I often describe the rhythm of my days as “Life + 1.” I have the capacity to handle my regular life with all of its appointments, events, tasks and demands PLUS one other thing. That +1 varies depending on the day, week, month, or season. Some days the +1 is helping a friend with childcare. Some weeks my +1 is one of my kids’ birthday parties. Some seasons my +1 is a project around the house.
Life + 1.
It’s taken me years to discover that my life flows best at Life + 1. Not Life + 5. Certainly not Life + 10, but not even Life + 2.
This all became clear once again this past week when I was in the midst of planning for and pulling together my daughter’s 10th birthday party. The week was full. Every free moment demanded I wear my party-mom hat crafting invitations, decorations, party favors and cupcakes.
With only four days to go before the party, I was in over my head. Way over my head.
You see back in January I took on more responsibilities at work making my work-from-home, part-time job more of a work-from-home, not-quite-full time job. In other words, suddenly my life had absorbed an entire +1. And until last week, I’d been keeping my head above water….mostly.
When offered the expanded work opportunity back in December, I took a look at my schedule and concluded that I could add the additional hours to my days IF I could learn to manage my time better.
Pre-January Christine said: “Manage my time? Sure, I can do that. In fact, watch me - I’m going to manage THE CRAP OUT OF MY TIME. Take that, schedule! I’ll show YOU who’s boss!”
And for the first month I did. My schedule had work segments, writing segments, exercise segments, and cleaning segments. I had days assigned for groceries, laundry, and errands. For the first time in a long time, I was in control of my time. I was controlling my schedule instead of my schedule controlling me.
Then came the website launch. ChristineMeggison.com exploded on the scene along with this blog. I didn’t expect the demands of going live with the site would be so great and the fact is, I’m so ignorant when it comes to all of facets of the world wide web that I don’t even know what I’m NOT doing. There are likely dozens of tasks I should be doing which I don't even know about. Ignorant is blisssssss!
Life +1 + 1.
And just as the website hoopla started to settle into a rhythm, birthday extravaganza began. Now, I’ll confess that in most categories of motherhood I’d give myself a solid B for a grade. Sometimes I pull out an A- and other times I squeak by with a C+. But, when it comes to my kids and their birthday parties, I go all out. The motivation behind this is a topic for another post but let me give you the Cliff Notes version: I like celebrating people. There are lots of ways to do this. Throwing parties is one I particularly like.
(Pause for a Party Mom Disclaimer: If you like throwing your kids creative parties and that's your thing – go for it. But, if you don’t and it's not – don’t. No pressure either way. Be you. Be awesome at throwing parties or be awesome at feeding your kids nutritious meals. Whatever your thing is, do that. But don't feel the pressure to do it all, because we can't and we might as well stop trying.)
Back to the story....Here I was four days before the party with one major task to complete and 20 minor ones. It was time to call in the reinforcements!
“Hello, Mom? Do you have anything going on tomorrow?”
I called my mom. I brought the party task items out to her house and we got to work. Several hours (more than either of us care to admit) later, we were done. At one point during the afternoon, I offered to buy her and my dad dinner for helping me. My mom said, “I didn’t really expect you to still be here.” Me neither, Mom. Me neither.
But, I was extremely grateful. She helped me in a big way. The party items turned out awesome, loved by my daughter and a hit with her friends. The bonus were the hours I got to spend with my mom. That was the “+” in my life that day. Besides, it brought back a memory from that one other time my mom bailed me out of a jam (x infinity!).
Life + 1 + 1 + 1.
Here's the dilemma in all of this: we’re guilty of adding things to our lives, but not subtracting. The "Life" part of Life + 1 keeps expanding, growing more demanding and complicated with each task, relationship, hobby, role, and opportunity we add to the mix.
It doesn’t happen all at once. We’re smart enough to reject multiple requests when they come as a group. No, overcommitment is a subtle temptress luring us in one opportunity at a time until we’re in over our heads and waving the white flag in surrender.
It sneaks up on us and we don’t realize it until one day we’re off to another meeting trying not to cry because all we want/need/long for is an hour to do absolutely NOTHING!
Bob Goff of “Loves Does” fame (please read this book!) is famous for his Quit Thursdays where he encourages everyone: “It’s Thursday - a good day to quit something.” I love him and I love his perspective. What if we consciously thought about the things we should quit? The groups, tasks, and time-stealers. But, also the negative thoughts, habits and hang ups. You can quit anything.
Ash Wednesday is today and Lent is traditionally a time when we give something up. So, quit something. Or quit three things. Say goodbye for 40 days and see if you miss them. If you do, pick them back up. If you don’t, be free forever.
Life - 1 - 1 -1.
Who knows, through the process we just might learn to love our lives again.