I could end my letter at this point, but I fear that two words wouldn’t be enough to convince you. I know this because I’m one of you. I’m a feet-hit-the-floor-already-running, head-hit-the-pillow-still-thinking kind of a girl.
It’s hard to slow down when so much needs to be done, and “so much” needs to be done too much of the time. To-do lists taunt you, full email inboxes glare at you, full laundry baskets call to you, and full dishwashers irritate you. You sweep the floors, pay the bills, make the beds, change the diapers, pick up the toys, fix the meals, sign the permission forms, schedule the appointments, take the conference calls, say yes to the committees, and meet the deadlines. You grade the papers, balance the spreadsheets, sew the patterns, watch the neighbor’s kids, and teach the classes.
You don’t bother to sit down when you eat lunch.
When you’ve found your stride and have all cylinders firing, you think to yourself, I’m a machine. When you’re floundering, you simply sleep less, try harder, and pull yourself up by your bootstraps because it’s what you do.
You keep afloat. You always have.
But, one more thing always can be added to already-full schedules, and one more thing often is added. When there isn’t a moment to spare in your overflowing days, the unexpected phone call feels like a burden. The unplanned inconvenience escalates to a crisis. The child who wants you to read another book suddenly becomes a hurdle to overcome in a long string of duties. If you allow yourself even one moment to reflect, you acutely feel the hollowness of such a full, yet empty, existence.
You might not know whether to snap or to cry or to lie despondently on the couch eating Oreos, but you do know one thing: you can’t sustain this pace.
Dear, dear woman who tries to do it all, may I please share something that I’m slowly and painfully learning? You never were intended to do it all.
We are human beings, not human doers. We desperately need time to be. Just be.
There never will be an end to work; we always can do more. (At least, we too often convince ourselves that we can.) In light of this, let’s not waste our greatest strength on tasks that matter the least. Let’s not let seemingly urgent demands yank our attention away from the things, and especially the people, who are most important. Unanswered emails and unwashed dishes in the sink sometimes can wait. Unhugged children cannot.
So, dear woman who’s trying to do it all: please stop.
Not forever. Just for as long as you need to hear your own thoughts, loosen your tense shoulders, and find the surprising pleasures that arise from even unproductive days. Stop long enough to be still and know that you are not God. Stop long enough to admit that although you can do a great deal, you never were intended to do it all.
A Woman Who’s Learning To Accept That She Can’t (and doesn’t want to) Do It All
This originally appeared at Robin Kramer Writes.