I have prioritized other with the best intentions but for the first time I felt the consequences of focusing outwardly. I met great people, I served in fantastic causes but my inner circle was neglected, as well as my well-being.
I had hoped the giving will slow down but people will take as much as you are willing to give. Nobody will protect your boundaries. Spouses can make observation, kids will show you in different ways what they think. But ultimately I can’t rely on anyone else to protect my time, my energy, my self. In a way that can feel lonely, sad. But this realization is also empowering.
For example, helping the girls keep their room tidy is an uphill battle. I minimize. I sort. I simplify. I clean. I show them how to do it. Sometimes they do. Most often they don’t mind the mess.
They brought back out and up into their room the sack of stuffed toys. Most have a story, and names and memories attached to them. They play with all of them. Cycle them for naps or games. But after their room was cleaned after 20 minutes of play it all got crazy wild. The girls had a stuffed animal play fight. It was mayhem. Conrad saw it first. He said that’s it. We put them away again. He brought a big bag and took them all down. Ivy cried “what is he going to do with them?” Put them away downstairs where they lived this whole year. Nothing is happening to them.
Then I had another “sermon” as ivy likes to call our late night chats. They love these talks. They perch up on the bed and close the door and say “let’s talk”.
I said I could complain and cry and be frustrated and even raise my voice at them for not picking up the toys at night. But I am not weak. I’m strong and clear minded and I have agency. Just like them. If there is something I don’t like and I can do something about it, then I should do it and stop whining about it. Putting the stuffed toys away and cycling them out a few at a time gives us all peace of mind. And it’s not a big deal.
I believe these conversations are the gold nuggets that I hear the girls repeat to other kids and my heart swells with parental pride and joy. I beat myself up enough that I’m so tired that I don’t enjoy parenting. I really despise the evening routine of brushing teeth and getting pajamas on. The kids like to drag bed time and I just want them to be independent. At age 9 for my eldest that should be realistic. And I have pangs of guilt when I let them put themselves to bed without corralling them or praying with them or kissing them goodnight. I used to read stories with Jackie every night for 5 years. I slowly let that go after we moved out of the apartment. I read to both of them. They had different requests. They had competing questions, and stretched bedtime even longer like I didn’t have a life at all.
We do something right. I know that. But we also as parents are tempted by guilt a lot because there has always something more or different or better we could do.
In this burnout I never let my daughter down. My husband has been going through mood change and medical adjustments. I kept giving and giving and put myself on the back burner. But at this point me not taking good care of myself starts to affect them. So if nothing else works, my commitment to them forces me to take care of myself.
I have to focus on the idea of saying yes to my values, my boundaries, and not on saying no to others.
I have gut reactions, intuition and it is very clear. But I stuff it down, ignore it, postpone it, delay it, I want to do good by others but I’m starting to feel untrue to myself.
I end this year battered and bruised. I don’t feel any satisfaction from all the hard work I did this year. I don’t want to reach heaven and think I’ve worked for God and realize it was misplaced and in vain. That god never asked me to do everything for everyone but he wanted me to be present, to delight in Him, to hear him clearly, not a muffled guilt whisper and fill myself with resentment and half well done jobs.
I am a bit worried for the year ahead that I’ll fall my into old habits. Of doing and not being. But I pray. I pray I can slow down and do what God wants me to do. And may he delight in me and I in him.