A few months ago I decided to make some radical changes in my life to manage my stress and create a more balanced life for myself and my family. My whole life I have always been the type of person who takes on too much. I’ve learned through working a recovery program in Al-Anon that this is a common trait of those of us who have been affected by someone else’s Alcoholism/Addiction. Perfectionism often rears its ugly head, causing me to take on more than I can handle. At fist I love the feeling of the rush of the crisis of being busy, then of course there is the applause of society, “I don’t know how you do it!” “You are like Super Woman!”, then there is always the crash and burn. This is a cycle that I have practiced my whole life. I once had a good friend who told me, “You know the saying, ‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade?’ Well, when life gives you lemons you just keep picking more and more lemons until your hands bleed.” Throughout the years she would remind me of this, saying, “Christi, stop picking lemons!”
STOP THE MADNESS
A few months ago, I decided that I really had to stop the madness of being busy. I had taken steps in the past to work towards this goal but I always ended up in the same place, no matter what circumstances where surrounding me. It’s like the AA saying, “No matter where you go, there you are”. I knew that I would have to do the work from the inside out to make real and substantial changes. 9 months before having this revelation I had started this journey by leaving my job. I was working as a director of a small non-profit. The job basically consumed my whole life. When I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work, and when I was able to finally fall asleep from worrying about work, I dreamed about work. It was really unhealthy. So I left that job and began working at another non-profit working as a Development Manager. While this position was indeed less stressful than my previous one, I realized that it was just a step down on the same huge ladder. I was still commuting to work; causing a strain on my children as they were spending long days in daycare. I began getting emails and texts at night about work, then the cycle returned: Working outside of my schedule to get tasks completed, losing sleep, and dreaming about work. I quickly realized that this needed to end. As an Al-Anon and a recovering perfectionist, I found it difficult to leave a job that I had just started only 9 months prior. I knew that I needed to swallow my pride and make space to do the deep work that needed to be done and I resigned.
FAMILY OF “ISMS”
My family is full of “Isms”, Alcoholism, Addiction, Work-a-holics, etc. I had already made a choice to stop the family cycle of codependency by joining Al-Anon several years before, now it was time to stop the work-a-holic cycle. I decided to go back to my previous career as a Sign Language Interpreter, as I knew that it would provide more flexibility with my family and I wouldn’t take my work home with me. This was a big shot to my ego, not because I felt that interpreting was “less than”. I loved and continue to love and value interpreting and Deaf culture. It was an ego killer because I had gone back to school for my degree in Social Work and no longer than 2.5 years in the field I was leaving it. What would people think? What will they say? My mind raced with the “What ifs”. Through working my program, I realized that I had stuff to work through and could not let the “possible opinions” of others control my life and my ability to make healthy choices for myself.
DE-CLUTTERING MY PHYSICAL SPACE
I was lucky enough to be able to take a couple of weeks off in between jobs to do some work on myself to get my footing and feel centered. As I began settling in to being at home with the children I realized that my busy mind and life had caused me neglect my home, making it cluttered and over-whelming. I sat down and made a list of all of the areas in the house that I wanted to organize and de-clutter. I then made a list of what I really wanted from here-on-out for my schedule and my time. This felt so good. This is where the process began, I took several loads of unused clothing and household items to Good Will. I re-organized my living space to feel more open and free. Organizing my physical space gave me enough serenity to encourage me to even further de-clutter my mind.
DE-CLUTTERING MY MIND
The next steps were related to technology. I deleted hundreds of emails that I didn’t need to save and organized my personal email into folders. This felt so good that I finally felt the courage to do something that I’ve known that I needed to do for a while, step away from Facebook. Facebook had become an addiction for me. An unhealthy addiction that fed into my need for approval from others and low self-esteem. It was a superficial world that had so much control over my emotions that it began to feel like my past addiction to cigarettes.
Not only did I monitor who interacted with me on Facebook but also who didn’t. I would see co-workers or family members leave me out or “like” and comment on each other’s posts but not mine. This hurt and my longing to feel apart of and accepted, probably the very thing that brought me to social media was being crushed. The odd thing about social media is that everyone uses it constantly, yet it is sort of taboo to say if something that happens on social media is hurtful. “It’s just Facebook” I would tell myself. “It’s stupid to get upset about it.” This unkind self talk was dismantling the work that I had done towards practicing self-love.
So I did it, I deactivated my account. I deactivated it and it was hard. It really did feel similar to quitting smoking. I had gotten so used to browsing through the news-feed throughout the day when I was bored or had a moment to spare. I was used to constantly knowing what everyone was doing, all of the time. Sitting in boredom felt foreign and uncomfortable. After the first several days I began to find happiness in being disconnected from the online world. I increased the interactions with my friends through texting and chatting on the phone. I felt like I was able to have deeper conversations with them than I would through quick comments on a post. I felt reconnected to the people who I enjoy and have been able to disconnect from the ones that I found to be hurtful online. The truth is that the people who I have in my life regularly never bothered me on Facebook. I was able to feel more grounded in my surroundings, more mindful of my children. It was freedom. I was also able to get more of my de-cluttering done in my home and feel more productive without the invisible chain connecting me to my phone.
I’m feeling more and more free and look forward to seeing what this new year has in store for me. When interviewing for my interpreting job, the employer asked me where I saw myself in 5 years, what were my goals? I looked at her with a chuckle as I thought to my self about my lifelong-habit of constantly developing bigger and bigger goals for my career. This time my response was different, I simply stated, “Balance”.