"...I'm beginning to feel it in my heart. I feel... thin. Sort of stretched, like... butter scraped over too much bread."
The line above, from The Lord of the Rings—the film version, at least; I've never read the book(s)—describes all too well my current mental state. I'm not as old as Bilbo is when he offers Gandalf that line, but I do feel stretched, and the despair that that feeling brings has begun to infect my heart.
It is because of this that I, the classic example of an overcommitter, am taking a break from committing to anything until June. It's a break from blogging, from writing, and from any new projects whatsoever. It might be more than a break, in fact. It could be a retirement. I don't know yet. All I do know is that living at the pace I'm living is going to kill me, and I'm not ready to die.
The primary goals of this break are threefold:
- I hope to learn how to say no.
- I hope to learn how to focus on what really matters in my life.
- I hope to learn how to enjoy living again.
In order to do so, I've decided to begin this journey, right here, by outlining the three main reasons I overcommit. Because, when it comes right down to it, it's my willingness to spread myself too thin that is at the root of much of my anxiety.
So, the main reasons I overcommit are:
- Low Self-Esteem
- A Desire To Be Helpful
Let's explore these further.
Money. Because of the extraordinary debt my wife and I are in—$18,299.38 in credit card debt, plus our mortgage, student loans, and an auto loan—I constantly seek out secondary and tertiary money-making projects. Regardless of how hard I work, however, we never seem to make a dent. So, I keep looking for more ways to make money.
Low Self-Esteem. I agree to nearly every project that is pitched to me because I end up feeling so flabbergasted that anyone would want to work with me that to say no seems unforgivable. "What will happen," my brain seems to ask me, "when they wake up and realize that you're useless, and not worth their time?"
A Desire To Be Helpful. I also overcommit myself out of a desire to help others out. I can't stand to see others struggling with something when I could help, even if me helping isn't feasible.
Right now, I have a great primary job doing marketing communications. I'd like to get to a point where that is my only job. That's part of what this break is about, too. In May, my wife and I will sit down and analyze our finances to see what's possible. But I want to enter that discussion with the resolve that I will never again be a guy who is working a regular job, plus teaching three college-level classes, plus editing someone's memoirs, plus writing for two blogs, plus pitching his novel to publishers and agents, plus getting ready for a new baby, plus, plus, plus. And, to do that, I need a break. I need to finish the things I've committed to finishing, then step back and figure out what's next, and how never to end up here again.
Thank you for understanding. I'll see you again in June. In the meantime, I'll still be tweeting @ecc1977 on Twitter, so you check out what I'm to there.