There are just two weeks left in 2013. New Year's Day is always my favorite holiday. I spend the time leading up to the new year contemplating what my goals and resolutions were for the current year and establishing new goals and resolutions - and plans for achieving them.
This year as I look back on 2013, I realize what everyone else has been seeing all along: I am frazzled and completely overcommitted.
I am a people pleaser, which means it is very difficult for me to say "no". I have become an expert at staying so busy that I have no time for myself. I give away my time to friends in need, to authors in need, to volunteer groups, to animals, to people in all walks of life who lean on me on a daily basis.
I had an ah-ha moment this past weekend when I had a rare opportunity to read a magazine - and read an interview with Maria Shriver, in which she mentioned the number of women she's met who say they don't have time to wash their hair. For the first time that I can remember, I realized I am not the only one who is in this boat.
Women today are asked to do more than ever before. I know women who work long hours at high-powered and high-stressed jobs and who routinely go through fast food drive-throughs on their way home from work, because their family is waiting for their dinners - one woman in particular who has a stay-at-home husband, and she's still responsible for the cooking (or fast food pickups), the cleaning, the child-rearing, AND the bread-winning.
I know women sandwiched in between raising their own children and caring for their elderly parents who have moved in with them. I know women who must serve as nurses, spouses, mothers, caregivers, cooks, housekeepers, chauffeurs, secretaries... in addition to working full-time jobs.
And I know other women who work two jobs in an attempt to make ends meet, which is a constant challenge of juggling bills and "robbing Peter to pay Paul". One woman is working six days a week in a full-time job and has had to take on a second job on her only day off.
I know other women in their 50's, 60's and 70's who thought at that stage in their lives they would be taking it easier, coasting into or enjoying retirement, and instead are learning new careers, reinventing themselves, and stretching themselves to the breaking point.
So I know when I come up for air and take a rare look around me that I am not the only one who has ended up on a treadmill that goes ever faster. The question is how to rearrange my life so that I am not the last in a list - a list in which I rarely get toward the bottom - but near the top, or as many of my friends are striving for - at the top.
I have tried saying "no" and people are insistent. If I don't personally step in, this dog will die. Or that person will encounter catastrophy. Or someone else will be unhappy. Or angry. Or upset. Never mind that it means I won't get lunch that day, or that I won't have time to go to the bathroom, or I won't have the opportunity to rest for five minutes, or the exercise routine I just decided yesterday had to happen - won't happen for another year. Or two years. Or three. Or maybe never.
It has reached the point where everything I do, I must give up something else to do it. And that "something else" is always something for myself.
Yet I know I am not the only one. By far.
Are you finding yourself in this same boat? If so, I'd like to hear from you. I'd like to know if you managed to get off the treadmill, how you did it. If you're struggling, what you're contemplating doing. Where you find support.
In the coming weeks (if anyone is interested) I'll post what I'm doing to get balance in my life. And in six months or a year, we'll see if I am successful. It's my New Year's Resolution, after all. And they never fail... do they?