I was raised in a loving home where my brother and I were encouraged to try new things, with parents who were always there to support us. We also didn’t quit things. At least we didn’t quit things easily or without giving it a really good try. I’m thankful that my mom and dad cultivated a spirit of commitment in us as small kids.
“To serve is beautiful, but only if it is done with joy and a whole heart and a free mind.”
― Pearl S. Buck
First of all, they had invested their money in fees, equipment, and most likely gasoline driving us around like we had our own private taxi service. Chances are we had also made a commitment to teammates or coaches, and we learned that it was important to honor others with our choices. When the season was done or the class was finished, we didn’t have to register again, but we had to stick it out to the end.
I think the most valuable thing I learned though, was that my family’s investment of time was to be cherished. And that meant MY time investment as well. I had given my time to this activity – given up valuable homework minutes or suppers around the dinner table with my shift-working dad. Given up sleeping late on Saturday mornings and relaxing afternoons in the pool in exchange for games and tournaments and car rides and classes.
These values are still important to me. I find them so important in fact, that I haven’t allowed my daughter to quit things either. Until this fall.
Yup. We were big quitters this fall. It felt like it was a life or death decision really. Or at least a happy life or miserable life decision, and let’s be honest. Miserable life feels like death.
We were coming out of a lazy hazy summer of traveling and visiting family and relaxation. Our previous homeschool year had left us wanting for more community, more activity and more responsibility. I decided to try a new approach to homeschooling – a community called Classical Conversations. This required traveling more, a heavier workload, and new, unfamiliar curriculum.
We also signed up for a parent run extra-curricular co-op. And I volunteered to spearhead a new class. By myself. In a group where I knew nobody. Laine started a running class on top of her Taekwondo schedule. I said I’d volunteer with a service organization in my town. I have an unpaid staff position at my church, and then I was offered a (second!) volunteer position and I said yes. You see where this is going.
Before I knew it my world (and my schedule) was spinning. Ever been there? Where you lay down at night and you can’t turn off the running commentary of your to-do list. You have no groceries in the house and don’t know when you are going to get to the store. You haven’t seen your friends in days and days. You don’t know how to handle it all, but you’ve paid the dues, you’ve given your word, you’ve invested your time, and the good, well-meaning voice in your head and heart tells you that you’ve got to follow through on your commitments.
I’ve been here in the past and I’ve pushed through it. I’ve followed through. So I can’t pinpoint what made me do it exactly, but I just started quitting things. First, it was spearheading the class at the extra-curricular co-op. With a plethora of apology I explained that I had taken on one too many things, and this was a commitment I just couldn’t keep.
I thought it would be resolved. Ever been here? Where you did the unspeakable and said, ‘no!’ but it still didn’t feel like enough? So a few weeks later I quit the second role at my church. That was a tough one.
Everyone said I’d be perfect for this role. They said they were so blessed to have me. They said they were excited to work with me. They said they knew I would do such a great job.
See, we worry so much about how the perception of who we are will be altered that we forget to be the best version of us possible. The perception cannot live up to the real thing. I wasn’t doing a great job! I was barely breathing or sleeping, mostly due to stress of not being good at this job!
Ever been here?
I’m convinced that the powers of this world keep us from being great by paralyzing us in a sea of good works. We can’t flourish in anything if we are floundering in many things, and living this way does more harm than good. It’s easy for me to feel important when my to-do list is a mile long, but I’ve come to realize that the person who’s opinion matters the most is my own. My heart’s voice must be able to tell me I’m doing well! Not just good. It must say I’m free, and making my own choices. I must give myself permission to be choosy about how I spend my valuable, valuable time. And this is even more important if it means I spend time away from the people who matter most to me.
So I quit a lot more in order to make these values true about my life. I quit until I found a comfortable resting place on a scale that balances contribution and self-preservation.
If you aren’t sleeping. If you feel more like a taxi service than a parent. If your scales are tipped too far on the side of contribution, I urge you to balance out your self-preservation. And if it means your kid doesn’t do gymnastics or play hockey, or you have to give up being the council chairman, or the PTA President, let it go. Someone else has the time. Someone else will step in. And suddenly, you’ll see your importance in the eyes of your children or your spouse, or even just in the eyes of the face you see in the mirror.
Maybe you’ll find you’ve got the time to bake cookies, or to have family game night, or even to take a bubble bath! And with all that dues money you’ll be saving, you could even pay for a massage! And massages are way better than PTA meetings anyway.