It's all about recognising my own capacity, really. I have been thinking, and reading, and pondering, and working out how to go from being worn-out-tired-unsettled-but-seeking-something... to back-on-track-doing-it-enjoying-it. I've been reading some good blog posts by Erica and Calamity Jane, and answering my own questions in their comments sections... so thought it was time to come do my own post, do some debriefing, some sorting, and of course, share it all with you!
So, I got to the point of being exhausted and burnt out for a few reasons. It started after Christmas, and the start of the new year, really, with too many things piling up on my proverbial plate, and me feeling like I really should eat it all, as that's what a good mother/ wife/ urban homesteading/ eco-frugal-ethical-prepared-goddess would do! Also, being busy gives me a sense of purpose, and less time to get caught up in my own thoughts and worries. Being busy creating an urban homestead, being prepared and saving the planet gave me a sense of direction, but also of being different, of being special, somehow. But it all became too much, my husband and myself started to feel worn out every day, I realised I was burnt out, and on top of that, the run of minor-but-still-wretched illnesses hit me!
Now, don't get me wrong, I love what I was doing. (I am not some martyr pushing myself into exhaustion for the cause, or thinking I was so much better than anyone who wasn't doing so!) It's just that things that start off fun, exciting, and worthwhile... soon become chores, esp. when you are trying to squeeze it all in, or when you have no energy to do them, or when life throws up stuff... you know, those pesky kids wake in the night, work is really hard that week, or your husband goes away for work. So, yep, yet again I feel like I had taken on too much, even though I didn't think it was too much at the time, and I truly thought I had energy for it all. I knew I had to resist taking on challenges, but I am the sort of person that if I can, I do. And, I know I can do things well, or better than average, with just that little bit extra effort.
I guess I push myself because I've always wanted to do better, be better, live life to the full. I seek acceptance and recognition and approval that I am doing a good job, the right thing, that my life is worthwhile. I also know that I find duties of motherhood and running the household boring at times, mundane perhaps. A part of me always thought myself 'unique' and 'special', and beyond the mundane. So, I have created and nurtured and stage-mothered this version of me, dixiebelle – not just your average suburban mum – and put myself into exhaustion to try to create an urban homestead/ build community/ save the planet/ be prepared AND blog about it all… so that I would stay sane, so that I would have purpose, be someone special.
Maybe it's that whole modern day woman thing... except instead of breaking through glass ceilings in some high flying career, I am trying to push the limits of my suburban mother-wife-woman role. Adding another DIY skill to my repertoire, like they add another promotion to their CV. My apron, gardening gloves and gumboots, are their power suits and laptop bags. Keeping the kids under control long enough for me to finish planting out seedlings, is them running a team of juniors while getting a presentation ready. I don't work overtime and spend weekends at conferences, I work until I am exhausted, by spending weekends preserving, creating, cleaning, sorting, and growing. I'm not bragging to friends about my salary, I'm bragging to you all about my harvest! OK, you get the point. I didn't follow a career path, but I love my life, and I know I am blessed to have a supportive husband and gorgeous kids... but maybe I felt the need, the desire, to still prove my self to the world. (By the way, I do work outside the home 2 days a week in a profession that requires alot, I just never see it as a 'career'!)
Plus, I have always thought that I had all the health, wealth, blessings and opportunity in the world, that therefore I had no excuses not to protect the planet, support the vulnerable communities and creatures, prepare for the future, and make a difference. I still believe in doing those things, but now I am realising that doing too much, or expecting too much, well, my health is affected. If my actions and need to do it all, end up with me run down and unwell, then what point is there in having an urban homestead if I am too unwell to maintain it, or enjoy it? Why save the planet for my children, if I am neglecting them or letting them down now? There are really only 3 people that I need to be special for, to prove myself to, and keep myself healthy for.
So, I am at the point where I am questioning, what can I change? I know there are things I am trying to extricate myself from, which will reduce my load. I know not to sign myself up for anything new. I guess I need to learn to recognise when I am at risk, and know, that one more thing, or doing the 'little bit extra effort' is going to put me beyond capacity. I still want to garden and learn about permaculture, but we've put our big 'urban homestead' plans on hold for now, putting some projects off and not rushing to finish others. Instead, we can support the local, organic producers for the stuff we don't grow or raise ourselves, which is important for that community resilience I still believe so much in. Meeting local like-minded people is good in many ways, but I don't have to run the community group, or join every great sounding group out there, or worry that we haven't built strong enough ties! I don't have to learn all the skills, just be good at a few of them, and importantly, be willing to ask for help!
The big thing is working out how to be content with being a simple homemaker, not a glamorous-rockstar surburban goddess! OK, so maybe I won't be exactly loving those tedious jobs, but I know I can find contentment and satisfaction in a clean and tidy house, a progressing garden, happy and safe children, a relaxed husband, and know that is enough. Even though there are boring times, or anxious times, or frustrated you-kids-are-driving-me-nuts times, my children, my husband, are the lights of my life and bring me joy, passion, laughter and tears. If I want some time for myself, or some recognition of me as individual, I think that's fair enough, it makes me a better mother and wife. I do know I need to work on my inner resilience, and a BIG part of that is being able to recognise my own limits... and actually following through on that before I reach capacity!