As 2016 comes to an end, I find myself reflecting on a year best described as “busy,” “stressed,” and “tired,” with a general sense of feeling lost and a bit anxious. I know for me- putting all the political madness aside (which is a big aside)- I felt very overcommitted in all aspects of my life.
The moment really hit me the other day when I was driving home from work, and my kids were in the back seat asking for the third day in a row to go to the library, and I heard myself say in a very strained voice, “Not today, we don’t have time.” They were, understandably, very frustrated (demonstrated by kicking the seats, which only made the situation worse). And I remember all of a sudden feeling very tense. I was upset that I was disappointing them, a little angry that they couldn’t appreciate all the other things I had going on (ha really?), and also frustrated that I had so many things on my plate. And most importantly, I wondered what in the world is taking precedence over spending a few hours of the afternoon doing something fun (and educational!) with my family?
There wasn’t one specific obligation that I could pinpoint, but it was this overwhelming feeling that I had too much on my plate. I had to shop for our church’s Christmas angels, buy gifts for teachers, staff, family, and friends, attend the school’s Holiday party planning session, go to the grocery store, make dinner, send some work emails, find a minute to do a few crunches, etc. etc. etc.
And, as I often do when feeling overwhelmed, I started to cry. Because I was mad that these things- while also important to me- were leading me to disappoint my kids. For the 3rd day in a row. My priorities were all jumbled together, and it was making me irritable and neglect my kids.
So at that moment, I decided it was time for a reset. I needed a break from my life so I could sit down quietly with my husband to re-evaluate what was most important to our family right now.
Ha ha ha. Well of course that opportunity never came, because this is the real world, and things never slow down! The only peaceful moments we have are the two minutes before I fall asleep at night, which is not exactly the best time to have a life-defining conversation.
But we did have the fortune of getting some much needed downtime with family for a few days, which allowed us time to relax and regroup, and remind ourselves what is truly important to our family. Because in a society where life is becoming less predictable and things seem more and more out of my control, I’m realizing that in order to stay sane and be present for my family (and myself), I have to maintain a sense of balance. In order to do that, I need to spend more time redefining my own purpose as well as creating a family creed of sorts, something that can serve as a guideline for how, what and when to prioritize this year, and what are things that I can let go.
So far, I have set intentions of spending more quality time with my kids and my husband (both together and separately), finding ways to help others in need, staying connected with friends and family, and continuing to improve upon my health. Does this mean I won’t ever volunteer at school, pick up extra assignments at work, or schedule extracurricular activities for my kids? No, of course not. It just means I won’t let these secondary goals interfere with or displace my other, more central priorities.
Without some sort of roadmap, it’s way too easy to lose sight of who we are and what defines us and our family. At the end of 2017, I don’t want to complain about feeling tired and stressed and overcommitted, signs that I have lost my purpose. Instead, I look forward to role modeling for my children how to live a life that models our family values, be grateful for what we have, and be fully present with our loved ones.