What if You Don't?
A feeling of overwhelm was descending upon me as I thought about all the things I had yet to do. There were the time-sensitive, practical things like taking my car in for an oil change, looking into our association documents to figure out how to pay our dues, making time to file some paperwork with the city, and grocery shopping. Then there were the things that were slightly less pressing, but that I nonetheless considered necessary-- like cleaning the house before having company over, calling the doctor's office to straighten out a prescription refill, reorganizing my dresser drawers to make everything fit, wrapping Christmas presents, and cooking enough food for the week. I also wanted to make a Christmas wreath, paint some canvases to hang up for the season, clean my room, crochet a new hat, and curl up on the couch to make a bigger dent in my copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes.
Needless to say, not all of those things got done.
Adult responsibilities kept piling up, and I didn't know what to do with them all. I found myself questioning how everyone else does it. How do other people work full time, keep their homes clean, get food on the table, pay all the bills, have some sort of social life, pursue hobbies, and sleep enough to function?
I'm not sure my answer to that question is very satisfying. The only thing I came up with was to let things go. I can't do it all (and I'm willing to bet you can't either). I needed to figure out which things I had to do and which ones I could do without.
In my endeavor to lighten my load, I found myself asking some important questions:
What would happen if I do task x? What would happen if I don't do task x? Would things fall apart, or would the world keep turning? Would I function as if nothing was different? Would it impact the lives of those around me? Would anyone notice? Would I be more or less stressed?
When it comes to things like cleaning my house, the truth is that nothing would come to a screeching halt. Nobody would likely even notice. However, they might notice if I didn't show up for work or quit showering. And I would be better off for having taken the time to rest and read than if I spent a whole Saturday doing household chores, even though that's more productive in the traditional sense. So I prioritized things that had greater consequences.
What can I do right now? Taking tasks one at a time helps me overcome my to-do list. Even if all I feel like I can do in any given moment is small, it's something. It's a start. And it's one less thing to do tomorrow.
Is there a way to simplify things or cut them out completely? I'm still working on this one, because most of what I do is by choice, and I don't really want to let any of them go. But I've come to really like automating things and creating patterns for myself to lessen the burden of making decisions and save myself time. For instance, I have calendar alerts for things I have to do so I don't forget, and I set out my clothes and pack my lunch the night before to save time in the morning before work. I'm also working on getting better at meal prep to reduce the amount of time spent doing the menial part of cooking.
In the spirit of figuring out how to live a life of purpose without getting distracted or buried by all the other responsibilities and opportunities around me, I just pre-ordered Jennie Allen's new book Nothing to Prove. It comes out at the end of January, and I'm really excited to read it. Even though I told myself I need to reign in my spending now that I'm almost done with Christmas shopping, I ordered the book in the name of my mental health.
That's it. I'm not at all finished figuring out what it means to juggle the responsibilities of living life as an adult, but I like to think I'm on my way. I'm still learning and working through it day by day, but aren't we all?
Thanks for joining me on this journey!
What things have you done to keep yourself sane when things get too crazy? How do you handle the busyness of the holiday season and the responsibilities of adulthood?