Sunday, June 25, 2017

Not A Priority

I'm a bit of a productivity addict. I've had to teach myself not to view every moment in terms of "productive or not," and that sometimes (usually? I still need help with this) simply being is the most beautiful thing. My desire for constant productivity paired with being way too busy all the time means I often utter the phrase, "I don't have time for fill-in-the-blank."

No time.

There's never enough time.

So I keep not sleeping enough and obsessing over my schedule and not making time for myself. Which is code for not making time to actually sit with my emotions and feel them, but that's for another blog post.

As a productivity addict who never has enough time, it shouldn't be surprising that when I see articles about time management and fixing the never-has-enough-time trap, I read them eagerly and with great hopes that they will hold the thing I've never heard before that will change everything.

A few months ago I read an article about changing our language from "I don't have enough time" to "such-and-such isn't a priority." "I don't have time to sleep" becomes "sleep is not a priority." "I don't have time to meal prep" becomes "meal prepping is not a priority," and so on.

I wrote the phrase down on a sticky note and taped it to my desk. There it has sat for months, the edges of the faded pink note are frayed, ink worn light from my hand grazing over it day after day.

Last weekend and weekend I broke. I shared a blog post about reaching my limit. Realizing my current feeling of being too stressed, overwhelmed, and emptied to continue giving and doing was no new feeling but instead a constant pattern of going and giving and doing until I've been running with the Empty Light on so long I finally break down.

Feeling so stressed and overwhelmed led me to to have numerous conversations with close, old, and new friends and all of them said similar things. I needed to make more time for myself, take care of myself, say no to a few things, take action steps instead of constantly talking about how I'm tired and overwhelmed and feel trapped and don't know how to fix it.

And do you know what my response was to being told to take better care of myself, sleep more, take personal time, and actually practice self care? "I don't have time."

Then I got to my desk on Monday morning and saw my little note. And for once those inspirational, how-to-be-successful articles actually worked because I saw something I'd never seen before.

I filled the little blank in on that faded pink sticky note with my own name and now it read:

"Katy is not a priority."

"Self care is not a priority."

"Loving myself is not a priority."

"Taking care of myself is not a priority."

I don't know if I've ever been a priority to myself. I was deemed the "second parent" at a very young age, and with five younger siblings and a deep Need To Be Needed I leaned into that role. Afraid that if I prioritized my own needs I would be saying I mattered more than someone else, and since Good Christians aren't selfish I tried to Love Like Christ, which I interpreted to mean I couldn't need anything and should constantly lay down my life for others. I think somewhere deep inside I wanted to be a martyr to justify my existence. I was afraid that if I asked for what I needed (let's be honest this is still a fear) I would be rejected because my needs were not as important as the needs of those around me, or rejected because they didn't matter enough to the person I was asking them of, or that I wouldn't be wanted anymore because all I was good for was Giving and Serving and Helping.

I've never been a priority. But it's time for that to change. Which means it is time for me to make that change for myself. I matter. My life matters. My needs matter. Self care matters.

And I can ask for help.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Old Thoughts, Fresh Feelings

I haven't blogged in a long time. I wrote this post last fall, eight or nine months ago and never posted it. It seemed too raw, like too much pain to share. I was in a place of being so overwhelmed and exhausted and hurting so badly and all the circumstances putting me there were still too close to home to share. When I logged back in to the blog today and re-read this post I had to confront the reality that I still feel the exact same way. Life is different and circumstances have changed (for example, I now have an actual place to live instead of crashing on the floor of a gracious and generous friend), but I still feel overwhelmed and exhausted, like I have given everything I have with nothing left but no choice but to keep giving. I journaled yesterday that when I really pause long enough to be honest with myself, I want to run away and start again so I can put the stress and drama behind me. It's like I'm juggling so many balls I can barely keep them in the air, and more keep getting thrown in, and I wish I could just drop them all and become something other than a juggler. 

I wanted to share this old blog. Because I think it's good to be open and honest about our struggles, and because I'm trying to be better at "not being okay." And because this blog still applies. And because reading my words from nearly a year ago and realizing I still feel the same way as I did then tells me that something needs to change...maybe I'll become a hula hooper next.


I can't do it anymore. 

I just...

I just can't. 

