It’s the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s also one of the most busy and difficult to manage.
And often the most stressful.
Whether we are talking about shopping, visiting friends or family, holiday parties, or even a holiday movie binge-session, it’s easy for all the things to stack onto one another.
Until you can’t breathe.
It’s something I’ve learned in battling my depression: I need white space in my life. I cannot – and no longer really want to – have my life full to the brim with activities, busyness or obligations. My brain is far too easily overwhelmed and then I am prone to spiral into the darkness and could be lost for days, weeks, or longer.
To preserve my state of mind, I have to guard my time.
But I’ll be honest: I’m in the midst of a 14 days blitz of “some major activity or appointment every day.” And they’re all GOOD things; things I don’t WANT to miss. There are gift exchanges, a school Christmas concert, supporting our teens at basketball games and Young Life events, planning meetings, our life group, family dinner, etc.
All good things.
So how do we do it all?
Here’s the secret: I don’t.
White space is a graphic design term for the (sometimes literally white) space between design elements. Look at this page for instance. I chose a website design template that is free of the clutter of ads or has words from one side of the screen to the other. I value white space. It helps me breathe.
I do this in my life too.
As a designer and artist, I’ve come to accept that I’m pretty visual. And while I love the ability to share my digital calendar with my husband – and try to keep it up to date – it’s not exactly white space friendly with 5 people’s schedules to manage.
So I used a planner. A couple actually.
I love this Happy Planner’s vertical layout because it allows me to split the day into morning, afternoon, and evening. (Not an affiliate link.) These allotments makes sense to me and my life at this stage. They might not for you – find your groove. You can see in the picture – while my evenings are pretty packed for the next week, the days have lots of openings.
So no matter how full my life FEELS, the facts are that I DO have time – to fill my art orders, write, paint, to be with my kids, to rest.
I keep a separate planner for work related activities and to-do lists. I’m not sure if I’ll stick with this or not. That’s the other thing I’ve come to understand: changing things up and trying new approaches isn’t FAILURE, it’s exploration.
Change can be a good thing. It even has the potential to lead to the best things.
Trade In Good for Best
I’m also learning that sometimes I have just say “no,” and risk disappointing a few people. The ones who truly care will understand. The ones who don’t, well, my Nana would have said that they have the same pants to get glad in.
I know, easier said than done.
In her book It’s All Under Control, author Jennifer Dukes Lee explores the fear of disappointing people when we choose to say no. “The belief that you’ve disappointed someone feels shameful. We pile more on because our sense of duty convinces us that we owe it to everyone to keep pushing. We can’t imagine a world in which we aren’t meeting and exceeding everyone’s expectations.”
But another way to look at it is this: if you were suddenly in an accident and laid up for a few days recovering, the world would continue on without you. Or maybe your shift changes and suddenly you’re expected to work over the holidays. Any number of changes could happen that take you out of the ring.
And you know what? It’s okay. It won’t last forever.
God can redeem anything.
I’ve found that we tend to want to think that we are invaluable. And we ARE VALUABLE. But the world doesn’t end because we aren’t in attendance at Phil’s holiday bash. Just because EVERYONE is going to be there, doesn’t mean you HAVE to be.
So take out your life, your calendar – every single thing on it – and give it a good, long look.
Then, as Jennifer Dukes Lee describes, make three lists: Do, Delegate, Dismiss.
- Do: Keep these! Either because you absolutely have to, or because you enjoy it. We need all the joy we can get.
- Delegate: There are items on your list/calendar that someone else CAN handle. In fact, your “no,” may make space for someone else’s yes and give someone else the chance to try something new.
- Dismiss: This is the tough one. These are the ones that you need to figure out how to let go of. Without guilt. (No, really.)
If you’re like I have been, the fear of disappointing people can be almost palpable at times.
Jennifer socked me hard with this truth: “Listen up. Jesus disappointed people too. He didn’t stick around when people wanted him to stay and heal (see Mark 1:36-38.) He disappointed religious leaders when he dined with sinners (see Mark 2: 16.) He aggravated people when he shoed up ‘late’ (see John 11:21). You will disappoint people too. In time, you will be able to let go fo the shame and offer a guilt-free no.“
No, really. The more I practice it, the easier it gets.
For some of us with control issues (making progress there but still raising my hand ? ) if we aren’t there to do it, it might fail completely!
Yes, it might.
But that might not be a bad thing. Sometimes it just means it wasn’t something that was supposed to be continuing on.
God only knows. And He’s got it under control.
“Let go of what God has not asked you to do, so you can shine at what he has.”Jennifer Dukes Lee
One Bite at a Time
The core thing I have to remember when I begin to get overwhelmed is this: “there’s only one way to eat an elephant – one bite at a time.” Now before anyone reports me to some agency for the consumption of endangered species, please know this is metaphor. But it’s a good one.
See, I also tend to be a visionary type of personality. I like to look at the big picture, spread out over it all, and my mind is able to see patterns and connections woven throughout. I love it, and it’s just a thing God made me able to do.
It can also sink my ship.
So when I start to take on water, I have to remember – just do the next right thing. Just take next steps in front of me TODAY. The freedom of depending on God means that I’m learning to pause in the chaos, when I want to shut down and hide away, seek the Lord, pause for His whisper, and then proceed with what’s in front of me.
Whether that’s doing, delegating, or dismissing. Playing, working or resting. Celebrating, gifting or encouraging.
Don’t be afraid to rest. Draw back, take a breather.
Just don’t quit.
The holidays will be over before we know it. If we don’t slow down to ENJOY it, we will miss it all in the hustle and bustle and downward spiral.
This too shall pass. (Get a reminder here.)
Then it’ll be baseball season. (That’s worse.)
And we will do it all again.
Join the Journey
What does your schedule look like these days? What can you delegate or dismiss from your life? If this doesn’t seem doable, why not? What holds you back? If you had more space in your life, what’s something great that you might be able to add?