As my friend Colin always likes to say, I suffer from a serious case of balloon-hand: Need someone to volunteer for something? Up goes my hand! Nothing can keep it down, not previously made obligations, lack of sleep, expense (time or monetary) or even exhaustion.
My eyes are bigger than my proverbial stomach when it comes to the amount of stuff I think I’m capable of doing without collapsing into a sobbing heap of overwhelmed Sarah. As such, I am constantly overbooked and occassionally volunteer to do two or more things — be they favors, social engagements or boring assignments — at the same time on the same day. Such was the case this Sunday, when I was simultaneously expected to attend a wedding with my Mom, celebrate a first birthday, study for an important test, make complicated and expensive vacation plans, and drive a friend to the airport.
All this basically caused me to a) freak out; b) reschedule said test, c) miss out on the cake-and-punch fun, and d) flatly and mostly unapologetically refuse to drive said friend to the airport.
The last two I felt terribly guilty about and thought about a great deal afterward. The airport thing wasn’t so bad since it was a last-minute request that was asked without much finesse or politeness, and was solved with the help of said friend’s roommate. I’ve become much better at refusing to give rides lately. Years of being used for my wheels have really jaded me to helping out my pedestrian acquaintances. (It’s one thing to rail against the evils of automobiles; it’s quite another entirely to do so while mooching off your be-wheeled pals. Particulary if an unwelcome critique of my driving ability is going to be involved. (ahem).).
The birthday party was something I’d rather not have skipped, but it was simply a matter of being physically unable to be in two places at once. This doesn’t, however, stop me from feeling terrible about it. I’d feel just as terrible if I’d gone to the party and skipped the wedding. It’s my nature, and I suspect it’s more prevalent in the female variety of human. Ridiculous, yes, but we’ve been bred to feel excessive guilt since birth.
But it’s when things like this come up that I find myself really having to do battle with my overactive sense of obligation to other people. I have this rather inefficient tendency to put everyone elses’ needs ahead of my own — delaying that test will set me back a great deal and probably cause some stress in the future I’ll have to deal with then. But I wasn’t ready to take it because I’ve been busy caring for everyone around me instead of taking time out from life to study and take care of myself.
The solution seems so simple — take some time for me, relax, study, get organized, and voila! Everything’s better. But what that attitude overlooks is that every time I take space for me, some other obligation suffers. When I take a weekend off to devote to myself, that’s one more weekend I’m not spending with the people I care about; or one other obligation I’m putting off until tomorrow.
It’s not just hard due to my overactive sense of obligation and guilt, either. I genuinely LIKE baking cakes for friends, I really enjoy spending time with my family and my friends, but there simply isn’t enough time to do everything, every day.
The only solution? Sleep less.
What do you guys do when you feel overwhelmed?