Sunday, December 9, 2018

Busy as a Boundary


It finally happened, Invisible Audience.

I finally got so busy I simply could not deliver the things I said I would deliver at the time I said I would.

Do I feel you rolling your eyes? That’s not completely unwarranted. I realize that everybody has that happen, at some point or another. For a lot of people I know, there’s so much going on that it happens quite a bit. For me, it happens less, but for a very specific reason: my sense of self is wrapped quite tightly with my productivity and my ability to deliver what I say I’m going to when I say I’m going to do it.

This doesn’t come from a place of pride to say, Invisible Audience. It’s because I don’t know how to be any other way. It’s because it feels like death might come calling if I admit that I can’t do it all – every last thing put before me; asked of me; requested; needed.

In college, I told one of my friends that I’d received straight A’s for the semester.
“Awww,” she said, “Couldn’t you have settled for A’s and B’s and hung out with us more instead?”

There was absolutely nothing in me at that point that saw any way I could do that. My only reaction was one of horror. What would it mean about me if I wasn’t going above and beyond, all the time?

Well, apparently that’s still something I have to work on, nearly (wince) 20 years later. This last week, I was so overwrought, so overworked, so overloaded that I broke. Not in a loud, messy, meltdown way, but an internal piece of myself that I’d used to hold me up simply folded in on itself.

I could not do it, Invisible Audience. I worked all the way through last weekend, got to Monday, taught four kids’ classes back to back, snarled at anyone who looked at me sideways, stared at my to do list and could not even bring myself to start.

On Tuesday, I finally figured out what I had to do. I had to email one of my clients and tell them that the thing I owed them from 2 weeks ago would take me another week to get to. I am sure I have done other things that have made me feel as humble, but not recently. I had reached a point where I could not do it all.

The most humbling part was realizing that I was doing this to myself, and for a very specific reason: to claim it as a boundary instead of using the word “no.” You see, it’s so much easier for me to say, “Sorry, I can’t. I’m busy,” than it is to say, “Sorry, no.”

I basically work for myself. I run a non profit that I formed; I am a freelance writer; I do other work on the side. Together, all these things pay my bills, but recently they have taken over my life. I live in an amazing town in the mountains and struggle to get outside and enjoy it when I know I have work to do. I haven’t been sleeping that well – if I toss and turn for more than an hour, I get up and start working, hoping to get the projects done that cause the anxiety that keeps me from sleeping. But the kicker is that there’s always another project; another person insisting their project is really important and very urgent; another last minute small thing that surely I have time for.

I can’t do this anymore, Invisible Audience. I can’t use busy as a boundary, because it’s slowly sapping at my will to live. I can’t hope that others will see what I’m doing and give me the validation I’m looking for – respect my time – if I won’t respect it myself.

On Saturday, I read a book and a half. I took myself out to breakfast. I took a bath. I took a nap. It was as if I’d hooked myself up to a battery. It completely recharged me. Now it’s just a question of letting myself recharge me more often, without having to justify it to myself or others.

Love and not-so-busy kisses

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