You may(or many not) have noticed that it went silent over here for awhile. And I thought it best to explain a little. If you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed awhile ago I put up an "On Vacation" sign. I had started to notice something very sinister going on in my use of social media. It is called the Comparison Game.
I am sure you have been there, if not you are a very lucky person and I wish I was exactly like you. See what I did there? I am very good at the comparison game. I think it comes with a natural curiosity, wanting to know how other people live and work, wanting to know what it would be like to try something new.
The problem with that is you are often at a loss for who exactly you are. You stop and wonder, am I doing this because I like it or because someone else who seems really cool and awesome and wonderful and creative and spiritual and funny and confident and what not is doing it? If I do XY&Z will it make me as fulfilled as so and so? Will my kids grow up just like theirs? Will we have the perfect Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook life?
So I decided to go on vacation, just take a week or so from social media and see what I really wanted from it. I felt like a slave to my feeds, not inspired as I was hoping.
It lasted a measly few days, because I thought I had found my answers quickly. And I did to some extent. After some wonderful conversations with my husband and a good friend, I realized a few distinct things. When I am looking at my feeds, I rarely ever feel that terrible sin of envy when looking at knitting or crochet feeds. I think wow, that is really cool. I rarely feel like I should do exactly what they are doing or making. I may think, "I should try that someday!" But never do I feel like, "I wish I could do what they do and I must do it right NOW."
Being a mom, a homeschooler, and a follower of Christ and His Church is a full time gig. It is not my hobby, like knitting. When I had downtime and pulled up my social media apps to zone out for a bit, I found myself looking at work. Not my work, but stuff I started to feel like I should be doing instead of sitting on my butt. I started thinking, I wish I was a great Catholic writer. I wish I was as knowledgable about Nature Study. I wish I was a better homeschooler. I wish that Unschooling thing worked for us. I wish, I wish, I wish.
And all that wishing leads to, you guessed it: BURNOUT.
But I didn't see that right away. Instead I thought, "I need to unfollow everyone! I have to stop looking at all these inspiring and wonderful people because I AM inadequate. I need to get a job, send my kids to school, and by the way God, I really love you and all, but I think I should stop going to church. I am just going to stay home, under my bed, and drink lots and lots of red wine, K?"
What? Not a good idea?
After unfollowing nearly everyone, I had a rather nasty meltdown. It had happened only moments after waking up and the only cure was to go right back to bed and sleep. I slept for several hours and thankfully my husband was able to keep the kids mildly entertained and not knocking on my door too much.... the miracle of TV, eh?
I awoke to the realization that, obviously, my fabulous plan did not work.
This depression was not going to be cured by unfollowing friends on social media. The lack of joy in the big and the small, exhaustion, the simple fact that everything felt out of whack was not going to go away because I decided I had to change everything about me and become a new person.
I am not going to tell you anything you haven't heard before. We all know it takes balance. But in the moment you may not even realize you are out of balance. You may be so caught up in the day to day that burnout will sneak up on you and, like me, even while in the midst of it not realize you are going up in flames.
My burnout had been years in the making. Lots of babies close together, charter schools, listening to homeschooling "gurus" who told me it was ok to let things go, and thinking I was getting time to myself when actually I was not, added up to the huge disaster that was my last year.
Elizabeth Foss in her amazing book Real Learning wrote, "The crushing fatigue of burnout makes one vulnerable to spiritual nonsense." When I read that, a few days after my melt down of epic proportions, I knew what I had to do. Hiding from the world, and most especially from God, was not going to make anything better. Becoming a new person was not going to make life better. I needed to let go of expectations I had placed on myself and embrace who I am.
Sometimes we can get angry at God, finding something that really is not even the issue at all, and running with it. I needed one on one time with God. I needed to stop kidding myself by saying I was getting time for me by knitting, reading, or watching a show when in reality I would watch 5 minutes, pause because the kids needed something, than watch 5 more minutes before someone else needed something. Trust me, I timed it once. That is merely aggravation and resentment, assuredly not "me time."
So every morning I am going to read the mass readings for the day and pray before the kids get up. At night I am going to spend time thanking God for the gifts from the day, Elizabeth recommends finding 5 things. I am also going to strive to find time for me. Just me, even if I have to leave the house to do it.
So I am sorry for hiding under my bed with the Cabernet. If I unfollowed you on Instagram, take it as a compliment. I think you are amazing. I unknowingly let the Devil whisper in my ear that I was inadequate. It won't get better overnight, but with God on my side and a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart, I know I am finally on the right path.
We moms have to stick together. We, even while on different paths, all have the same goal. We love our families and want what is best for them and for ourselves. That path is rarely the same for everyone. Embrace the things that work for you and acknowledge how awesome it is that God gave us all unique and wonderful gifts. Embrace the beautiful mess that is you, a child of a loving and merciful God.