Have you ever come across a line in a book, or a song, or a movie that shifted your entire perspective?
In a recent issue of Gather magazine, Women of the ELCA executive director, Linda Post Bushkofsky, wrote: “When I was in my 20s and 30s, self-care seemed unnecessary. I thought I could do it all and never run out of steam.”
Wait a second, I thought as I read her words. You mean I, a woman in her 30s, cannot do it all? I will run out of steam?
Ok, in the back of my mind, I already knew that I couldn’t do everything.
When I had my daughter two years ago, I realized I was going to have to cut back on the girls’ nights with friends, the solo travels around the country that I loved so much.
Still, I was unwilling to give up many of the other things I loved: teaching creative writing classes, my work planning a local creative writing festival, writing my own poetry (are you sensing a theme here?).
Asking for help
So when my supervisor took a 3-month sabbatical this summer, and I had to take on some extra duties, I found more piled on my plate than I could handle.
“You are learning now that you need to ask for help,” my therapist chided me as I complained about the workload.
Help? I thought. I don’t ask for help. I put everything on my shoulders and run full-speed ahead until I collapse.
Then I read Linda’s column, and what should have always been obvious was clear. My unwillingness to slow down was taking its toll on me, on my work, and on the 2-year-old sitting next to me on the couch, eating cold cereal for dinner and watching “Sesame Street” while I tried to answer my emails as fast as I could.
I needed to slow down. I needed to reevaluate the way I was using my time.
The last straw
Of course, even saying “no” to a few of my volunteer obligations didn’t mean that I wasn’t still stressed. Sometimes the world gives you more than it seems like it should, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes life is hard.
For that, I’ve found another helpful quote: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The other day I received a surprise bill in the mail for some medical appointments my insurance should have covered. When I called to figure out what had gone wrong, the person who answered wasn’t particularly kind to me. As she explained how the bill was my responsibility, I felt tears forming.
I knew the tears had little to do with the bill or telephone conversation. This was just the last straw. The steam had run out, and my body was responding the way all human bodies do.
As I hung up the phone, I let myself continue to cry for a while. I needed it. Sometimes we all—like Jesus—need to let ourselves be human, to let the tears flow.
Then I picked the phone back up and called the insurance company.
“I need help,” I said.
Sarah Carson is associate editor of Gather magazine, a mom, and a poet.