Years ago a friend shared how she would decorate her house like a “Winter Wonderland” for Christmas, every year.

She talked about how every nook and cranny of her home was decorated for the holidays. She talked about how she went “Over the Top” decorating. And how long it would take her to take down all the decorations and put it all away. She talked about being totally exhausted afterwards…and then each year she would do it all over again. Every year. Same routine.

For a time it served her.
For a time she was up for it.
For that time, those years, it was OK…until it wasn’t.
And then she stopped.

Today she doesn’t even get a Christmas tree. Too much bother. Too much time. Too much money – only to throw it all away, when the holiday is over.

But doing NO decorations today truly does not feel good. It feels lazy. It feels sad. It feels emotionless. Passionless. It feels BLAH.

Where is the balance? Balance between the over the top decorating of the past – and the do nothing of today?

Has it all come down to All or Nothing?

Is it that way with everything? We are either ALL IN or ALL OUT? ALL ON or ALL OFF?

There is stress in both. Stress of doing something over the top. Stress of emptiness that comes with doing nothing.

Is there a way to have a balance that works?

Balance that is not too taxing – age appropriate and a level of being “In” or “On” that works…Balance with each new age or phase of our lives?

Yes, balance can exist and it can feel great. It’s all about managing the gap.

Here’s my own story from my history…

Years ago while flying, traveling on a business trip – I remember plotting out several schedules with different variables, attempting to better manage my daily routine. Flying seemed to be the only time I could find time to think, time to reflect. I was a mother of two young sons and only when I traveled did I truly have time to myself. Only when I traveled and the care of my sons was left to their amazing after hours sitter, could I truly have a minute to think how to do life better.

I mapped out 4 different daily routines, trying to fit in all the priorities in my life.
Exercise, work, meal shopping, cooking, homework for my sons, volunteering at the school, boys after school sports, commuting to work, dropping and picking up my boys from before and after school care…house cleaning and anything else my sons and home needed.

I remember mapping out options that could handle my priorities and then highlighting those options that offered the greatest accommodation, with the least stress.

The option that accommodated most of my priorities had me getting up by 4am, arriving at work by 8am, picking up my sons after work by 6 pm each night, get them to bed by 9 pm and me to bed by 11pm…I would see my sons for a barely 3 hours a day and that was briefly in the morning and then only at night when it was filled with sports, dinner and homework. There was no time for anything else.

I remember sitting on the plane, my international flight, with many hours to ponder the many variables.

Seeing all four daily maps left me feeling sick, truly overwhelmed and feeling defeated. There really was no good option. All possible schedules felt overwhelming, exhausting and sad. None of the variables were reasonable or sustainable.

I could probably find that map from 30 years ago somewhere in my archives of defeated plans – tucked away in some notebook. I could never really admit defeat and I could never change the goal posts back then. I could never allow myself to think of doing less.

I always just thought I just need to try harder. Do more. Sleep less.

I was not being real with myself.

I was not setting myself up for success.

I was not being realistic with what was truly possible.

I kept thinking I should be able to do everything. All the time.

I could not make peace with being OK in expecting less and doing less.

And so I created unrealistic expectations of myself. And probably for my children too.

Year after year.

And each year the expectations increased in magnitude and severity.

And then I stopped.

Completely stopped.

I let go – but not in a most healthy way.

I was tired. Too tired.

I didn’t admit defeat.

But I was defeated, disillusioned and drowning.

I went down.

And I stayed down.

For too long.

I heard family members telling me to pull myself up by the boot straps.

I heard family and friends say they had never seen me not rebound.

I heard others say – they had never seen me like this.

I had hit a point, when I felt like I did 30 years ago on that plane – trying to make sanity out of insane expectations.

And then the light finally went on for me.

Finally, I said “NO Thanks”.

NO Thanks to doing everything.

Doing everything and enjoying very little, was not acceptable for me any longer.

It never was.

But today I know that.

Before I didn’t realize the part I needed to modify were my expectations.

Today I know that.

I know the stress I have in life is the GAP between my expectations of myself and what I can actually do, reasonably, without daily herculean efforts.

I strive for line drives today. Not daily home runs. Just line drives.

With a HOME run sprinkled in here and there.

Today I know that I don’t have to paralyze myself with overwhelming expectations.

I can plan to do some things that are most important to me.

I can plan to make things nice in my world and follow through.

I can plan and execute on those things most important.

I have allowed myself to get back in the game by not piling on unreasonable expectations.

I can stay engaged.

I can stay energized.

I can stay motivated.

I don’t have to be overwhelmed.

The more I do according to my plans, the less stress I have in my life.

I LOVE checking “DONE” next to the items on my to do list.

The ONLY things that make it on my to do list today are true priorities.

Important priorities.

Priorities worthy of my time.

Priorities worthy of my energy.

Priorities worthy of the precious resources I am willing spend on making something happen.

Today my GAP is small.

The GAP between my wishes and my accomplishments is minuscule.

My heart is happy.

My DONE list is filled with GREEN Check marks. And smiley faces.

Life is better than ever…

I have learned to manage THE GAP.

I don’t have to be overwhelmed any more.

I can say NO Thanks to those things that do not serve me.

Or don’t serve me at this time.

Leaving time to enjoy the things I do.

Here’s giving you encouragement to rip up unrealistic maps.

Here’s giving you encouragement to realize your true priorities.

To enjoy everything about your day.

Your week.

Your month.

Your year.

Here’s wishing you great success in managing the gap in your own life.

Use your red pen to say “NO THANKS” to anything not serving you.

Then breathe and smile 🙂