rushed to spend time to wash dishes. My garden was weedier than I preferred, and my yard was taller than both my neighbors and I preferred. I could not catch up. And this cluttered environment prevented me from seeing my home as my refuge.
Life was not sustainable, but my belief system was preventing me from making changes. I wonder if that might be where you find yourself right now too. So we are going to play a game. Let’s play Two Lies and a Truth. But with a twist – I am going to tell you upfront which is which.
Lie 1: I should be able to do this.
Should, schmould. Several years ago my sister and I tried to make a list of all the “shoulds” we hear on a regular basis: 20 minutes of cardio, 10 minutes of stretching, 5 minute face cleansing routine, 20 minutes of reading to your kids, 1 hour of personal time, 1 hour of couple time, 8 hours of sleep… The list went ON AND ON – it totaled about 42 hours per day of shoulds. Friend, I would like to suggest you reconsider the things you do just because you think you should. What in your life are you doing out of obligation or expectation? Stop “shoulding” on yourself and make space for the things that sustain you.
Lie 2: I am a horrible person because I cannot keep up
Once you start realizing how much you do out of obligation, please do not berate yourself. You are not a terrible person because you are not keeping up with expectations. Similarly, you are not a terrible person because you are not keeping up with other people. Do not judge your insides by other people’s outsides. For example, baking is not my jam so if there is a baked goods request for my kids, I am the add-it-to-the-online-grocery-order Mom.
I want to spend my time crafting or biking or reading – activities that bring me joy. Newsflash: our worth as a person is not measured by baked goods. But if baking is your thing – you do you! I have a friend who enjoys cooking and makes extraordinary baked creations that belong on The Great British Baking Show. That is her thing, she does not do it to show up the other moms (as she has been accused of). Let’s stay in our own lane and focus on what brings us each joy.
Truth: You can’t un-know this
Have you ever been shopping for a red sweater, then all of a sudden all you see in ads or crowds are red sweaters? Once something comes into your consciousness, you cannot be unaware of it. I invite you to consider that you may start to become more aware of your limits after reading this post. You are allowed to have limits and not feel ashamed of them. I invite you to become aware of what is soothing you and what feels like an itchy sweater on a hot day.
The great awareness comes slowly, piece by piece. The path of spiritual growth is a path of lifelong learning.M. Scott Peck
Celebrate that awareness. You don’t even need to act on anything, just be aware. What people, places and things feel unsustainable for you in this season of life? What seems to put a little wind in your sails? And know this – it is just a season. This too shall pass. Things will look different in a year or so and you can make other choices then. Consider today and what feels like it is draining your energy.
If this resonates with you, but you are not sure what in your life is causing these feelings I want to help you. I have created The Sustainability Checklist to help you identify patterns in your own choices that might help you find clarity on what is and is not sustainable. Let’s work together to help create a Sustainable You!