I remember May. I remember Memorial Day Weekend. I remember the redwoods and the northern California coastal air, how it smells like it’s always going to rain and how the fog blankets the coast every morning. I remember camping early in June and hiking up the butte that tried to kill me, but instead gave me an epiphany about turning this site into a reflection of honesty and simplicity. I remember feeling like summer was just about to start.
And now it’s September.
I had a really great summer planned with restful self care weekends in between some of the bigger ticket items such as visiting my parents, going to Spokane, three camping trips, a walking relay event and one of my best friend’s wedding. But even the best laid plans…
Work got in the way if I’m being honest. Not just some hard weeks at work, but work travel on top of that, which is never as fun as it sounds. I was down in LA seven times this summer for work and even pulled a 15 hour turn around trip followed by three more days in a row. One good thing is I got really good at packing a suitcase and bringing only what I knew I’d need and wear. But putting in all that work travel against my carefully laid out summer plans meant I was busy. So busy I have barely had time for myself.
That’s not to say I didn’t have a good time this summer, but since my May revelation I’ve been wanting to focus more on my needs and my time. When I can manage those things first, I become a better person at home and with my friends and family. I can allow myself to be in the moment when I’m with other people and give them my full attention and focus because I’ve taken care of myself first. Which leads to the fact that I have not taken care of myself this summer.
I have felt completely out of control. Like things were happening TO me, and I was just a bystander going through the motions because I felt like I had to. I felt had no control to stop these things from happening and I just had to follow through and do them. I’d like to preach about how we all have control in our lives and I could have canceled things or told my work no, but that is always so much harder than it sounds. I think most people don’t feel in control of their lives. We have bills to pay and people to please and plans to show up for.
So I’ve been having these thoughts in the background about putting myself first and being in my control of my time and my life and meanwhile I’ve just been going, going, going. And when I’m finally able to stop, I end up sleeping because I’m so exhausted. Going to bed at 7 or 8 and when I can sleep in I’m sleeping until my alarm goes off at 9 am. I have to set an alarm because I will sleep even longer than that if I can. So what is that telling me when I’m so tired my body wants to sleep more than 12 hours? It tells me I’m doing too much.
Luckily work is slowing down a bit. There shouldn’t be any more crazy travel for awhile. That helps. And I’ve tried to be more honest with my personal plans. I’ve been trying to say no more. And instead of saying ‘I can’t’ I’ve been trying to say ‘I don’t want to’. Not to hurt people’s feelings, but to put my time in more perspective with myself. It’s not that I don’t want to hang out this week, it’s that I don’t want to make that a priority this week. I know that I won’t be my best if I schedule something this week, I need more time to put myself first and then when I do make plans with someone – when I am truly up for it – I will be more present than I would have been if I had forced it into my schedule. Into my time. Remember, time is our most precious resource. It is literally all we have.
It is okay to say no. I know that it doesn’t always feel that way and there are truly things that we can’t say no to. Work being the most obvious one. If we want to keep our jobs, keep the people in charge happy enough to keep us around, we more often than not feel forced to say yes. I think a lot of people feel this way and I want to share some pieces of a great book I finally got around to reading this summer called Essentialism by Greg McKeown. There are some great tid bits in there about saying no in a work environment and how nos can sometimes be really well received.
Here’s one of my favorite tips:
For example, if your manager comes to you and asks you to do X, you can respond with “Yes, I’m happy to make this the priority. Which of these other projects should I deprioritize to pay attention to this new project?” Or simply say, “I would want to do a great job, and given my other commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job I was proud of if I took this on.”Excerpt from Essentialism by Greg Mckeown
Saying no isn’t easy for fun, but you can definitely take a moment to feel awkward about saying no and live with that moment of awkwardness for a short time or you can say yes and live with a day, a week or even a month of regret for saying yes.
“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”
What do I feel deeply inspired by?” and “What am I particularly talented at?” and “What can I do that meets a significant need in the world? I don’t know yet.
I have to keep working because I have bills to pay and honestly I like the people I work with. We are dodge ball champs after all – another thing I signed up for this summer thinking I’d have more time in my life. Is my work my passion though? No. I’m not there yet. And in the meantime I don’t need to be killing myself and sleeping in 15 hours increments when I can to make up for working so hard at a job that I’m not in love with. Now that things are a bit calmer at work I’m hoping I can re-prioritize my time and my hobbies and really start to think about what I want to do with my work life and how I want to make a difference in the world with the time that I have.
Mary Oliver wrote: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” I’m still figuring it out, but while I’m working through it I’m trying to make sure I’m giving myself the time and space to do so.