Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Till The Jar Overflows . . .

I posted a while back about how fitting everything in is hard, and it's easier if we imagine our individual life as a jar and all of the things we need to fit in as different sized rocks -- with God being the biggest, which goes in first, and then progressively smaller as the importance dwindles.  You can read the full post HERE.

Lately, I'm realizing that even if you put everything in the jar in its proper order, you can still overfill it and simply create even more of a mess than when you started.  But let me start at the beginning.

Over the years, I have prided myself on being able to multi-task and get everything done in record time, and with high quality results.  I have always managed to do my chores, and my homework, and play with my sisters or go to class, and work, and participate fully in extra-curriculars, and visit with friends, and spend time with my family, and still have time for me and recuperation.  I always hated saying "no" to someone because I hated the knowledge that they needed me, and I was being selfish by saying "no" simply because I was a little too tired or just wanted some "me" time.

Since I started law school, however, things have changed . . . rather slowly at first, but I'm beginning to feel the full effects.  When I started law school, my father hoped I'd finally be challenged -- that it would be something where I'd really have to work my brain.  Well, he was wrong . . . at least the first year.  And now, even in my third year, the classes really aren't all that difficult, by and large, so long as I study.  My hardest obstacle as far as law school itself is concerned has been overcoming my frank distaste for the whole area of education.  (I have never desired the path of a lawyer, yet here I am.  That's a tale for another time . . . but it involves the work of the Holy Spirit, and here I am finishing my law degree and pursuing the dream of being a librarian once I graduate.)  But back to obstacles, the law school classes haven't been all that hard, especially the first year -- so it's been easy enough for me to balance a 15-17 credit load with a 20+ hour work week on top of two choirs, an intense editorial position on an extra curricular, friends, dating, family, school clubs, babysitting, teaching piano lessons, and . . . well, you get the picture.  Even now, looking at that list, I can see why my boss is a bit worried that I'm overextending myself.

Thus far, I've been fairly successful at balancing everything in my life, and I've never really had to say "no" to anyone.  Sure, I was taxed to the max last year (including a roller coaster dating relationship, but thankfully that's steadied out quite a bit now).  I blamed all my stress and emotional breakdowns on the continual highs and lows of dating (since it was a completely new experience for me), but looking back, I begin to wonder if some of that stress came from the simple fact that I stretched myself in too many directions . . . like chocolate pudding spread across too much ham. (For that reference, watch THIS MOVIE.)  Sure, a lot of it was from the dating, but I can't blame all of my problems on that alone.  Especially since that particular area of my life is mellowing out, what with better communication and understanding.

Regardless, I was positive coming into this third year of law school that I could "do it all."  I was balancing 15 credits, an executive board position on Law Review, 20 hours working at the law library every week, a board position on the St. Thomas More Society, being schola mistress for two choirs, babysitting and teaching piano to three children every week, weekly Skype nights with my best friends far away, weekly girls' nights with my friends here, keeping in touch with family, and dating an awesome guy.  Sounds a bit tiring, I suppose.  But honestly, at the beginning of the semester, life seemed as "easy" as it always had been . . . sure, I was scheduled practically every minute of every day, but I could handle it.

Not so.  I had more emotional breakdowns this semester than I've had in my entire life.  (That may be a slight exaggeration, but it's fairly accurate.)  Most of them came unexpectedly, and I had no clue why I was crying . . . so I just sat there crying into Boyfriend's shoulder while he held me and waited patiently until I could figure out the jumbled mess in my brain of why I was so upset this time.  And without fail, the root of my stress and emotions was stretching myself too far and having too many commitments.  And so slowly, one by one, I began to let things go.  Well, not really . . . but I dropped one choir, and the other one has been waiting in the wings until life slows down a bit for everyone involved, including me.  Even now, I find it hard to believe I've made it this far without a complete breakdown.  And I know that's only because I've had such amazing people in my life who helped me through all those hard times.  You know who you are.  I love you!

All of this leads to my boss's comment the other day about how I need to take care of myself and not do too much.  At the time, I just brushed him off and said I'd take care of myself.  But then I sat down to think about everything I do, and I decided he's right.  I need to cut back . . . unfortunately, a majority of my commitments are year-long, so there's no backing out now.  But there are a few more things I can trim down so that I have time to breath.  Not that it's going to be easy.  Like I said before, I hate saying "no" to people.  Especially people who rely on me.  But I'm getting better at determining when and how I can best help people, and if I drive myself into the ground with an unceasing stream of "yes, I'll help you"'s, then I won't be able to help anybody.  And there has never been anything more relieving and wonderful than the beauty of saying "no" when I really needed to do so.  Sure, it still hurts a bit to have to "let people down," but I know it's for the best.

Here's to a new year and new resolutions.  To balancing life and focusing on what's really important.  To saying "no."  To giving thanks for the amazing people in my life.  To praising God for all of the blessings He continually bestows upon me.  To taking care of myself now and always so that I can be of service to those around me.

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