Adding and Subtracting

How are ya’ll holding up? Today marks the start of the spring semester for me, and so far, it has been suspiciously quiet on the email front. Anyway, today’s post is brought to you by the high-functioning overachiever in me. It’s a new year and we all might be thinking of how to be the best versions of ourselves in 2023.

If you read my last post about productivity and caregiving, then you know the concept of balance (bleh) is on my mind. I believe I even referenced the popular axiom: “Saying ‘Yes’ to something means saying ‘No’ to something else.” This is all well and good to keep in mind, but in practice it can look at lot different. For instance, I think few of us have the discipline to get rid of a piece of clothing each time we buy a new piece of clothing. That’s okay because, chances are, you don’t already own so many clothes that your house is bursting with fabric. An occasional purge is fine to stay on top of it. But when it comes to adding things to our lives, the occasional purge can sometimes feel like failure. That’s likely because you already live a rather full and busy life, so adding more and more without subtracting anything is problematic. Suddenly you find yourself in a hoarder situation with so much stuff crammed into your life that it compromises your health and mental well-being.

Often, it takes a huge event like a pandemic, a miscarriage, or a breakup for us to see how overcommitted we really are. Other times, it’s something small like burning the cupcakes for our kids’ birthday party that sends us spiraling out of control. Perhaps you’ve heard another popular saying about knowing which balls to keep in the air – some balls smash when they drop and some bounce. I see the wisdom in that to be sure. But also, maybe we should ask ourselves why we have so many balls in the air that we risk dropping them in the first place? Have we just been adding more and more without subtracting any? You are only one person with finite time and energy. You can only juggle so much before you get a black eye. And what do you do when life throws you a chainsaw to start juggling instead? Here’s where a support system helps. If you can set those balls down or hand them off to people you trust, then you can focus on the chainsaw.

I am the kind of person who donates as many clothes as she buys. I don’t buy a lot of clothes and I live in a small house, so I don’t see this as a burden. But I am as guilty as the next person for adding more and more activities to my life. I like to think of myself as very capable at juggling. I am also lucky to have a strong support system. But having a baby last year has turned my head. She is a ball that I never want to drop, and that thought has forever changed me. Now, I consider very carefully what I might let go of when I say “yes” to something new. I cannot have it all. I cannot do it all. That’s hard for a high-functioning overachiever to admit. It’s also strangely freeing? (More on this in the future).

I’ll be honest, I will never be the type of person who can just tow the line and subsist on the bare minimum. It’s not in my nature. But I don’t have to be a hostage to my nature. I can work with it and still have enough space in my life to stare at my daughter while she coos in my face for 20 minutes.

Here’s my challenge for you: What are you planning on adding in 2023? And what will you subtract to make room for it?

You might also like these related posts: So Many Projects, So Little Time, Teaching Tips: Boundaries, and Rest

BTW, I’ve left Twitter for obvious reasons, but you can find me over on Mastadon (which I highly recommend btw) and LinkedInAlso, I have a substack if you want to subscribe to receive these posts via email!


One thought on “Adding and Subtracting

  1. Pingback: Spring Semester Goals | Tawnya Azar

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