The other day I was out with a good friend and we were chatting about something as we watched our daughters play when she said, “Are you okay? You seem overwhelmed recently.”
Now, if you know me, you know I’ve got a lot of pride and so I replied, without even thinking, that I was most assuredly not overwhelmed, but instead simply busy at the moment.
But her question stuck with me and sent me on a journey inside myself to really uncover if I was overwhelmed. And the answer is yes, by the sheer amount of things I want to and attempt to accomplish in 24 hours. The length of my to-do list requires that I have to put things (and let’s face it, friends as well) further down than I want to. I micromanage my time down to the minute, which means I rush my kids from one activity to the next so that I can fit it all in before bedtime.
I know I’m not alone in this. I know everyone feels like there is never enough time. Everyone is busy. Whether you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom or you’re something in between, there just aren’t enough hours in the day sometimes.
I’ve been meaning to have lunch with a newly-made friend for about 3 weeks now, but this project at work just won’t end and continues to drag on and creep into my personal life negating any chance of a meet-up. Every night I put my little one to bed I think of all the moments I spent doing something else instead of helping her write the alphabet. I think of the friends who are carrying on without me because I never seem to have enough time.
In those moments when I’m feeling overwhelmed, I try to remind myself that these are opportunities to exercise grace and patience. But grace and patience are hard to execute when you’re moving at the speed of light, when your mind is never settled because things are being added to your list faster than you can tick them off.
But then I read an article written by someone who was complaining about people who complain about never having enough time. (Clearly the author was a 20-something-year-old childless person who, like all 20-somethings, believed they had stumbled upon the key to one of life’s greatest mysteries simply by surviving their teens.) In the article, the author said a lot of stuff that was obvious and trite, but perhaps the most important piece, the piece that made the article worth remembering was this: the key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
A key priority had fallen so far down on my list of things to-do that I had forgotten it was there. And that was taking care of me. Of setting heathy boundaries for my mental wellbeing so that I could function happily (dare I say with peace and grace?). I can say no to that project meeting scheduled after my working hours and my eldest can help my youngest with her alphabet one evening.
I understand that there are some aspects of my schedule that are fixed and at this juncture in my life, planning works better than “impromptu”. But when things begin to feel overwhelming, it’s probably a good time for me to stop and assess my priorities. All of our lists of things to-do are too long to ever complete because each day brings about new endeavors, new responsibilities, and new tasks.
Maybe, just maybe, that 20-something-year-old was on to something.