Knowing When to Quit

exhausted
Photo Credit: “Exhausted,” posted on Thayer Memorial Library’s Website

I can talk a good game about living proactively, being productive, and striving for new heights; however, I’ve also found there’s a time to back off. The time is when you’ve made commitments that are not needful, helpful, or healthy for you to keep.

For a few weeks I’d been feeling stressed because I wasn’t finding enough time in my day to work on my memoir. I entered the fall planning to work on my book at least twenty-five hours per week. As I looked at my records for the past month, I saw that I was logging closer to ten. And because my baby’s due date was approaching, this was making me nervous. Could I still get my manuscript done by the time Baby Sam came?

My hubby has often said I tend to keep my plate full to the brim; he’s always known me to be stressed over what I’m not getting done. But since my unexpected breakdown, I had been trying to pare down the helpings on my plate. What had gone wrong?

As I’ve been learning to do when I get in a pickle, I prayed. But this time as I started to pray, my brain felt too scattered to even stay on track (this is a good sign you’ve got too much on your plate, or you’re pregnant, or both). So in my prayer journal, I began with a list of my current commitments, hoping to see a pattern or pick out something I was unnecessarily stressing over.

 

Let me fill in the background for you about the housecleaning item. In the past two months, thinking I needed to become a better homemaker for the baby, I picked up two books on housecleaning (three, if you count The Happiness Project), and started to try to drastically change my habits, per the books’ suggestions. I had started to feel positively weighted down by the thought of keeping my kitchen sink clean, de-cluttering a little bit every day, and deep-cleaning my kitchen.

When I made the list in my prayer journal and saw the housecleaning item mixed in with everything else, though, I realized something: Cleaning/organizaing my home doesn’t have to be a top priority right now. Especially since I’m not a dangerously messy person (i.e., my dust bunnies are not causing us physical health problems or my clutter creating safety hazards, like some people referenced in my cleaning books).

I asked the Lord to help me set some goals for what I actually needed to do for the time being. He told me, “You can stop reading the housecleaning books right now. If you want to focus on your own book [and I do], read stuff that inspires you to write [books on writing, or memoirs].

“Continue the habits of keeping your sink clean and purging your clutter when you can. But you don’t need to add anything else.”

This was making me feel lighter already. I was next able to list out some new, more manageable goals for my writing each week; although I had to admit it wouldn’t amount to twenty-five hours. This was because my unexpected teaching job had come up at the last minute, and it takes time to create curriculum when you’re teaching a brand new class. This was an item that was not negotiable.

The baby registry and choir cantata were pretty easy to resolve: I’d let them become overwhelming when I saw I couldn’t get the registry done in three sittings (but one more should do it), and the cantata piano music learned in two weeks (hopefully four more will do it—but if not, I have the out of purchasing the performance CD).

While my hubby had told me I shouldn’t feel bad about cutting back on my memoir work, I did feel bad, because this was the single most important thing I’d identified to get done before the baby came. I knew I wouldn’t cut back anymore than I had to, but God did help me see that I was worrying too much about getting the book done in my projected time frame. He helped me resolve this by reminding me that if I got the first section revised and a proposal written, I could start shopping the manuscript to agents/editors even if it was unfinished. This is how non-fiction publishing works, anyway.

Then, God gave me this list of do’s for my guilt:

  • Lighten up
  • Lessen your expectations
  • Give yourself a break. Unpredictable things (like the class and the puppies) have happened lately.

Finally, I realized that God would accomplish his work in his time. I didn’t need to worry about what wasn’t getting done, because he was seeing to it that everything that needed to get done was getting done.

When we are walking in God’s will, or doing our very best according to the light we have (based on reading his word and listening to his voice), we can “quit” certain good things with a clear conscience—and sometimes, to continue walking in his will, we must.

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5 thoughts on “Knowing When to Quit

  1. Creativity! October 30, 2013 / 3:48 am

    I’m going through something similar to yours, but I’m not pregnant. I already have a baby and I’m pregnant with quarrels and a strong feeling for divorce! However, to say NO to certain things is something I should try to avoid getting frustrated!!

    • lindseygendke October 30, 2013 / 9:00 am

      Wow, “pregnant with quarrels and strong feeling for divorce.” That is some heavy stuff, indeed! I’m sure anything stressful can have a similar effect in that it makes us flustered and unable to choose what is best for ourselves. Issues get cloudy and we think we have to spend our time on things that really aren’t the most necessary. Best wishes and prayers that God makes your path clear for you; hang in there!

      • Creativity! October 30, 2013 / 9:48 am

        Thanks Lindsey 🙂

  2. mandaiht December 2, 2013 / 6:20 am

    I’ve always been the same way. Tyler constantly complains that I put too much on myself. I really don’t know what life is like without living this way…I guess I don’t even know if that’s a bad thing or good. I definitely relate to your ongoing list and the guilt that comes when you aren’t getting as much done as you want. I hope you allow yourself to rest a little bit before Sam comes! When he comes, your world will change in so many ways. Praying for the three of you!

    • lindseygendke December 3, 2013 / 10:52 am

      Manda, sounds like we have a lot in common! I don’t know how to live any other way, either. Yesterday I came to a point where I just collapsed on the couch and decided to nap: my swollen ankles and achy back drove me to this, but I should probably learn to rest before I’m in severe pain. I appreciate your prayers; I can’t imagine what life will be like, come January! Exciting and scary all at once! But I know it can be done; you inspire me!

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