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A Confession, A Realization, and A Solution

Bear with me. This is a post about me being dense and finally realizing what to do about it.

It’s also a post about money and about stress and about “finding balance” (whatever that means) and about blessing others. And letting myself be blessed. And not feeling like I have to constantly prove something to the world.

Confession:

I am always stressed.

I have a wonderful life. I am a stay-at-home mom to two brilliant, adorable, sweet, well-behaved children. I have a husband who is the love of my life, selfless and brilliant and a total hottie. I have wonderful friends and a fantastic church. I enjoy my writing, my jewelry making (when I get to it), my karate (when I get to it), and my consulting career (which is becoming more time-consuming). I enjoy the renovations on our house and making the place ours.

But I am stressed. I have a to-do list a mile long. Seriously. Here’s a short sample:

  • Consulting work for clients A, B, and C.
  • Other consulting tasks.
  • Follow up with client D.
  • Follow up with other potential client.
  • Redo client website from scratch.
  • Select stones for retaining wall, buy, and install.
  • Mulch the flower beds (rent a trailer, 2-3 loads).
  • Redesign Shy Violet business cards and order them before shows this fall.
  • Rework Shy Violet packaging (especially bracelets)
  • Apply to three more jewelry shows.
  • Apply to three more cons.
  • Finalize cover for Heroes
  • Finalize anthology cover
  • Finish writing A Fairy King sequel and edit
  • Get a title and a cover for A Fairy King sequel
  • Start commission for cover art for A Long-Forgotten Song Book 3
  • Design and order a C. J. Brightley banner for shows
  • List more stuff on Shy Violet website
  • Update front page of Shy Violet website
  • Host CutiePants’ birthday party (get food, make a gluten-free dessert, mow the yard so the slip-n-slide is usable, finish weeding so the flowerbeds aren’t embarrassing, clean the entire house so the house isn’t embarrassing)
  • Fix the front page of CJBrightley.com
  • Edit A Long-Forgotten Song Book 3 (first major edit, not copyedit)
  • Redo the kitchen (order appliances, rip out cabinets, move wall, choose countertops, figure out what to do about the ceiling, move wiring, move water and gas line, etc.)
  • Finish redoing the master bath (paint, reinstall toilet, choose new vanity [floating shelf] and install, figure out vanity for other side and install, etc.)
  • Make a media kit
  • Finish the crown molding in the guest bedroom
  • Plan and do the deck replacement outside (need help removing retaining wall, jack up corner of covered area to replace support)
  • Plan and do the fireplace update (paint? tile facing? wood facing?)

You’ll note that most of those things are not quick tasks… they’re not something that gets checked off the list in an hour or so. Some of them are, but not many. This doesn’t include the things like laundry, making food for kids and Mr. Brightley (the kids eat like 6 times a day, otherwise they get hangry), vacuuming occasionally… you know, regular life things. Regular life takes up time.

I don’t get to do the things I enjoy as often as I would like. I spend all my “free time” doing something mandatory. I feel constantly behind. No matter what I’m doing, I’m busy thinking and stressing about something else that I should be doing.

My consulting boss (he doesn’t want to be called my boss, because he’s not really, but since he gives me work and pays me, for the sake of brevity and clarity and anonymity I’m going to call him my boss) actually helped me with this realization. “I don’t care who does it, as long as it passes your quality check. Pay someone else to do it. You don’t have enough time to do all this stuff.  I have more work for you than one person can do.”

Realization:

I don’t have to do everything.

There are some things I need to do, or I choose to do, because it is important that I do them. Some of them I do because I love them, and some of them I do because I have to do them.

I parent. I homeschool CutiePants (my daughter). I write. I make jewelry. I do some of the consulting work. I exercise.

But others… others I could hand off to someone else. Realistically, I do some things because I’m kind of a control freak, or because I feel like I have to even though I don’t really have to because if I don’t do them I must not be a “real artist”, or because I started doing them when we had no money and I had to do everything myself because I couldn’t afford to get help.

You know… those are pretty silly reasons to keep doing things.

So I’m reevaluating.

Solution:

Hire help.

Now, obviously I don’t have infinite money. I’m an indie author and a stay-at-home mom and a very part-time consultant… money is not falling from the sky or growing on a tree outside.

However, my consulting work is paid, and we live on my husband’s income. My consulting work pays for other things, like the much-needed house renovations (it’s an old house). If there’s a bit of variation in my consulting income, it’s not the end of the world. The money is very useful, but it’s not necessary to pay for food or the mortgage. I can take on more work if I give some of it to other people rather than trying to do absolutely everything in the hour or so a day that both children are sleeping. I can pay someone to help and reduce my workload while still making some money and reducing my stress level.

