I could have easily titled this post “laying my burdens down,” and you would have likely visualized peaceful, hymns-playing-in-the-background visions of me letting go of all the things I carry.
I’d like to picture it just a bit differently.
In the past year, I threw my burdens off my shoulders. It was as if I had bees landing on my shoulders on a hot summer day and I frantically shook and danced and ran in the other direction until they got off my back.
And instead of hymns, you can hear just about any tune by Florence & The Machine. I recommend “The Dog Days are Over,” “Shake It Off” and “Ship to Wreck” as the anthems of 2018.
The struggle was real
In the slow of the Thanksgiving holiday season, I took the time to review “The Simplified Life” by Emily Ley, a book I purchased for myself last year and read through during the Christmas season. It’s part book, part guided journal. And you can feel the weight of the words I scrawled on those pages a year ago.
I remember standing in Target last year even struggling with the decision to buy the book because we were so tight on money. The business was doing OK but we were still trying to pay off debt from our first year of operation. I was desperate to get out from under it and stop the cycle of month-to-month wondering if we had enough cash to pay all of our bills.
I was overwhelmed with being a mother and a business owner. We were fortunate to have childcare help two days a week from my Mom, but it wasn’t enough. The rest of the week felt suffocating as I tried to figure out how to care for a toddler and grow a business that was desperate to take off.
I was short tempered. I felt overcommitted. I hated how I treated Will when he was only trying to help.
The baggage I carried was heavy. And the $13 or whatever it was I spent on that book felt like an enormous amount of money to spend on myself – but it was a glimmer of hope. If nothing else, a chance to reflect, an effort to uncover clarity.
Along with “A Simplified Life” I remember checking out at the library a copy of “The Spender’s Guide to Debt Free Living” by Anna Newell Jones.
I spent every free moment of the Christmas slow season devouring these books. And I made some tough decisions that helped me toss the weight of what was bringing me down. And slowly, things got better.
Giving myself what I needed
Finding regular childcare
I started with researching and deciding to put Joey in a daycare. It was closer to our home than my Mom’s place and he started at three days a week. Now, he goes four days a week, an addition we made just a short time ago because I learned how to identify when I need help.
You may ask how that decision played into our debt repayment plan. The easy answer is that putting Joey in daycare gave us time to focus on our business – as many hours as if we had hired a part-time person. That blew my mind. And it made sense as this was our only source of income.
Taking things off my plate
I looked for ways to take things off my plate. I let my membership run out on networking groups that weren’t growing my business but I continued to attend. I started saying no to attending every event – not only to save on the cost of admission but to remove the hassle of a babysitter and give me more time to spend at home.
With Joey in daycare, it was even more important to me that the time he was home was heavily focused on family time. That meant being home. Such a simple concept. So hard for me to grasp before.
We got rid of so. much. junk.
We read The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up the year Joey was born and did a fairly large clean-up shortly after. Will was more onboard with it at the time. I was still trying to figure out how to take care of an infant and really just wanted him to stop asking me if things in the closet brought me joy.
But reading both Emily and Anna’s books reignited this idea that we had way more than we needed. Most of it was stuff we never used – old clothes, kitchen gadgets, gifts that we received but never touched.
I sold many items and put that toward our debt or grocery bills and the rest went to the thrift store as a donation. It was so freeing. I remember looking at my kitchen counter and thinking, “I don’t need a glass jar of flour when it already comes in a bag and can sit in the pantry.” And then I cleaned the entire counter of clutter.
Cleaning up did more that calm my nerves (I get stressed when the house is a big mess and will sometimes say, “Can we take 5 minutes to straighten up?” Will knows this is a signal that I’m feeling overwhelmed.) Having less stuff meant it took me less time to get dressed in the morning. I could find what I needed in a pinch while cooking dinner. And I just felt less suffocated by things that didn’t add meaning to my life.
Being grateful when it felt like we had little
I also can’t really tell you how I started being a nicer person to my husband but when I became less stressed, it helped. We committed to getting childcare help together. We committed to paying off our debt as quickly as possible together. We knew we only had to go up – together.
I also started focusing on gratitude. And you may hear a lot about this from other people. I’ve tried to focus on gratitude in different ways, from a gratitude journal that I write in every night to just jotting things on the refrigerator’s dry erase board on days I feel overwhelmed. For me, turning stressers into moments of gratitude has been attitude changing.
Getting some space – literally
Living in a two-bedroom apartment added to the stress. I didn’t think so at first. But we were cramped in there. Add to that the fact that we never could “clock out” of work (our home office was where our dining room table used to be – in the middle of our open floor plan apartment) and I was constantly overwhelmed.
So, this summer we bought our first home. It did slow down the debt repayment for a couple of months while we made repairs to the home and purchased items we needed. But in the few months we’ve been here I already feel better. The backyard alone has been a refreshing concept where we unwind and spend time together. And the space to have people over has changed our social life. We even hosted Thanksgiving dinner this week.
I’m still a work-in-progress
Last weekend, I was in a tizzy. Someone sent me an email on Friday with an off-handed comment that did more to stress me out than they probably ever intended. But it got to me and left me overwhelmed well into the following week.
I wish it hadn’t impacted me so strongly but I immediately felt like I was back in the same place I’d been a year ago. Each moment felt like it was not my own but was stolen by my wandering thoughts.
It was when I got coffee with a friend on Tuesday and decided to share this stressful moment with her that she pulled some lavender essential oil from her bag, rubbed it on her wrists, handed it to me and said, “We’ve all been there.”
And that changed everything.
That moment to share this mental burden with someone else, and learn that I have support and others who care – and that I’m not the only one to feel this way – was everything I needed.
I’m still learning patience. I’m still learning to manage my stress. I’m still tackling debt one dollar at a time. I’m still identifying moments to ask for help and how to get that help. I’m still striving to live a life of grace. I’m still working on me.
But, man, I’ve come such a long way. And I’m really grateful for that.