Friday, October 16, 2015

Take a breather....

Learning how to relax seems simple, right? Turn on Netflix, visit with a friend, take a walk, enjoy a hot bubble bath....but believe it or not teaching myself to relax was (and is) a big challenge for me. It's no surprise I'm a type A person. I structure my days around lists, can tell you off the top of my head what I've got going on for the next month or so, use a whiteboard calendar, a lesson plan book, Iphone reminders, and a purse sized day planner to stay on top of it all. There is nothing wrong with any of this. It's who I am and I like it that way. It's how I was able to manage teaching a multi-grade class in Chicago while drowning in grad school tasks. It's how I organize our household financially and plan what to pay and save when. It's how I try to fill my life and days with meaningful stuff so I never miss a minute of things that are important to me. BUT (oh, yes, there's always a but isn't there) a few years ago I hit a wall. I just couldn't keep doing it all. Here's the thing: in my quest to be wonder woman, fitness champion, teacher of the year, friend to all, relationship guru, decorator extraordinaire, sunday school teacher, unstoppable volunteer, maker of healthy and delicious meals, I become so exhausted and overwhelmed that I didn't take joy in any of those things. I remember one November Saturday 3 years ago when AJ and I had been dating about 8 months. He came to pick me up to see a movie and halfway there in his little red truck, I burst in to tears. My response to his concern about what was wrong: "I am just so tired." Boom. Trying to do it all and be it all had landed me crying and exhausted on a beautiful Saturday with my best friend beside me. It wasn't supposed to be like this.

 Cue to now, 3 years later, and while I am not "cured" of my perfectionism and relentless tenacity, I have learned how to relax. I know that it's ok to leave work with piles of grading on my desk. I know it's ok to toss a Lean Cuisine in my tote bag because a pinterest-worthy lunch just ain't happening sometimes. I know that it's ok to listen to my body when it's craving sleep even though it's only 9 pm. I know that it's ok to skip a gym day and that I'm not doomed to be on "My 600 Lb. Life" if I eat a brownie in the staff room. I know that it's ok to say one of the most powerful words I had to train myself to say: No. No, I cannot help you that day. No, I have plans and can't make it to two things in one evening. No, I don't think that's something I can do right now. Saying no to negativity powerfully reshaped my life and made me a better, more genuine person. Life is too short to do things out of excessive obligation. Especially when you're feeling obligated only to yourself. 

This school year has challenged me to re-up my efforts of learning to relax. My bunch of kids this year is hard, man. HARD. It's difficult to explain to those not in the teaching world, but let's just say there's a whole lotta special ed issues, students with emotional issues, behavior issues, etc. It's like my brain needs to be 110% engaged each day to maintain my sanity and for my classroom to be in positive working order. That's a tough pill to swallow after a few years in a row of wonderful classroom dynamics. Add to the craziness of my kiddos being a mentor teacher, team lead, and communicating with the other team lead at our school's new campus and you've got yourself a recipe for "Leslie crying in the truck on the way to do something fun." But no, I will say that powerful little word again: NO. I won't let this year break me. I will be strong. I will see the positive in my students and in myself. I will grant myself grace to acknowledge all the good stuff I am doing and the grace to know when to stop all that good stuff and take some time for me. I will still use my planners in all their forms, I will still strive and perfect, I will still be my best self. But my best me is one who is filled with the knowledge that NO, I cannot and will not do it all. But fortunately I don't have to. I have heaps of grace that I dole out to myself on a daily basis. The grace doesn't come from me, it comes from the Big Guy upstairs, but it's a grace I can dip into each day and breathe in and out, "I am enough." 

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