Ditto for some of the work related to Shy Violet and my writing career.

At first it felt like asking someone else to do my homework. Then, my boss’s explanation made me realize it’s called delegatingWHOA….. major realization here. Hiring someone to help do work, and paying them to do work, is not wrong. Obviously I can’t, and wouldn’t, hire someone to do my creative work, but there is a lot of work that I can delegate to someone else.

So what kinds of things can I hire someone to help with?

Designing my new jewelry business cards. My old ones are old and match a website design several iterations old. I have a logo. I have a general aesthetic. I have the information that should go on it. Someone else can do this without much trouble or sacrifice in quality… there’s no need for me to do every minute detail of this myself. Designing a banner for shows.

Some of my consulting work. Some of it needs to be done by me, obviously, but some of it doesn’t. Some of it just has to be done by someone reasonably intelligent, and then I can check over it and send it on.

Some of the house renovations. You know what? It is not a character failure to hire someone to replace the hardwood floor in the main floor of our house. I keep thinking we have to do it. We have this house, and it’s great, but it would be wrong to spend money to hire someone to do these things that we, in theory, can do ourselves. We can, therefore we should, and if we don’t, it means we’re lazy and wrong. We are what is wrong with America! We lazy, no-good, idle slugs are the downfall of American do-it-your-self-er-ness or something. But that’s not true!

I have two little children to parent and three businesses to run. Mr. Brightley has a full time job. Is replacing the hardwood floor really the best use of my time? Probably not. Yes, it will cost money to hire someone… but then it will get done, and I can move on to something else. If I do it myself, it will take at least a month, and in the meantime my little ones will be running around on the bare plywood and getting splinters and… seriously? Why is this a question? Why do I do this to myself?

Why is this so hard?

All my life, I’ve struggled with the idea that I need to prove myself somehow. It’s not because of my parents, who have always been wonderful and loving and supportive. It’s… me. It’s part of how I am. Finding peace in the middle of my imperfection, in the middle of my inadequacy, is a lifelong struggle. I can be confident, and I am confident in some of my skills… but I am not fundamentally confident in myself, in my value as a person.

God loves me as I am. I should struggle to be more like Christ… to love more extravagantly, to be holier, to be kinder and gentler and wiser and more sacrificial… but I fail. Sometimes I struggle and I fail, and sometimes I just fail to struggle with all my heart towards this holiness, this perfection, that I can’t really understand.

And God loves me.

So it doesn’t really matter if I don’t do everything myself all the time to a standard of perfection. I mean… it’s frustrating to me, but it doesn’t matter. God didn’t wait until I’d written a book to love me. God didn’t wait until I earned my first black belt or won my first tournament to love me. God didn’t wait until I earned my master’s degree to love me, and he didn’t rescind that love when I got my first B.

I don’t have anything to prove. I need to rest in the assurance that I have already been given. God loves me. Mr. Brightley loves me, my children love me, my family and friends love me… and even if that all went away, if everything else was gone… God loves me.

So I need to let go of this compulsion to do everything myself. It doesn’t make me more worthwhile, more of a real artist, more of a writer, more of a business owner, or more of a person. I need to let it go so I can do the things that are really important. Things like enjoying my children rather than stressing.

Letting go of doing everything myself will allow me to be a blessing to others.

This was a revelation. I can bless others by letting them help me.

I didn’t get it at first. Really, I didn’t. Because these things don’t always feel like blessings to me. They feel like work… never-ending work that I have to do in order to get to the things that I want to do and in order to prove (to the world? to myself?) that I have value.

But you know what? Other people need work! Barely asking around, I found a dear friend who is happy to babysit sometimes so I can do some of the consulting work. I can pay her, and it’s a blessing to her and her family financially. That makes me happy. I get a few uninterrupted hours to focus, and her daughter gets ballet lessons. Another person is happy to do some of the consulting work for me. She’s thrilled with the money, I’m thrilled to free up some time, and we’re all happy. My boss loves her work.

Obviously, paying people to do work is not the only way I want to bless others… but it is one way to bless them, and one that I had not really considered before.

I want to be more present in my own life and more present with my children. When we’re playing outside, I don’t want to be thinking of that thing I should be doing, or that other thing I should be doing. I want to be laughing and enjoying them. These moments won’t last forever. I don’t want to look back and remember all the things I was doing (or should have been doing)… I want to remember being together, little arms around my neck (or leg), little pillow-soft cheeks and downy hair.

I want to bless my children with my presence, not my distractedness. I want to bless my friends with my presence, and, yes, with paying work if they want it.

This is not easy. I’m still struggling with this. But maybe, slowly, I’ll get better at letting go.