While driving back from a doula client meeting this Sunday, I sat ensconced in my own thoughts, Rachel Hollis’ voice reading “Girl, Wash Your Face” aloud, and a heart that kept pointing fingers at back at myself. You see, Rachel discussed her own fears and failings and she bandied about the term “workaholic”. She’s “recovering” she claims, and I would like to say the same thing about myself.
You see a workaholic is compelled to work. Compelled to activity. Compelled to fill her life with tasks and accomplishments. Patience is NOT her virtue. She pushes herself to the brink of exhaustion and then heedlessly dives over the edge without a second thought. And it’s usually her own heart that takes the biggest hit.
This has been my story. My very well-intentioned story, but goodness…
At the age of 16, I left my home state to attend college 16 hours away on a scholarship earned for excellent academics and little to no social life. I was driven. Passionate. And dreadfully homesick. I was also determined to prove I could make it in life. I possess a journalism degree (and nearly a political science degree) earned to wield as a weapon to change my world. But my hurts went deep during this season of life. Right before I left for college, an important person in my life told me to not come home for Thanksgiving if I had gained the Freshman 5. Those words combined with my perfectionism to combust, and I controlled my shaky world through lifestyle choices. Never an athletic girl prior as I had buried myself in books, I began to frenetically run and deprive myself of calorically-dense foods. I became the queen of fat free dressing, the salad bar and skim milk. College became an eating disorder’s battle ground, and though I eventually won, the damage was brutal. I remember telling myself a twisted version of the New Testament verses when Paul uses the phrase, “I beat my body into submission.”
Fast forward a couple of years, and I found myself taking on TWO teachers’ class loads AND writing the curriculum for one of the grades of social studies. This was following the year that I had taught full time and gone to school full time to earn my teacher’s license. Meanwhile, I lost a beloved grandparent and spent hours in the evening and through the night on the phone with a friend who was in sexually and physically abusive relationships. Plus, David and I were entrenched in college ministry and serving weekly at a church plant.
I say this NOT out of pride. I say this NOT because I had proved that I could do it all. I say this with regret because I CHOSE to do it all.
This topsy turvy schedule ended when I began to have a seizure in front of a class of 6th grade math students. Another teacher happened to be shadowing and helped me when my body froze and began to shake violently. While this was obviously a huge red flag looking back, I honestly didn’t go see a doctor then. “I just need a little bit more sleep,” I thought. But the weight of my schedule soon caused my body to cease functioning and with the help of a nutritionist, I cut my teaching and serving hours for the rest of the year.
But then infertility, IVF, and a high risk pregnancy during my last years of teaching, and I walked right back into a season of little to no sleep, physical deprivation, high intensity cardio, and the launching of my first small business. Don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of many of my activities. I endured the little to no sleep. I pushed myself in every way and, yes, learned much during these years. My heart was slowly healing with the slightly slower pace that motherhood demanded. But still, considering where I am at today, I know that “workaholic” was still etched on my personality. I was still compelled to activity. Compelled to productivity. Compelled to run fast and hard toward all my goals. Anyone else tracking with me? I know I can’t be alone in this race.
During Micah’s pregnancy, I accepted a practice manager position at a local birth center and treasured my role. David and I worked out a system where he left for his contract job an hour away around 4:30 am, while I was up around 4 am to exercise, get two children ready for childcare, pump, nurse, and leave by about 6:45 many mornings. Pumping throughout the day, I was often not home until 8 pm when I would barely kiss Abby goodnight, help David with dinner clean-up and fall into bed…just to wake up to triple feed Micah throughout the night. I saw night skies more than I saw day. David and I were ships passing in the night. This was our routine. This was life. Until I finally realized that I was losing the rest of what I valued: my marriage, motherhood, friendships, and service. And so in the wake of David’s job insecurity and potential out-of-state move, I came home “full-time” to figure our family out. I laugh when write “stay at home mom,” because I have also chosen this season to run three small business from home. For the love.
So, no, I’m not a recovered workaholic. To my dismay, I don’t even prioritize sleep when it comes to what I need to accomplish in a day. “Beating my body into submission” is no longer a motto, but somehow it still infiltrates my psyche.
But I write this bravely because I have been slowly making changes and surrendering my compulsion to productivity this past year. The changes are probably small, but for my family they are everything.
Yes, I’m running, building, and leading three business, BUT I schedule intentional work time and intentional time when I’m just “mama,” “wife,” and “friend.”
Yes, health is important to me, BUT in this season gentler forms of exercise such as yoga, barre, and shorter intense HIIT workouts suit me better than the rigorous hour+ long workouts that would get me results faster.
Yes, I love to serve and volunteer, but not now.
Yes, I love to compulsively clean and decorate, but not today.
Today, I’m laughing at myself while I research the value of sleep. Who does that? Who needs an expert to tell them to prioritize sleep? Apparently me.
Today, I haven’t washed my face (despite the title of Rachel’s book I’m reading), and I have no plans to go anywhere. Yes, I’ll write an article for publication during nap time. Yes, I’ll put together follow-up packets for essential oil members. Yes, I’ll feed Micah every 30 minutes and play referee all day between my two Littles with cabin fever. Yes, I’ll exercise. Yes, I’ll choose to eat well…maybe.
But, I’m not compelled.
For me, it is healthiest this way.
Now that is not to say that I don’t cheer you on if you are in a season of running hard in every area. But I do ask you to consider what you are giving up while you are running. I will be evaluating this question for the rest of my life.
For now, though, I must mediate between my children who are certain they need the same big pink ball – all to the background of the banging on an electric keyboard while Abby “creates” music. Today, I will do all the things and need constant reminders that motherhood is magical. But yesterday I had a bit of a revelation, so perhaps you too should consider these questions and reminders. Or perhaps not. Either way, thanks for joining me friends on this journey.