I learned a new word this week:
No (noun): An act or instance of refusal.
More importantly, I can now put it in a sentence, such as: “No, we can’t attend.” Or, “No, we’re not signing up.” Or even, “No, I won’t be able to help.”
Brutal, isn’t it? It is if you’re like me, a bleeding-heart joiner of joiners. But I need to do it, just as surely as I need to exercise in the mornings and sleep enough each night and always have a pint of ice cream in the freezer. While I’d like to think I’m pretty good at keeping my life, and the lives of my children, simple by the organic, we eat whole foods, stay in touch with nature, and keep possessions minimal definition, I utterly fail at simplifying our schedule and protecting our time.
Something snapped this fall. Somehow, despite many happy years of participating in just the right amount of busy-busy-busy, I failed to navigate the fine line between actively-involved-in-a-healthy-way and chicken-with-its-head-cut-off-always-in-a-rush-snapping-at-the-kids.
On a daily basis.
It wasn’t just the day job, which is still pretty new. It wasn’t just the increased travel schedule for Nate’s soccer team. It wasn’t just Toby’s season, or Calvin’s season, or the annual fundraising auction, or the travel-writing commitments. It wasn’t just this blog. Or just family responsibilities. Or any one of the volunteer positions I’ve been suckered into. In short, it wasn’t just anything. It was all. All of the above and more piled on top of one another with daily laundry and cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping and tweeting and field trips and permission slips and hospital bills and reviews and articles and workshops all combined to bubble over on the stove like a way, way too busy soup of overcommitment stress.
I got less sleep (because who has time for that), which resulted in less patience in an already fast-paced daily life. Both of these factors resulted in less attention–already spread too thin–for three kids, one husband, two jobs, two novels, one dog, and one disgruntled cat (but of course, he’s always disgruntled, and doesn’t give a flying flip how many commitments we have). And finally, by November, it resulted in something else. A brick wall. A breaking point. A moment in which I was finally able to admit it’s too much.
And so we’re scaling back. (Of course, much like starting a diet in January, when all the good eating is behind you, I’m starting this after the can’t-say-no-to-you-soccer-season.) As of this week, we’re home in the evenings, and we have enough free afternoons to foster good bouts of ‘Mom, I’m boooored’. We’re together as the sun goes down (at 5 freaking pm). We eat dinner together in a relaxed manner…all at the table, no one scarfing down their food while a car pool parent honks in the driveway.
As of now, the kids only have one weekday evening commitment, but others are already knocking at the door. Turns out, you can start ski season early with extra gym training. It’s two nights a week from 6:30pm-7:30pm, and God help me, I’m itching to sign them up. Because it’s exercise! That’s good, right? Our church is hosting a great series on Wednesdays from 7pm-8pm, and I so want to attend. It will nurture our spirituality during what would otherwise be Survivor hour! But wait, that’s when Calvin has karate, our supposed sole commitment. And oh no! Both conflict with ski training! But I could just drop Calvin off at–
See? I can do it.
Just barely, but still.
In closing, I want to let you all know that Christine at Coffee and Commutes recently launched a new series on her blog called Simply Living, inspired by the writings at Minimalist Moms. If, and only if, you don’t already have too much on your plate, I do encourage you to give it a read and follow along.