When Something Is “Off”

Early on this school year I noticed something really interesting. One of my boys needed to start seeing the doctor on a regular basis for a medical condition (nothing really bad, but very time consuming). It was in the midst of this that I realized I had been operating at the outer edge of what I could handle. I would add several adjectives before the word “handle.” Because we’re talking about the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions of life. And practical as well.

On paper, I could “practically” handle this additional commitment. You can easily schedule a doctor’s appointment after school. I have enough big guys to help watch the smaller ones. I have a car. Etc, etc etc. This is what I reasoned as I considered why this all felt so exhausting.

But mentally, as I was considering all this, I visualized a line, with some kind of horizontal graph type bar on it. What I could peacefully (without having a panic attack) handle was “here” (hold up both hands like you are describing a fish you caught). But by adding ANYTHING ADDITIONAL to my load, it pushed me to here (hold up your hands to describe that same fish but bigger).

That’s not good.

Yes, I could get to the doctor and run to get lab work and then go back to the doctor to get the prescription and then to the pharmacy and then back again to pick up the meds. I could do all of those things, but what it meant was something had to give. Unfortunately what was giving was my ability to cope with things like getting us all out the door on time in the morning. And being nice. And not crying.

Now all of this is for my own recollection and everyone is different. I kind of struggle with the idea that someone is reading this and rolling his eyes and thinking that this poor woman quit her job because her kid started needing some meds. And I realize that not everyone is free to just stop working when life feels hard. But this is something different than that. I should probably point out as well that my full-time job had much more of a volunteer quality to it. The people who teach at our private school are so generous. It’s a school that is basically a group of families who have decided to educate their children together. There isn’t tons of money for the staff and administration, so everyone who works there does it because they feel a real call to build and support the school and students. So by saying I quit, I’m not saying I was able to just walk away from tons of money. You might consider this whole conversation to be more about walking away from a wonderful, beautiful volunteer type opportunity. It almost felt like a vocation, which is something we will discuss further.

What’s interesting to me is that when we are at some kind of tipping point in our life, it’s usually one little extra drop in the bucket that makes the different. The final straw, after all, is just one straw. It’s not necessarily a whole wagon full.



  1. Thanks for sharing, Rachel! Self-examination is so important and I think a lot of us can benefit from your honesty about differentiating between good activities/practices and actual goods for our current life and that of our family. I so appreciate women like you who are brave enough to model slowing down or simplifying life while our kids’ childhoods whizz past us~ a lost art!

  2. scotch meg says:

    It’s great to have you blogging again. I was following you on Twitter (don’t do Facebook), but I missed your wisdom. I sympathize with your dilemma. It’s so hard to give up something you love doing, even if it’s for something you know is more important. Congratulations on your good decision!

  3. Family first! ’nuff said. No one else can be mother to your children.

  4. Betsy Howard says:

    I get it. I like to use the word “capacity” in this context. While I technically may have enough hours in the day to do x,y, or z, I don’t have the capacity (mental, emotional, physical) to do all three.
    On another note, will you tweet your blog posts when you write them? I don’t come to my feed reader that often any more, but I’m on twitter every day.

  5. Allergy Pills says:

    I’d like to just preface this by saying I’ve never been a reader of this blog and I’m a teenager, so views and values most likely differ from yours.
    But in my opinion it sounds a lot like ideas and stress are constantly on your mind. To portray this I always enjoyed the metaphor of cars on the highway. When you drive you recognize the cars around you for safety, but your destination changes from theirs they’re out of site and out of mind. The cars are like thoughts, they come and they’re sometimes the same and other times very different. What differs is that we as people don’t always let ideas just pass by as cars would. Sometimes our thoughts can be stressful or really enjoyable and we don’t want them go and our mind is so stimulated. And that stimulation can lead to built up stress similar to the increase in size in fish you mentioned. And even if at the end of the day you know nothing bad can happen the stress is still there because it’s an emotion and emotions don’t always align with rationality.

    It’s just a matter of slowly learning how to let thoughts and stress pass through the mind peacefully. I personally try to further my skill in this through mediation, sleep and taking 20-minute naps (where I sometimes may not sleep at all, but I reached a state where my mind was clear and I was relaxed for at least 3 minutes).