Have you been through a season where you just can’t get a handle on “normal” tasks and commitments in your life? When you just can’t get it all done? I just experienced one of those times.
Our family is just emerging from a season of change and transition with two house moves, a mission trip to Haiti, wedding in Yosemite, a home remodel and getting our oldest ready to head to college in Nashville (two trips out there) all in the past two and a half months. All of this squeezed every last bit of margin out of my normal schedule, and I found myself doing things that I try hard never to do.
Like backing out of commitments (big ones). Or saying no to invitations that came my way. Or putting off meeting with good friends for weeks because I couldn’t find the time, and telling clients that I had to postpone or cancel their design projects for now.
I am a recovering people-pleaser and don’t ever want to appear flaky, so realizing I couldn’t show up or be reliable or even be present if I was there rubbed everything the wrong way for me. But life just got too full.
The act of backing myself out of events or relationships or work obligations didn’t happen right away. Even when I knew this abnormal season was approaching I had difficulty switching gears. The “I can do it!” attitude initially prevailed. This revealed itself in my conversations with clients; “Sure, I can squeeze your painting project in (between an unpacking boxes and an international trip),” or with friends; “Yes! We definitely should plan that camping weekend (even though I had no idea where any of our camping gear was buried in our post-move basement of boxes).”
The rational voices in my head went on red alert, “Don’t commit to that!! Don’t say yes to that!!”
Fortunately, I started listening to those voices this summer when the stress and un-manageability of my schedule knocked me upside the head.
I had to change my responses to invitations from “Yes!” to “No, I’m just too busy.” Or had to say no right off the bat (which is not easy for me to do). I had to be honest with clients about my overbooked schedule. And I had to tell good friends I just didn’t have time to get together with them right now. I said sorry a lot.
I even have struggled with this blog because I would say that I was going to post on a certain topic next and then I didn’t because weeks would go by with no time to write or focus.
All of this has meant possibly disappointing people or losing clients. It has meant potentially hurting friend’s feelings. It possibly affected the way others viewed my reliability or engagement with them. And I may have lost readers on my blog because “zero posting does not make a blog reader well”.
But I have had to wrap my brain around the fact that all of this is sometimes necessary and actually okay. Sometimes we go through seasons of change that derail our normal. It could be an emotional struggle or starting a new job or taking care of a loved one or becoming a new parent. It could be any number of things. These seasons remove any margin we previously had to engage or commit or show up for people or things.
And we need to give our people-pleasing-highly-responsible selves a break.
We need to accept that for a time (and we usually don’t know how long) we are shifting our focus to other, more important things.
I have learned this summer that people are incredibly understanding. My clients actually responded with huge amounts of grace and said it actually worked for them to do the projects a little later. My friends are my friends because they love me and know I love them, even when I can’t be present with them.
And the invitations I declined…well there will be more.
God knows there are seasons in our life for all different things (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). We can ask Him for courage to say no, wisdom to know what is important (and what is not) and for grace for ourselves when we feel like we are letting others down.