Burnout: When What You Have To Give Is Not Enough

Since the start of February, I’ve had the urge to break up with my life. I’m not talking about an all-out divorce, but definitely a trial separation. I think my life and I need to evaluate what we want from each other. We need space and time to determine whether we are meant to be together.

My life demands eager attentiveness, ingenuity, constant motherhood, gracious servitude and loyal wifedom. Life doesn’t care that I am physically unable to keep up at times. She runs ahead of me, occasionally looking back to mock my aches, pains and sleepless nights. She doesn’t think it’s important that I’m indeed exhausted and in need of quality me time. My life snickers at my daydreams of packing a bag and leaving for a solitary weekend sabbatical. She knows that I’m too loyal and unselfish to follow through.

She simply says, “Get on with it. Pull up your big girl panties and be WOMAN!”

I would rather play in a sandbox and artfully craft a beautiful rock garden, roll in a grassy field underneath the afternoon sun or write for hours in blessed seclusion and reflection. Could I hop aboard a last-minute flight to an unfamiliar city and explore? I promise to leave a heartfelt note and detailed instructions for the care and feeding of the toddler. I am, after all, a mother.

As I write this on the back of a piece of paper I found at the bottom of my junky purse (the first thing I’ve written in over a month), I sit alone, but not at all lonely. I’m at one of my favorite restaurants, dining on Japanese noodles and salad. I’m enjoying a forbidden sugary soda – something I can’t have at home with a child around because she wants a bite…a piece…a sip…a lick of EVERYTHING she lays eyes on! I’m grateful to not be sharing, talking, answering, explaining, wiping tables, fingers, and cheeks or instructing. I’m just sitting, eating, thinking and in this long overdue moment of clarity, I’ve found myself unexpectedly writing.

This wasn’t a planned lunch date, but a personal intervention of sorts. My life dictated errands and grocery shopping for the afternoon. I was on my way to the supermarket when I suddenly found myself turning into the parking lot. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. I hadn’t eaten and I hadn’t noticed. It was 2p.m. If one could be brought up on charges for neglecting themselves, I would be a candidate for serious time.

So, I’m soaking this time in. I am in no hurry whatsoever.

somehwere-along-the-way

I’ve heard women say it countless times, but I didn’t understand the meaning of the phrase until now… “I lost myself.”

I used to think, how does one lose herself? Is she not attached? Where did she go?

Now, I get it. I see it. I feel it.

When I return home today with a trunk full of groceries, there will be meals to plan for the week, a potty training toddler to wake, a heap of laundry to fold and food to put away. I will have help, but I am the sergeant. I must be vigilant, present and give specific guidance. Then, my life will quickly demand the a change of clothes, waking the toddler and explaining the necessity of going to the potty again, dressing and combing of hair, packing of snacks, water and more snacks and off to church service. After that, my life will yell for more of my time and energy, but I won’t dare think that fare ahead.

My life has all of me, but I feel the need to set boundaries with her and take some of my control back. There is so much to do and so many people to please and care for, but what about me? Life’s demands have filled my calendar and restricted my freedom and creativity. I stopped striving to be perfect a long time ago, at least. All I want in this season of my life is to be balanced, healthy and sane.

I don’t want to look back in sadness and utter those words, “I lost myself.”

I realize now that what I have to give will be enough when I purpose to regularly give myself enough of what I NEED – time, peace and quiet, space to be creative, meditation, relaxation, exercise and the regular feeding of my soul. I cannot continue to try and give what I don’t have.

My interpretation of what life wanted, left me in my current position – last on the priority list. I’m not even penciled on my own calendar anymore! For this relationship to work, life has to start treating me like she used to with intellectual stimulation, date nights, lunch dates, massages, hair appointments, pedicures and good sleep. I also won’t mind the occasional pair of shoes or new handbag – she can afford it.

I might have to sneak away for a few hours and allow some of life’s needs to linger, but I purpose to do it without guilt because guilt has brought me to this uncomfortable place on the edge of reason. Guilt has worn me out and left me empty.

Here’s to more solitary lunches, walks in the park, coffee shop visits and shopping trips in my near future!

 

 

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