Creating Space #2: Don’t should all over yourself!

This summer has been challenging in my world and creating space has been more difficult than I imagined it would be. I didn’t go into summer blind. This is my 15th summer as a mom and generally I know what is coming. I did my prep homework, listened to podcasts about helping make summer more “manageable” (THIS is my go-to podcast; episodes #62-65 are all about summer), I readied the house, I made my calendar, I opened my heart. Buuuuuuuut, life sometimes throws us curves that knock down all our nicely lined up little boxes.



A mental health crisis with one of my kids and my own medical “crisis” (2 surgeries…no fair) in the early weeks of summer sent us straight into emotional and physical disequilibrium. It has been a bit rough. I’m not really struggling, but the extreme lack of summer fun left a damper on our whole household. Summer brings challenges with all the extra bodies around, increase in amount and duration of noise and words, more planning, more cooking, for some reason more laundry (can’t they all just live in their swim suits and “bathe” in the sprinkler?). Add to that the unexpected challenges we had to manage, and I felt like all my space is used up.

So, while this summer has been anything but typical, life is already starting to self-correct. I am healed from my stuff and my child has their care established and rolling forward (huuuuge relief); I am quite hopeful that in the last 27 days of summer will see margins reestablished and fun/connection flowing freely again.

How have you felt this summer? Do you feel too rushed or your world too loud? Are you feeling like yourself or do you feel like a manager of tiny humans without the connection and fun piece? Do you feel drained? Does the idea of more space in your days sound too sweet to pass up?

Creating space isn’t an easy task, but certainly well worth it. It requires honesty and bravery. You will have to tell some people NO, you will need to quit some committees or groups, you will need to lower your standards in some areas of your life. Those thoughts might terrify you. When we let go of our involvement, our systems, all the things that take up space, we lose a fair amount of control in our lives. At least we think we do. That’s a post for another day.FB_IMG_1529191484731.jpg

By saying no and quitting activities you might worry that you will lose friendships in the process. (I just want to point out any “friend” that ditches you based on the removal of a service to them is NOT a friend.)  You might worry about losing career momentum or social status or cutting back financially. All of these are legit worries and it is best to know up front that you could have some mourning to do in the future. But let’s not jump ahead of ourselves.

In my last post we took a look at our hierarchy of needs thanks to Maslow and his wonderful pyramid. (I’m so grateful that God made so many smart people throughout history.) I challenged you to create your own pyramid to see where you might have some neglected needs. We can’t move on to “bigger and better” until we have a solid base to our pyramid. How did that go? Did you learn some things about unmet needs? Do you see how those lower unmet needs are keeping you from moving on to other social and self-actualization needs? I’d love to hear how the exercise worked for you.

This week we are going to need another 8×11” piece of paper and a pen—bonus points for a purple pen, of course. I am super visual and love to compartmentalize the areas of my life. If this doesn’t work for you, think about how you can examine your needs, your responsibilities, and your room for margin without the visual aid.

Before we know what can be let go, we need to know what IS. Today’s exercise is all about discovering all that occupies space in our life either as an actual thing or a thought of a thing, a pressure to be more, do more, produce more.

So, grab your paper and pen and start writing out everything you think you SHOULD do. This list will contain a mix of things that are necessary, like sleeping well and eating vegetables and going to work, and those things we think we need to do because someone in our world tells us we should. The people who tell us what we should do could be people we’ve invited into our lives—”gurus” like self-help, nutrition, movement, relationship experts or even religious leaders and teachers, and also friends or social groups; or people who MUST be in our lives–teachers, spouses, parents, children, employers, the government…you get the picture. The list may take up the front and back side of your 8×11” paper.  Keep this paper out where you can see it and add to it any time you feel that “should” push in your mind.

shoulds list

Here is my list, written just now. I wrote everything that filled my mind right away. I am sure my list will be longer next week.

Your list might frustrate you. Once you see all the shoulds listed out in written form you may feel like laughing, crying, or screaming. You might feel overwhelmed, but take heart! You don’t have to do everything on this list. We can’t keep “shoulding” on ourselves. Should is a bad word from here on out, okay? We don’t ever need to live by shoulds.

So, this week, keep writing your list. Write out everything, no matter how tiny. Do you feel that you should use recycled paper toilet paper? Do you feel you should be happier? Write it down. Fill up as many papers as you need and bring it with you for the next post.

Next week we are going to look at our values and what we want to fit into our 8×11” life. This is getting interesting!!

As always, be curious, be brave, and be connected!!

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