Recently a dear old friend commented that he admired how I “juggle everything” and that he would love to get together while he is in town and learn how I do it all.
I adore him for that.
I adore him, period. I’ve known him for over ten years. We met at a yoga retreat in Austin where I trained as a teacher. He and his husband were coming to Portland for a Pet Shop Boys concert. So yeah. How could I possibly NOT want to hang out with him? I did want to.
But it didn’t happen.
And here’s why:
Because having it all isn’t real. Juggling is a myth that only appears real on Facebook.
There are always trade-offs and sacrifices to every choice. Each level of success, every opportunity, each blessing has a price of admission.
Knowing that, and choosing wisely, is how you manage the things you love. Otherwise you’re just dropping balls.
(Heh. That sounds dirty.)
So a couple of the ways I (don’t) juggle it all are:
Despite being a health coach who believes wholeheartedly in fresh, local, prepared-with-love meals, I rarely cook. When I do it’s amazing, but when I work ten hour days and parent alone it just isn’t feasible. So I have loads of things delivered, including groceries. The groceries I get are things that are easy to assemble. I do make easy soups that feed me for days. My son is a whole other blog post. We drink a lot of smoothies and take supplements. I’ve let go of the guilt about this.
I’ve learned to have realistic expectations about my mental health. Modern life is hard. Taking excellent care of what matters to me, with limited support and resources is hard. I have a mid-sized to massive emotional breakdown at least once a week that involves enough snot and tears to soak half a roll of toilet paper, and several hours of Netflix. I am practically non-verbal during these times and will unplug until I’m feeling sane again. I used to feel super broken over this, but I got sick of that. Feeling broken takes extra energy and snot. So now I just ride it out like a headache and then carry the fuck on. Really. What choice do I have? I’m someone’s mother.
I do A LOT of self care. My body is command central and our physical strength and flexibility always translates to the powerful inhabitation of our lives.
Which brings me to the number one way I can carry out single parenting, do an entrepreneurial hustle, stay healthy, and do the occasional bout of service work is… wait for it…. I don’t have a social life.
I almost never go out. I almost never meet anyone for coffee or get together with people when they come to town. Mainly, my people live in my phone. The ones who I love in analog reality know that I’m just not available and don’t pressure me. Pressure to spend time with people, while often well-intentioned, feel like the opposite of support. It says to me: “I don’t believe you know best about the energy you have to give! I’m certain you have extra in there for me!”
Anyone who expects more of me than I freely offer will usually end up pissed at me or disappear. It’s sad. Ish.
If I’m being really honest, it’s also a relief. I spent too many years going to the coffees, parties, meetings, and generally saying yes to all of the invitations out of obligation and fear that saying no would ruin opportunities for the success I so dearly needed to survive. Or like, people would think I was a bitch.
Maybe I am. I don’t really care anymore. I used to care so much about whether or not people liked me. Now I really want to try sitting on every bench at Laurelhurst Park at least once. Realistic goals!
Of course some of the social stuff from the past was plentiful and worth it. But, often the opposite was true and the guilt over time and money I could have given my son haunts me. So I now embrace a more ruthless discernment.
I love my life. I love my job. I love the service work I’m blessed to be able to do. I love my people and my time alone.
I might love my time alone most of all. Because, in terms of my mental health, my ability to process, digest, problem solve, and just fucking have the tenacity to keep going, it’s not the icing, it’s the cake.
The only way I can do the things that matter most to me are to say “no” to pretty much everything else.
And, the better my life gets, the better the things are that I say no to.
I say no to amazing things. I’m lucky like that.
While it gets easier, it’s rarely comfortable. But it’s necessary. It’s the trade-off I willingly choose because I want creative focus and radiant good health. I want to make a great living and help as many people as I can and do the things I love most (that are mostly solitary) more than I want to hang out and catch up.
That last paragraph is true. But an even truer paragraph would be: It’s the trade-off I choose so that me and my son can have a modicum of a decent life without succumbing to financial or spiritual ruin in a modern world of unchecked power and rising costs of everything. I want that more than I want anything really.
The reality is that I am a full-time single mother with no family nearby. I have a coaching practice that involves intense, emotional interaction with incredible folks who trust their deepest feelings to me and I want/need to hold that with all of my integrity. Also, I have a felony instead of a PhD, and a lifelong relationship with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
What I do, is ALL I can do.
And, while there’s more I *want* to, and will, do (like write books and travel far and wide), I choose to believe that everything happens. Especially when we are focused on value, over volume, in our lives.
So, even when hanging out and catching up would be absolutely twinkly and lovely, if I can’t, it’s because I can’t. Not because I don’t want to. That thing about “If you really wanted to you could”? Yeah, that thing can stop before it gets to my door. That shit is for people who have hobbies.
It’s also possible I don’t actually want to. That I’ve shifted my definition of “want”. Now I think, “What’s that thing going to cost me and is it worth the sacrifice?”.
It’s never, ever just coffee.
So I’ve learned to choose wisely, to choose willingly, to know the trade-offs I’m making and (to the best of my ability) be grateful for my problems/limitations.
Problems aren’t stop signs. They’re guidelines. (I saw that on a church sign today. You’re welcome).
Limitations can be frustrating. But limitations are not necessarily problematic unless you want to focus on them as such and feel shitty all the time.
Limitations can become the containment of your creativity. The discipline that leads to ease. The guidelines that keep you on track with your most useful agenda.
Limitations can actually create a stable container in which you find liberation.
I just want to give you full permission to take care. Do you. Conserve your energy to do your best work. Take care of your reality within the bounds of your real limitations and view them as neutral, even when we all know they are sometimes unfair AF.
I want to encourage you to do whatever it takes to keep your brain clear so that you have plenty of room to entertain new ideas and decide which ones you wish to integrate and share. I know it’s hard, but please worry less about relationships that fall away because you didn’t give in to demands on your time that exceeded your bandwidth or distracted you. Those people will find other people. Or they will, hopefully, realize that self-sufficiency is paramount to equality in relationships.
You have permission to say, “No, thank you.”
We need you at your best, babe. Not at your most exhausted. And there is no actual law about what you *should* be showing up for. Only you can determine that.
When you can’t change the circumstances, redefine the container and then fill it with love. It is enough. You are enough.
You might not be a full-time single mom like me (if you are: mad props), but you are a human in an often inhumane world with your own set of limitations, and your own system of support. I just want you to remember that you can trust that *just* doing the things that are most important to you is going to wear you out plenty. And the better you are able to do just those things, the more we get to share.
And though you will be tired, you will be that good kind of tired instead of pissed off, resentful, and inhaling those meringue cookies from Trader Joe’s by the carton kind of tired.
Those cookies are surely made from the milk of angels, but they still aren’t as sweet as your sanity.
You are dearly loved and lovable. I’m so glad you’re here and grateful to be walking the planet with you even though we may never meet for coffee. There is a scenario, however, where we could be working together. I’d love to help you fortify your container and get what you really want out of your one precious life. Turns out I’ve saved plenty of excellent energy to do that with you. Because it’s a priority.
Holler at me if that sounds like a thing. Otherwise… go get your day.