I'm going to do something a little different today. Usually, I talk about a question after I've processed it a bit. Have some thoughts, tips or wisdom to share. I'm not sure that's the case today.
I'm right in the middle of this one, so maybe I'll let you in on the messy middle part of my thinking process this week. Have you ever found yourself looking down the barrel of a week, a month or a season that seems so jam packed you're not sure how you're going to get through it? I'm the queen of SAYING I want to be less busy and then taking on one more thing. And then squeezing in just one more. I'm in the middle of the first week of what will probably be the busiest two weeks in my year. At least I hope so. I don't want to repeat this. We have one or more things that take up every evening. We have a full weekend coming up. And it tops off with the Destination Imagination team competition a week from Saturday. Which gives me a heart attack just to write, because I'm the coach of the best 5th graders in the world. Who totally aren't ready for competition.
I swore I wasn't going to live this way any more. And yet after I took on the DI coaching (which I said I absolutely wouldn't do), I added at least two other weekly commitments. Now, I was expecting this last few weeks of crazy before competition. And it won't last forever. I just have to get through another week and a half. But, still. This isn't the pace and the anxiety level I want in life.
I want space. Breathing room. Time to think. Time to play. And nap. And walk. I want to feel how I feel at the side of the ocean. Freedom, expansion, simplicity, sustainable rhythms.
I will say, I'm better than I used to be. I used to run at top speed for months with a single day break here and there. It hasn't happened in a while and I'm looking at a two week run this time and I'm freaking out. Actually, it probably would be a lot less stressful if there wasn't a competition at the end of it that my kids are in danger of bombing and I have less control over it than most things. I could probably be handling the schedule, the last minute surprises from my Ex, the laptop crashes and the DSL going down better...without the competition coming up.
I was going to start examining my perfectionism this week and I just can't. There's no mental space left. But, I have a sneaking suspicion this is related. I think that the stress I'm feeling has as much to do with my perfectionism - my own expectations of my coaching and feeling like I'm failing miserably - when I believe...I KNOW...that the most important part of the DI process is the months of slogging through the messy part of group creativity, of learning teamwork, of life lessons in the process rather than the actual competition. Sure, it would be great to move on to the state level, but frankly, that's just icing on the cake. And that's coming from a very competitive person.
For those of you unfamiliar with Destination Imagination, it's a worldwide student competition. Teams of up to seven students choose one of several challenges to complete and then they present their solution to a panel of appraisers. The challenges all involve creative problem solving in different areas from Fine Arts to Community Service and Scientific to Technical. It has to be a student led solution. The ideas, work and effort needs to be all from the students. I'm there to assist and coach through the process. It's a fantastic program. For some reason, it feels like I have less control over the outcome than I do when I've coached athletics. I'm not sure that's true, though. I do know they're not prepared. I know that may resolve quickly in the next four or five days though. I know they're closer than it seems. But, I feel like I'm failing. And that's not the case. Intellectually, I understand that's not true...but why am I feeling far more responsibility and stress than the situation calls for? Especially since it's their project. It's really not mine.
I suspect the answer is perfectionism.
So, where does that leave me? Right now, I have to ride out the next week and a half. By the time you read this, I'll have a week left. While the crazy is going on, I'm reducing my expectations. This episode may not be edited. The art may be different. My house is a wreck. There's debris from failed attempts at building a Russian decoder hat scattered everywhere and let me tell you something. If the fabric cutting woman says, "Be aware, this sheds a lot," pay attention. There may or may not be fake fur bits in every nook and cranny of my kitchen and dining room. I wouldn't be surprised to find it in the salt shaker. I'm pretty sure I just found some in my tea. And, it's going to stay that way. Even though my team and their parents are going to see the disaster. It's going to have to be ok. Time with the kids is more important. But, while I know that's the right decision to make, it still bothers me. It bothers me more to be living in the mess than the fact that others will see it. But, if it's extraneous this week. It's just not getting done.
What other coping mechanisms am I using? I'm making a point to not miss my workouts. I've been out for a few months with a back injury and this is my first full week back without pain. It would be really easy to put off starting back up until after these two weeks are through. But, workouts help me get through the tough stuff. The endorphins, the emotional benefits and the control over progress...I need that to counterbalance the crazy and help me handle the stress level. I would say I'm eating well too, but that would be a lie. I should be eating well. Even my bad habits aren't all that bad with food, but I really shouldn't be using chocolate as a coping mechanism. And I totally am. Hence the even more critical nature of the workouts. I'm also getting to bed as early as I can and sleeping as well as I can. Last night I was up for three hours in the middle of the night though, brain running on overdrive. Thankfuly, that's been the exception rather than the rule.
I'm also giving myself an escape hatch. I know that one of the ways I deal with too much stress is to obsess over small things that really don't matter. I needed an out one evening and spent several hours when I could have been working or cleaning or sleeping shopping for tents online. It's something I need to do in the next month. I didn't need to do it right that minute. But, it was a pressure valve release and I needed it, so I gave myself permission to shop. Giving myself permission to buy is a whole 'nother episode.
There are a few other things I do also, like specific time with my son, prayer, meditation...things that help me deal with life, or are of critical importance in life get made time for. All the rest gets put off.
But, what happens when the two weeks are over? Well, I'm a bit worried about how I'm going to handle all the things I'm putting off; but I'll just deal with that when the time comes. What I'm really concerned about is how to keep from getting in this fix again. Maybe it's somewhat inevitable. Usually the end of the school year is like this for me because there's so many extra things that happen. Plus, this is the time of year I'm least able to handle it because it's allergy season. But, ideally, I need enough margin in life that when the extras come along there's room for them without tipping me into insanity levels of busy-ness.
I have one of my quarterly weekend personal reviews coming up at the end of the month (I talked about those in episode 13) and I think I need to add this to the agenda. I need to review my schedule and see what can be cut away. I need to make some decisions on what saying "yes" requires to get into my world. Even this week in the midst of the crazy...I know I would say yes to DI again...it's that good for the kids and worth the pain of these two weeks...but, I can't do that with too many things. What kinds of things will make the cut? How do I decide? I need to figure that out.
How can this mess of mine be helpful for you? Well, if you struggle with the busy monster - and there's more people that do in our culture than don't. If you do, know that you're not alone. It can be a really tough one to tame. Borrow some coping mechanisms from me. If you're in an acute season like I am right now, cut loose non-critical expectations - performance expectations, time expectations, relationship expectations. Give yourself as much room as possible. Give yourself as much physical margin as you can also. Eat well, exercise (and if that's not a habit of yours, even walking will help), get good sleep, know and recognize your stress reactions before you explode and allow yourself healthy ways to release the pressure.
If you're in a season that's a longer term at a too-busy level and you don't want to live that way. Take some time apart from everyday. Schedule it in now and make some decisions about how you can reduce the load?
The art this week is about making time to play. It's about expansiveness and the sea. It's a reminder to me about where I want to be. It's about taking time to experiment with new things and being ok when they aren't perfect.
I know that my perfectionism is hurting me this week. Not only am I trying to deal with it on my own. But, I'm trying to hide it from the kids. They don't need this burden. It's not healthy. I'm all about high achievement and working hard. But, this goes beyond that. We'll talk more about that in the weeks to come.