“I feel like I have too many balls in the air, but I can’t set any of them down.”
A friend told me this recently, in gulping breaths, as we jogged side-by-side on treadmills at the gym.
My stomach immediately dropped with the memory of feeling that same way just a couple of years ago.
Many of us juggle so much. We’re keeping kids alive and trying our best to raise them how we want to. We’re helping them foster their interests while we try desperately not to forget our own. We’re working outside of the home or from within the home or a continually changing combo of the two. We’re clocking minute after minute of exercise as we try to get our “pre-baby” bodies back. (And we’re spending plenty of mental energy wondering if that’s even possible.) We’re trying to keep our marriages vital and we’re volunteering at church and school. Half out of necessity and half out of a deeply held desire, we’re nurturing our friendships and trying to be there for our people.
It’s a lot.
But worse, it all feels important.
You know how when you’re getting ready for a trip, you make a list of everything you need to do before you leave? (Or is it just me?!)
That list becomes your lifeline for the week as you put a hold on the mail, ask your neighbor to bring in your trash bins, and pack the white noise machine your baby cannot sleep without.
And inevitably, once you’re finally on the road—with no turning back—you take a last glance at your master list and find that a couple to-do’s have been left unchecked.
It turns out, some of those things you thought so essential at the beginning of the week, weren’t so essential after all.
A definitive timeline and a finite amount of energy showed you what really needed to get done.
I often think this is the perfect metaphor for learning your core in life.
All the balls we’re keeping in the air feel important, but what happens when you suddenly have to spend six weeks on bedrest? Or when you experience some depression or anxiety, fall into debt, lose someone you cared about, or give birth to twins? Or what about when you just finally decide, after years of giving everything your all, that you don’t want to keep living that way?
Given the right circumstances, we’ll find out what our real priorities are. It’s like the to-do list before your trip: everything seems important until something reminds you what really is.
I held onto my thoughts that day on the treadmill. I needed time to bounce my ideas around in my head, and I ventured a guess that my friend would benefit more from a listening ear than from any half-baked advice I could have offered.
But you, you aren’t so lucky. :) You’re stuck with my thoughts.
What To Do When Everything Feels Important
1. Push back on the notion that there’s nothing you can set down—that all of it is essential.
“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” Wayne Dyer
2. Believe that life is long enough for you to do it all (just not all at once).
Setting something down doesn’t mean you’ll never pick it up again. You could set something down for a few weeks, a season, or a couple of years.
Shawni Eyre at 71 Toes likes to say that “life is long.” It goes against the expression that life is short and that we should seize the time we have. That my be true, but sometimes all that “seizing” just leaves us unsatisfied and burned out.
I suggest that if you accept that (God willing) you’ll have a season for everything, you’ll find it a bit less difficult to set something down.
3. Begin the process of knowing your core.
If you’ve been around here long, you know that continually coming back to the whys of my life, my deepest intentions, helps me let go of some of the pressure to do it all—and the guilt for never being able to.
When you know why you live—what you’re really living FOR—it’s so much easier to decide how you’re going to live.
The balls fall into place a lot more naturally.
Overall, this is something I’m always working on, and I imagine, you are too. I’d love to hear—
When have you hit that wall, the I-can’t-do-it-all-but-I-don’t-know-what-to-quit wall? And how did everything play out for you? What would you tell a friend in the same spot?