Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 22: I wish I were better at many things

Life has not exactly returned to normal (as you may notice, since I'm still hiding from BlogLand), but it is heading in that direction and so I thought I would return to my Thirty Day Challenge posts.  Day 22 is supposed to be a picture of something I wish I could do better.  For a while I thought "You mean like completing a task on time?" since it's very clear that my Day 22 post is weeks delayed.  Then I thought about all the things I would like to improve or learn in my life.  I'd like to be able to knit without needing a loom to keep everything straight.  I'd like to crochet interesting patterns.  I'd like to be able to paint, sing, weed, listen to others, bake, focus on the task at hand, cook, listen to my intuition, express myself articulately, and handle life parenting a teenager better than I do right now.  I have these skills, to various degrees, but I am not as skillful as I would wish.

Then I started thinking about intangible qualities that I wish to improve.  And that's when I discovered my picture for today:

What is my biggest problem in life?  Saying "Yes!" or "sure" or "okay" or "I can do that, no problem" when in reality it is a problem.  A big problem.  I've said before that I need a least 36 hours to my day and most of that is because I agree to take on my problems, the world's problems, and every little task in between.  I have no idea how to say "no!"  I practiced for a while and then fell out of the habit.  That was a bad idea.  I should've prioritized the skill of saying no until it became an ingrained habit.  (Interestingly enough, this image came from this website that talks about learning to say no.)  Ask Honey and you'll find someone else who agrees -- I take on far too many tasks.  And many of them happen to be very time-consuming.  Just thinking about my list makes me tired.

So why do I do it?  I think that a lot of it has to do with feelings of guilt.  I want to help others and so if I can, I will.  I've put in many long days and nights because of this.  It got worse when I was unemployed for a while.  I felt guilty about not having an income and contributing in that way to the household and so I volunteered for just about every task under the sun.  A friend once commented that she thought I was far busier than she was and she had a full-time job.

Staying busy did not ease my guilt over being unemployed.  When I was finally hired again, I felt great -- and then realized that my salary was far lower than it had been previously (a common occurrence in this recession, from what I hear on NPR).  I was also only hired half-time.  And so I continued to take on additional tasks, fill my time, and stay very, very busy.  Others contributed to this with the "oh, you're just working part-time so you must have the time to do _____________," but really it was my own fault for agreeing -- over and over again -- to add so many to-do items to my list.

Recently, I've come to realize that I can do many things, but when I try to do those many things all at once I can't do anything well. (My Guilt Monster chimes in and says, "Really, Dr. Genius? You just recently figured this out??"  Yes, Guilt Monster.  Even geniuses have blind spots.)  Now that I am done with my degree I have to take some time to sit down and figure out what it is that I do.  I kept thinking that one day I would be all grown up and I would suddenly know what to do with my life, but that day hasn't arrived.  I enjoy many things.  I take on many tasks that I don't enjoy.  One day, if I'm not careful, I worry that I'll wake up and realize that I've not done anything truly great with my life and it's too late.  At least that's my fear.  And so with that in mind I've decided to refocus my efforts on being intentional.  We'll see what happens for the rest of this year.  In the meantime, I think I need to make a "just say no" sign and carry it around with me until the habit becomes ingrained.

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