Today’s society tells us that we can “do it all”, “have it all” if we want it bad enough, and we can succeed in attaining our every whim and desire if we just hustle enough.
But what if we can’t? What if in trying to grab every whim and desire that interests us, we spread ourselves too thinly and lose sight of what we really want?
I admit now, as I have before, that as an adult I am terrible at relaxing. Oh, I can relax – just watch me zone out playing my favorite computer games (but even then, the games are strategy-based, so my mind is running marathons). I can also get into a groove when I’m crocheting or doing needlework, but while both of those hobbies are meditative with their repetitive movements, they are also “work”. I’m busy doing something.
Over the last few weeks I found myself stumbling into a pit of discontent. Normally, I’m a very happy, joyful person and I was feeling decidedly unhappy and lacking in joy. Since I believe in the power of journaling and self-analysis, I started to write out what I was feeling. What poured from my mind was a number of things which I realized were heavily weighing on me. I confess that I hold myself to standards so lofty that I do to myself what I always told romantic interests not to do – I put myself on a pedestal.
Falling from high places hurts.
Now, before you roll your eyes and mutter at my vanity – my Pedestal of Personal Achievement has nothing to do with the usual reasons for someone might end up on one, like looks, money, or possessions. No, my attainment of that high aerie is based upon unrealistic expectations in myself of perfection in all things career, academic, and self-improvement. In other words, those areas which I feel must be focused on with laser-precision because they are useful means to my end goals. No pressure, right?
I would never hold another human to the standards I have set for myself. Straight A’s in school, stellar work attendance and performance, perfect grammar in my writing, nary a stitch dropped in my crocheting… Well, I’m pretty sure I have yet to achieve perfection in my grammar, but those are just a small sampling of the high marks I have chalked on the board.
As I wrote down all of these things which were bringing me down, I also realized that there is a lot on my plate. Perhaps in my zeal to do all the things with the goal of “perfection” in mind, I had spread myself too thin? Like a plate spinner in a variety show, perhaps I had gotten too many plates in the air and was exhausting myself trying to keep them from crashing?
Thus began the plucking of spinning plates from poles. For instance, over a year ago I began contemplating shutting down my modeling profile at Model Mayhem. Inquires to shoot were few, most didn’t pan out, and those that I initially thought would be fun, became less fun the more I thought them over. I realized that I didn’t really want to work on those ideas, nor any of the ideas pitched to me. I shut down my account. Will I still model? Maybe, for a project that truly calls to me, but for now, my heart isn’t in it.
That wasn’t enough, however, and Mr. Muse and I had a discussion about mounting frustration with our honeybee hobby. If you only read in the news about hive loss and haven’t experienced it for yourself you probably won’t understand just how frustrating and disheartening the losses are. What started as something fun for us has become a source of stress and displeasure. We keep throwing money and precious, limited time into this hobby which while interesting, is no longer enjoyable. It’s not fun anymore. We decided that we will continue to care for the bees we have while we have them, but if we lose a hive, we won’t replace them and eventually we will sell our equipment. Instead, we’ll concentrate on making our yard a haven for native pollinators.
The plates I want to keep going: school, travel, writing, will hopefully continue spinning strong because I will be able to give them attention at the level I think they deserve. I know that the plate holding my desire to write was left wobbling as I attended to other plates holding things I didn’t want to keep doing. I kept looking at it, seeing how dangerously close it was to crashing to the floor, but I’d catch it at the last moment. Stressful! Mr. Muse, who has never watched Marie Kondo (neither have I) declared, “If it doesn’t bring you joy – get rid of it!”
The stack of plates which I am no longer willing to keep spinning is growing. Every day I look at the stage of my life and think hard about the next plate I will pluck. The decluttering has included everything from letting go of hobbies to unsubscribing from blogs I no longer read. I have let go of contacts from whom I’ve drifted apart and am considering dropping another social media platform at the end of 2019.
Happily, within a couple days of making these adjustments I found my joy returning. I realized that I need to throttle back on the rigid standards I set for myself. I feel lighter. I feel more in control of the plates I have chosen to keep spinning and far less reactionary. I feel more creative, too, and as Martha Stewart would say, “It’s a good thing.”
Do you feel you’re spread too thin?
What do you when you feel overwhelmed?
The Amusing Muse is a writer, Lawn Ranger, and allergy sufferer living in Southern Wisconsin. She has been vaccinated for Rabies, owns a great deal of jewelry that she don’t like any more and doesn’t wear, and she has a penchant for black nail polish. She also is much better at writing handwritten letters than she is at responding to emails.