I've been struggling recently. I just don't feel like I'm "enough". There is so much to do that isn't getting done. There's so much I want to do that I don't have time for. I'm frazzled and tired, making mistakes, and not enjoying even those few things I do right. My children frequently point out when I make mistakes... not just little mistakes like spelling either: bigger mistakes like forgetting a tutoring session or not reminding a child of music lessons, and down right illegal mistakes like switching lanes within 200 feet of a stop light (oh, the joys of having a student driver riding shot gun). If only they knew the huge mistakes I've made - I don't know whether they'd feel gleefully justified or just terrified that their young lives have rested in my hands.
There was a time when "enough" was my mantra. I read books like Everyday Blessings by Jon Cabot Zinn, and Whole Child Whole Parent by Berends and Peck. I watched as other friends raced frantically through their lives and decided I would not do that. We would have a relaxed home life, working through "flow" and with ease. Of course it wasn't really like that, I was pregnant and/or nursing for 9+ years, and as anyone with babies and toddlers can tell you, it's exhausting work. But it had it's own rhythm, and a lovely (albeit noisy) sort of peace.
Last year I was fairly incapable of much, and would have had an easy time saying "No", except no one even asked. It's amazing how expectations lower when you're going through cancer treatment. I completed treatment by Christmas, and by mid January we were in the tropics for our sabbatical. Physically I wasn't really up to living aboard, and so again, lower expectations ruled the day. Then we came back, and things changed.
Thinking about it, I think this current business is a reaction to last year's illness. I felt so out of it, so left behind, out of the stream of our community. When we got back from our sabbatical, I jumped in with both feet. When the kids asked for something "Yes" was a fun thing to say after such a long enforced time of inactivity. I got working, signing up to teach RE, agreeing to teach O.W.L., signing the kids up for lessons, getting Bit Boy in to high school/college, prepping Lego Kid for public school and letting him take this Latin course, welcoming an exchange student in the fall. We didn't resume our old habits and schedule, we created an much busier one. Now I'm learning what it feels like to be as busy as those in the main stream, and I don't like it.
Why do we do this to ourselves? The reasons are probably as numerous as the people involved, or more so, since most of us have a multitude of reasons for doing what we do. Most parents have to work, most kids have to go to school. There's the cultural expectations, but also all the great stuff to spend our time on. The temptations of this world are many, and we're all conditioned to admire folks who are busy. "I don't know how you do it all" is a great compliment in most circles, and who doesn't want to be admired? There's also the sheer joy of our chosen activities. Our family loves our music making, outdoor time with friends, visits from family, learning new things. There, quite literally, isn't enough time in a single life to do all the things we'd like to do. There's also the pressure to contribute. "With great gifts, comes great responsibility." If we have the ability to contribute, we feel obliged. We have lots of abilities and resources, and so feel obliged to contribute, besides most of it is rewarding and fun.
Whatever the motivation, the result here hasn't been pretty. All the business comes at a cost. Saying "Yes" to business means saying "No" to down time and quiet. Time in lessons means is time not available for free play. If we think about it, we realize that every "Yes" is also "No" to something else. The trouble is we just don't think about it. Keeping busy means we don't have time to think about it. In some ways that's easier. Stay busy, don't think, just do what comes next. There are times when that's a great strategy. Those times, though, usually come after a bit of planning and forethought. College is a good example of a time when you might be crazy busy, but it's all good - you planned the work and are working the plan. The trouble comes when we're not planning the work or working the plan, but just reacting to the triggers that we experience. "Can you...?" "Yes, I can." "Would you?" "Yes, I will." Without thought as to what we're saying "No" to, "Yes" might not be the right answer.
I'm not sure what, if anything, is going to give, but something will have to change, soon. Just as soon as the semester is finished, just as soon as that next trip is done, just as soon as.....