Last spring my husband and I were talking about a job opportunity that had come my way. It wouldn’t require me to be away from the kids or change our own family schedule all that much, but still, it was more responsibility. More to juggle. More.
Garrett asked the question, “If you add this, what would you take off your plate?”
I blinked at him in confusion.
And then he said something he’s said on repeat for a few years, “The answer can’t be you’ll just do more.”
Sometimes when it comes to ordering my life, I’m a bit like an unsupervised kid at Golden Corral. The plate is not full- it’s piled up. So many good things I want to read, to experience, take part in. So many ways to serve. So many people to know, love, partner with, and learn from. Not to mention the other seven people living under the same roof as me who do tend to need some time and attention. It’s full, and some days, it’s bursting.
“I have a lot on my plate right now.”
We say that when we’re swamped. When responsibilities are competing for attention. When the end of the day never quite brings the satisfaction of that feeling that the necessary things get done. As a society, we’ve embraced busyness as a merit badge at best, and as a simply unavoidable situation at worst.
What are we if not busy?
Besides societal things, I think our tendency to do too much comes from different places within us. Some people struggle to say no. Some people have a very high capacity and are intrigued by finding their own limits. Some people find meaning in being useful. Some people fills holes in their own heart with activity or a constant whir. It’s possible I’ve been in all of those camps at one point or another.
But in my season of life right now, I find that my understanding of myself is growing. I’m learning that my plate is often too full not because I want it all but because I don’t quite know what I want.
I said yes to that new role last spring. In exchange for adding a significant responsibility, I stopped teaching mornings at our weekly homeschool coop, and (this is the crazy one) I hired some cleaning help who come twice a month. Right now I’m typing away at my kitchen island, enjoying a lemony smelling kitchen that I didn’t clean (and didn’t have to supervise my dear children cleaning. That’s the best part. Also- one of my children just came downstairs and informed her siblings that the upstairs toilet is currently so clean we could all eat soup out of it. Oh boy.)
I could write more about how the size of our plates change, about how different things take up more space in different seasons, and how unhelpful it is to judge other people’s plates (Keep your eyes on your own plate, people.) But I’ll end instead by asking this question: How would your life change if you stopped asking “can I do that” and started asking “what is really mine to do?” What matters most? What gives you life? What lines up with the ways your Creator designed you? What gets at the things you truly, deeply, desperately want?
Start there. Thoughtfully remove things. Add slowly. And remember there are no awards for the fullest plate. 🙂