My alarm just went off which means it must be a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, all days when I have to be in to my veterinary job at 7:30am. It sounds like a lot of hours between getting up and heading to work, but I’m always trying to fit all sorts of things into my mornings. A little writing, a little meditation, but mostly I need the time to get out and run before the day gets underway.
I know how crazy early that time sounds, though over the years I’ve gotten used to the odd looks I get when I mention waking up at a time that begins with a 3. Even as a morning person that hour can be a little tough to swallow, especially during the winter when a warm bed seems like a far wiser option.
Because I’ve been getting up that early for so many years, there’s really no decision-making involved any more. I just do it. For me, running after work isn’t a good option, so the pre-dawn hours are my only choice if I want to make it happen.
After getting up, I immediately get dressed to run before heading downstairs to eat, let Brody out, and feed all the critters. Because my timeline is pretty tight I try to keep my morning routine as efficient as possible, which means I avoid making multiple trips up and downstairs. And every morning I find myself struggling to carry down everything I need for the morning. Usually I have my running shoes and socks, a bowl of cat food for Carrot who grazes overnight, the iPad or my laptop, a water bottle, a notebook, a pill gun for medicating Carrot…. You get the picture. It’s a lot of stuff, especially if I try to add a laundry basket or some other “to do” list item onto the pile. One of these days it’s all going to come flying out of my arms and down our uncarpeted staircase, scaring the crap out of poor Pam who is still sound asleep. I just hope I don’t go down too.
I started noticing a trend lately: my piles I carry in the morning…my multiple bags I take in to work every day…the numerous events on my calendar I sometimes struggle to fit in and keep straight… I know I tend to be a little Girl Scout like and try to be prepared for everything, but this is different. Am I just carrying too many things?
On the surface, the answer to that question appears to be a resounding yes. Over the last year or so, I’ve been struggling to juggle my full-time veterinary job with tutoring 5-6 students each week and taking on a part-time writing/editing position with my former running coach this past spring. Not to mention I was training for a marathon, and now I have a 50-mile race coming up in November.
All of this feels like an essential component of who I am and what I want to do. Sometimes they challenge me, sometimes they bring me joy and satisfaction, and often it’s a combination of the two. Even though they feel overwhelming when they’re all tossed together over the course of a week, I’m reluctant to let anything go entirely.
While there is definitely a physical, time-dependent component to handling all this stuff, I think I’ve slowly come to realize that the balancing act is just as much mental. Yes – there are only 24 hours in the day and getting enough sleep is often a challenge, but if I manage not to get too overwhelmed by all of this mentally, the scheduling and “physical” part of it will follow. The goal, therefore, is not to let myself get sucked into the “oh poor me I’m so busy and sleep-deprived” attitude. I chose to do all this stuff, remember?
In sticking with that goal, I ‘m trying to look at all the things on my schedule in their most positive light. Math tutoring prep challenges my brain, and the nerd in me realized I actually sort of missed doing math over the summer. Go figure. And while I love running and always feel better once I’m done, sometimes getting out the door becomes one more thing on my to do list. I kept thinking – if I just had a little more quiet time to myself… Well, you can’t get much more quiet time to yourself than running in the dark at 5am. I need to appreciate that time for what it is – time for my heart and lungs and brain and soul. I should savor it, even when it doesn’t feel perfect.
And writing. Writing keeps calling to me even in my busiest, most fatigued and overwhelmed moments. In fact it calls out to me the MOST during those times. It’s something I pushed out of my life for far too long, and now it’s back to stay. So I better make room for it or else I’m in trouble.
Starting this week I’m making one change that I hope will prove helpful – I’m cutting back at my veterinary job a few hours per week. It’s not a lot of extra time, but a few hours will allow some breathing room where previously there was none.
As August came to a close and the tutoring calls and emails started rolling in, I had my usual wave of anxiety pass over me thinking about everything I have on my plate. But much as I need some space and quiet to just “be” I’ve never been a person who could sit and do nothing for too long. If nothing else, I need my brain to be occupied.
So am I really carrying too many things? Time will tell, I guess, but ultimately it’s up to me and how I approach everything I’ve committed myself to doing. A little mental fortitude will carry me through the busiest times and help me see the light in all that I’m trying to accomplish.