Now there’s a loaded question! Too much of what? Money? Sex? Food? Drink? Stress? Joy? The list could go on and on and on. We could talk about each one, but what I really want to talk about is the amount of “irons in the fire” we each place into our daily lives.
Where do I even begin to explain what’s on my mind? I hope you, dear reader, will bear with me as I try to sort out the multitude of thoughts swirling through my mind right now. I feel this is important. Trying to put it into some kind of rational order is more difficult than I had anticipated.
We entered this incarnation to learn, grow, and, hopefully, become enlightened. We are infinite beings, immortal, if you will, living in a finite incarnation. In other words, we’ve only given ourselves so much time to accomplish what we wanted to do in this lifetime. That immortal, spiritual part of us knows this and does try to give us clues to help us achieve those things. The mundane part of us, more specifically our conscious mind, picks up on that and turns some of us into whirling dervishes who believe we have to be all things to all people.
Most of us do wear multiple hats for the different parts of our lives. We identify and also are identified with the many things we become to different people in our lives such as being a parent, a spouse, a homemaker, a neighbor, a friend, a volunteer, an employer and/or employee, etc. Some people’s lists can get very long and there can be a huge closet of hats that they wear each day.
How much is too much? It’s a really important question and I don’t believe there is any “one-size-fits-all” answer. I do believe there are a few guidelines that can help determine when we are approaching or have reached our personal limit of irons-in-the-fire. This is where I feel I’m at right now and this is why this is so prevalent in my mind at this moment.
For most of us, it comes naturally to want to be helpful to family, friends, and even strangers sometimes. Unfortunately, like so many things in our society, there is a stereotypical expectation placed on people even when it comes to generosity and responsibility. The reality of Life is that no two people are alike in this, or any other, circumstance. For some, giving and giving and giving, while taking on responsibility after responsibility after responsibility, never phases them. It invigorates them and brings them boundless joy. They sleep very well at night and wake up looking forward to a whole new day of the same. Excellent! Does this mean we all should be this way or even have the ability to be this way? That answer would be…no.
If we recognize we are all not athletes, nor are we all rocket scientists or movie stars, then we must recognize that it isn’t possible nor realistic to believe that we can all get the same joy from constant giving and neither do we all have the same capacity for taking on responsibility after responsibility. The problem lies with the expectations from those around us that we often accept as true.
Like so many things in our lives, we look outward instead of inward for the all-important answer to what we are truly capable of and we are comfortable with. Measuring ourselves against others or the standards set by the society we live in, will often find us falling short of the “norm” in some area. The answer we seek lies within, not without.
There was a time in my life when I worked a full-time job, ran a household, put out a Pagan publication quarterly, ran a Coven and taught students, and helped to put on an annual Pagan gathering. Yes, that’s a lot but I enjoyed it and, even when there were problems, felt a great sense of accomplishment. I think that’s one of the clues – Even in those stressful moments, do you feel a sense of accomplishment and does it bring you joy?
There’s something else, too. Through that time period, I wasn’t giving away so much that there was nothing left for me. I never lost who I was in the midst of all that activity and, in return for what I was doing, I got a sense of joy and making a difference. That’s important. Without that, a person can become spiteful, feeling they aren’t appreciated and that what they’re doing has no real meaning.
There has to be “me” time. Without that me-time, we have no chance to hear that quiet inner voice that wants us to know what we came to do in this lifetime. Having even a few moments to breathe, to take that relaxing bath, or meditate, or whatever brings you a sense of self, is so very important to your journey It places you in a “zone” where inspiration can make itself known.
Still, there are those who fill their lives with busyness. The more the better, but it gives them no pleasure, no sense of accomplishment. They often feel as if they’ve reached the end of their ropes. Every day looks the same as the one before it. It can even make some feel hopeless. It’s all just too much.
You see, there’s nothing wrong with feeling people expect too much from you. Realize, though, that it’s come to that because you believed this is the way your life was meant to be. You do have free will and the ability to change your mind and your life anytime you want. After all, it is your life!
It seems to me, the starting point would be taking an internal inventory of your feelings about how your life is at this very moment. Are you comfortable with the amount of responsibility you’ve taken on or are you doing too much for too many people?
If you sincerely feel that you’ve over-extended yourself or are reaching that point, then perhaps it’s time to take a step back. There is no shame or guilt in admitting you just can’t do anymore and really need some time for yourself. Of all these things you’re doing, which ones bring you real joy and a sense of accomplishment and which ones make you feel used or seem pointless? Don’t be afraid to ask yourself some tough questions so that you can get at how you really feel. Then, accept no unearned guilt from yourself or others, at taking action to lighten your load.
I’ll be 70 this year and I started looking at my life just before my last birthday. I had to admit I can’t do what I did when I was 25, 35, or even 45. I had to ask myself what was I now capable of – honestly. I’m not disabled nor do I suffer from any serious ailments. I have reached a point in my life when I’d like my life to be a little simpler, less busy, where I have time to do things I really enjoy and want to do. So a few things have come off my “list” and a few hats have been retired. Like any habit, it takes getting used to living life in a different way. I’m learning.
No matter what age you may be, take a look at your life and be willing to ask yourself if you’ve got too many irons-in-the-fire. Answer yourself honestly. Then be willing to see how you can change the path your walking to something more to your liking. You’ll really be glad you did.