How much are we adding to the soup?

I wrote last week about people being overwhelmed by the systems they’re in, and how “self care” is not the way out.

But our immediate space and our mindset within it do have an impact on how we function.

Can we pare down? Yes. Is paring down Another Thing To Do? Also yes.

We can have less stuff. We can commit to fewer actions. We can decide that some things are good enough. We can decide that all the things are good enough. We can stop trying to win the affection of unpleasable people.

But also, we need more. More community. More taking care of each other in a way that makes it better for everyone involved. More free time. More creativity. 

Did you immediately think, “But I’m not creative” when you read it just now? You are creative—you’re just not used to cultivating it because you were probably taught that it’s frivolous and for children. Creativity is scary because it’s vulnerable but it’s also incredibly life-giving. That’s a whole separate issue.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that as we become overwhelmed, the things we need more of are the things that are the first to go. Culturally, they’re even harder to sustain because they’re not valued. Individual over community. Caring for others is feminine and sometimes weak. Free time is lazy. Creativity is for others.

In many ways, this kind of change is bottom-up. Your boss/government/deity isn’t going to fix it for you. Change what you can in your immediate sphere of influence. See who comes along with you. 

(Sometimes, all you need is to live out loud to inspire others to take the same actions you’re taking, even if it’s not together with you. I’ve received messages from people I didn’t even know were reading my stuff, saying “you’ve inspired me to make this change and I feel so much better.” That’s fuel to keep going.)

How to change?

Take time to have a meeting with yourself: list all the things you are already doing and feel like you should be doing. By yourself or with someone safe—not someone you’re hoping to please—go through the list. Cross some things off (you don’t have to do it all), leave some as good-enough-for-now (you don’t have to be top-notch at anything), maybe make some as “need to improve but just a little,” depending on how much is on the list. What can you let go of? What can you outsource? What is good enough? Consider your motivations. What underlying need is driving your desire to do/improve at each/any/all of the things? Sometimes just shining light on that helps a lot.

You don’t have to get better at everything. You don’t have to please everyone. You can’t win over the haters.

Depending on your situation, have a family meeting: “I’m overwhelmed by everything and need help reducing my responsibilities. What can you take over? What can we do without?” Kids can do. Spouses can do. Let their do-ings be imperfect (explicitly set a standard that everyone understands and agrees on). This transition of responsibility probably won’t take and hold in one pass—either for them doing or for you letting go. Pro tip: make it someone else’s job—if there are more than two of you in your house—to keep track of whether everyone is doing what they’re supposed to.

Let shit go. You’ll feel better. Yeah, easier said than done, but so very worth it.

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