Raise your hand if you have more things you need to do than the capacity to even remember them all. Now raise your hand if you’ve ever felt so overwhelmed it made you sad, because you really want to do everything, and you want to do it well, but there isn’t enough time. You are not alone.
I think you have a case of what I like to call “being a woman.” The defining characteristic is not the emotional reaction—although there is absolutely nothing wrong with this, the adjective is used as an insult when it’s the farthest thing from it, but that’s a whole other article—it’s the desire to do it all. Not “do it all” in that kitschy, 1990s ad-campaign sense, but in the sense that we are a very driven demographic with a natural inclination to take care of things and others.
We are everyone’s keepers, and yet we don’t always make the time to keep ourselves. I speak from personal experience because I am notorious for being sick on a regular basis due to a combination of not eating enough, insufficient sleep, and probably deeply rooted emotional issues that began way before I even learned what sadness and multitasking was. I say that to say, I am a work in progress, and don’t have any answers, just ideas, and experiences.
My mother’s worked at least 2 jobs for most of my life and about half of hers. She almost always had 2 jobs outside of the house, and one at home, taking care of the 3 of us. I never fully appreciated the magnitude of this feat until I learned what it felt like to be truly busy with real responsibilities beyond college term papers and final exams. I never imagined what it must be like to work all day and come home to work some more until I started doing it. I still wonder how she did it, and feel empathy for the years she spent taking care of us all, while barely taking care of herself. That might be where I get my insatiable need to be busy from…I think I’m having a break through right now, as I write/realize this.
Now the question is “what do I do about it, how do I lessen my load?” The answer is actually in the question -my load, it’s what I chose to take on. I therefore control the things that stress me out. I create my own stress. Is it just me or do we all have a case of the “womans?” I think we all need to breathe (thank you Kundalini yoga) and give ourselves a break. The world will continue to turn, our lives will not be deeply and irrevocably changed if everything on our list is not done.
Today, if you have done all you can do, then that is more than enough. Exceeding our limits can be dangerous both physically and emotionally, but also on a practical level. It detracts focus from the bigger picture, whatever it may be. Think about where we look when we’re walking towards something, it’s always ahead. Not down at our to-do lists or the tiny little indentations on the road, but up, so we can see where we’re going.
As we look ahead, we see what it takes to reach our destination; that it would be better to go around that puddle, or walk near the curb because the sidewalk’s too crowded. Looking ahead while accepting who and what we are now, may be easier said than done so practice. Find something that compels you to look up, literally or figuratively. Focus on whatever it is you want for your life, talk about it, always keep it at the forefront of your language and thoughts, and it will feel like it’s coming to you. When you feel good and in the flow, magical things happen, the kind of amazing things that just come, ones you never even think to put on your list. Let the Universe pick up some of the slack, try it just for today and see if you can allow something beautiful to happen, something that is completely out of your hands. And lastly, if you still can’t seem to look up and stop focusing on the list, or kicking yourself for not being able to, remember this: one day, as your life draws to a close, you won’t be lamenting that email you didn’t respond to that you’re currently stressing right now… you will instead look back at the times that you were looking up and letting things work magically for you.
Fiona is the New York Lead for SERENE, a writer, social butterfly, and naturally inquisitive about most things. If you meet her, mention God, Harry Potter or Amy Winehouse and you’ll be lifelong friends.