Life Giving vs Life Filling. I had to make the hard distinction around 6 months ago. I found myself drowning in the life I had prayed for and been blessed with. Nothing was bad, in fact it was all good! Two daughters, a loving marriage, a growing side hustle in photography, friendships, travel, health, fitness. Again, all good, but all felt un-relentless in its demand and my dreams were breaking me. I realized I had to strip my life way down and take back control.
We all get 24 hours in the day and many of us have the privilege and power to decide what we fill those 24 hours with. I made the distinction between life giving and life filling. I made my list of what was most important through the lens of a 31 yr old wife and stay at home mom to a 4 year old and 10 month old baby. I stopped responding to emails, I cut way back on my social life, and I put photography on hold. I did not have the bandwidth for those items while I took care of myself, my family, and my home. I became a no person in order to be come a yes person.
What helped me get laser focused on the changes I needed to make was realizing two things:
To break down the first item above, I was emotional, exhausted, and insecure. Not giving my girls and husband the best version of myself, which is what they deserve. I remember one Friday specifically where I just could not get myself motivated to get out of the house and everything was making me cry. And the most important part is that this feeling/day had become more usual than not. We were getting ready to go to Target because I had convinced myself we "needed to" but I was taking forever and we ended up wasting our Friday at home walking around in circles and confusing the girls. I began crying on the floor of the nursery and couldn't stop. Roswelle saw me cry and cry, I face-timed Paul upset and exhausted, he promised me he would be home early which in turn made me feel worse because that meant I couldn't do my job. I was disappointing no matter how hard I was trying. It didn't help that James Kate didn't sleep through the night for 9 months. Sleep wasn't something I could control or get enough of, so I had to make changes elsewhere. That may be work for you, or something else demanding a lot of your time that you simply can't control. It’s been said before, this is another reminder, decide to control the things you can.
And item two; of course we all have things about our jobs and daily lives that we don't love doing and are annoying. But the things I love to do: photography, exercising, blogging, cooking, taking care of my home and family... all became burdens because I was spreading myself too thin and not doing anything well. When you do something halfway, typically you leave it feeling less than.
I realized that I had to peel way back and make big changes. I started doing the bare minimum, but doing it really well. My day to day became very routine and simple, and it made me feel SO good. I wasn't being the best friend, neighbor, preschool mom, blogger, photographer but I was working out every day, started sleeping well again, and most importantly started being excited about what the day held! I was searching for only what was life giving, anything else I left behind.
What's important in this is to remind yourself over and over again, "not no forever, but no for now." I haven’t put time with girlfriends during the week on the shelf forever, but for this season in life. I'm not giving up on photography, but placing it on hold for several months while I read at night and don't open my computer for days.
My bare minimum will look different than yours. You may be able to handle more, or less; but we all have 24 hours in the day and we can choose to fill them with life giving items. It will change by the day, week, month, year as life circumstances continue to change. Am I doing it all really well? if the answer is no, then something has to go. I am continuously trimming what “all” means for me. Opportunities will be missed, connections won't be made, sales will end, friendships will fizzle, but there will be another opportunity or sale or connection and those friends will still be there when I'm ready to do more.
AND FINALLY, in an effort to make this post more interesting and personal. This is what my bare minimum looks like for me, right now:
I gave myself permission to not respond to emails or even texts immediately. Sometimes I go days without responding to a text message. I’m comfortable with people saying “oh that’s just Lauren - she doesn’t respond to texts or answer the phone all that often” It’s nothing personal, I just don’t immediately stop what I am currently doing to respond to my phone anymore. My phone is the one who waits!
I make dinner around 4:30/5. I don't try to time it all out perfectly, when there is no need for us right now. I have kids that are hungry before I am or Paul walks through the door. Some nights when he gets home late - he reheats everything with no complaints and I stopped apologizing for it. And sometimes, that “dinner” is just scrambled eggs!
I exercise every. single. day. Whenever I can, 6am, 10am, 2pm, 7pm. The time changes but I rarely skip. Find something you look forward to doing, which is spin for me. After my first class back on February, 15th, I texted Paul "endorphins are flowing" and never looked back. I even purchased a spin bike for my home!
I strive for an autonomous hour every night. How I spend it is up to me. No one touching me or needing something from me. Whether it's watching Bravo, a face mask, reading, scrolling instagram. I try to give myself that hour (usually 8-9pm).
I keep the weekends simple. We don't attend all the things we could or even go out to dinner all that much. There will be a time for that, just wasn't during the last 6 months or probably the next 6 months. (again, not for forever, just for now)
I put off errands until "tomorrow". All the sudden it's been 5 days and I realize i really didn't need that thing I was going to drag the girls to Target for. Sounds strange but it works. I was just giving myself something extra to do which typically ends up in me overspending and sitting in traffic.
I make space to “just do nothing” with the girls during the day. We sit in Roswelle’s room and play very casually. We go outside with no plan or toys. We sit on the floor with nothing to entertain us but each other. I think boredom and lack of intentionality can feel so good.
That's what I've been up to these days! not forever, just for now.