I have screamed those words. I have repeated them over and over in the overwhelming medley of stressful thoughts swirling my brain. I have whispered them through uncontrollable sobs. I have prayed them. Hurled them at God in a demand to know why I am where I am.

I don't know if I have ever felt so exhausted as I have in the last month or two. Or maybe I've simply never allowed myself to be so exhausted, so worn out. I am completely spent. I simply have nothing left to give.

If you know me much at all, there are a few things about me you have probably figured out: I am insanely busy, like I'm always going and doing and moving from one thing to the next. I am usually put together (emotionally at least, because yoga pants and workout clothes are life). I let people in to a point. I am very always. And if you've gotten a bit closer to me, you may have started to see The Wall that is up around me all of the time. A Wall I have only recently begun to realize still existed (apparently these constructs exist in layers, go figure I only tore down a few).

I am all of these things, or at least I think that I am. Believe I've managed to fool everyone into thinking I've got this life on lock-down and "I'm good, I'm fine, I'm great," all of the time. No, I don't need your help. Because yes, I can do this on my own. Because no, I don't need anyone else. Because yes, I am strong enough.

But sometimes life happens so many times and in such rapid succession that you can't hold it together and you find yourself sobbing frequently in your car in the middle of the night because there's nowhere else to cry. Or breaking down in a coffee shop. Where people can see you. Or parking your car on a sunny suburban street some Sunday afternoon, bawling and incoherently babbling to your mother on the phone while suburbanites walk by two (or six) times trying to subtly "not stare." Which definitely hasn't happened, multiple times, nope. Definitely not.

Some difficult, unexpected, and painful life circumstances both recently and over the course of the last few years have left me just empty. Just absolutely, utterly spent.

And suddenly Miss Always Strong Enough Who Can Do It All Herself Because She's Afraid Of Needing People Because They Will Almost Definitely Leave As Soon As They Actually Get To Know Her is actually not strong enough. And despite being rejected a few painful times, she still has to ask for help and be vulnerable and risk being let down or let go again.

All I'm left with is to admit it. To actually acknowledge that I do not have it all together all of the time. That I am a mess. That I have no idea what I am doing and no idea how it will all work out. That I have no clue how to fix my life this time, and all my attempts crash and burn (or graciously don't work out because they would actually have been terrible. Thanks Man).

I'm so damn tired. I guess all the giving and doing caught up with me. The ever-present need to always do better, improve, be the best version of myself, and hold myself together all the time was too much. Too much pressure, too much effort. Thinking you have to be perfect all the time is exhausting, folks. Don't do it.

I've always been an extrovert who chose some introvert time for personal growth and general emotional and spiritual health. Rarely was alone time an absolute necessity to survival. Recently, I've never longed for personal space and alone time more in my life. I usually can, want to, and in fact need talk all of the time (...just ask my mother/boyfriend/friends/whoever I'm closest to at the time). Recently, I feel out of words. Or just too tired to say them.

This has resulted in me understanding when people talk about their need to be alone as introverts. I never understood, and honestly had some frustration with it earlier in my life. I figured that everyone could pull it together for a few hours and fulfill their commitments. Because I usually can "turn on" the extroverted, outgoing, present person and just bury whatever emotion or exhaustion would inhibit me from showing up. Apparently that is not how all humans operate, and the last few months have taught me to both have grace for others and, more importantly, grace for myself.

I've been so angry with myself.

So angry that I couldn't pull it together. So angry that I couldn't do it all on my own. So angry that I've "let myself" be so deeply wounded by old friendships and rejection. So angry that I have issues with vulnerability and control that permeate my life in deep, shameful ways. So angry that I can't fix myself. So angry that I pay for counseling and I'm not fixed yet. So angry that I'm not doing better.

Essentially, I'm angry at myself for being a human being.

A broken, beloved human being.

"Beauty from ashes," a friend reminded me today. Things don't "happen for a reason," a God who does that would be sadistic and cruel. But beauty comes from the charred remains of things that once were, if we open ourselves to the beauty.

I'm broken. I'm breaking.

And also I am perfect in my beloved brokenness. These two, seemingly uncompromising truths can exist in the same being. Our souls are some beautiful mixture of oil and water swirling together, separate but one.

I suppose all I'm really saying is that I'm not okay. And that is okay. And in me learning to accept and love the Katy who cannot do it all and is not always okay is what will lead me to the most okay, whole version of myself I can possibly be.