I love creating schedules. Timetables, colour-coding, post-its. Just typing the words makes me swoon. Wrapping my fingers around a smooth ball point, flushing out what I’m going to accomplish, the bright blue ink symbolizing the permanence of the whole thing. The entire process is glorious.
I’ve tried using my phone to hold my primary schedule (like everyone else on the planet), but I find it remarkably unsatisfying. The delicate tap-tap-tap of my fingers on the keyboard. The pithy delete button when I complete a task. And where are the checkmarks? Checkmarks are literally the only reason I do anything.
While I love productivity like I love cereal at midnight, a peek at my handwritten schedule makes it glaringly obvious I’m not exactly overbooked. If you saw a day heavy with commitments on my calendar, you would always notice it sandwiched by fairly light days, people wise and obligation wise. It’s my sanity sandwich. If I do not sanity sandwich my super full days, I get resentful, overwhelmed, and generally miserable. It’s too much.
I know my sanity sandwiches will garner me few compliments in this society. I’m supposed to be productive all the time. I’m supposed be achieving another rung on the Ladder of Never-Good-Enoughness. I’m supposed to be bettering myself and doing all the things for Jesus and changing the whole freaking world (and Instagraming it, of course). I’m expected to be busy and frantic. And if I’m not acting frantic enough, I’m obviously not working hard enough.
This expectation is a huge struggle for me, because perfectionism and people pleasing are my drugs of choice. I so want to be over booked and overworked and flitting from event to event with ease. I do. I want you to be so impressed with my busyness, it makes you wonder how I do it all. I want you to be in awe of the things I’m accomplishing.
I recently heard an amazing woman speak on capacity, and she compared our individual capacities to sizes of Starbucks cups. She was clearly a venti cup, powerful and hilarious, wise and driven. She advised her fellow venti cups not to apologize for the full-bodied work they’ve been called to.
As I watched a myriad of dynamic women around the room nodding along, I shrank in my seat. I realized my biggest fear was not being a venti cup. Not having the capacity to be brilliant and dynamic. Having everyone know exactly how I do it all, because I’m not doing all that much. I mean, what if I’m just a tall? Or—horrors—a short?
I used to be a venti. I was saying yes, doing all the things and then some. People wondered how I did it all, and I confess I miss being celebrated and praised for my busyness. Especially at a time of year that is overrun by people proclaiming all the things they’re going to accomplish. I’m so tempted to fill in the blank spaces. I’ll start a non-profit! I’ll write a book! I’ll launch a thriving business! I’ll bask in the awe of lesser mortals!
But I can’t.
You see, that open schedule is a completely deliberate choice after years of spreading myself whisper thin and creating an environment for my anxiety to thrive. If I don’t allow myself the time and space I need to function like a normal human, I eventually implode. I lash out at my husband, bark at my kids, and have a self-indulgent pity party with a tub of cookie dough. Panic attacks start creeping in, I withdraw from friends, and I never, ever ask for help. Not a good place. A rather soul-shatttering, destructive place, actually. Except for the cookie dough. That’s delicious.
My capacity may shift down the road but, for the time being, I seem to be in a short cup season of life. It’s not sexy to admit that at the start of a brand spanking new year with a crisp daytimer eagerly anticipating my pen. But there it is. My highlighted, checkmarked schedule will be filled with the people I love, the (few) projects that are important to me, and a heck of a lot of sanity sandwiches.