Photo by Pitt Wedge
Here at Simplify Your Life month we’ve been talking about paring down all month.
And today I want to let you dream a bit: what’s the one thing you would get rid of in your life, if you could?
Hockey games that you have sitting at, but feel like you have to because you son loves it? All the volunteering you do at church? Laundry? Baby-sitting someone else’s kids? A part-time job? In-laws? Grocery shopping? What?
What is your biggest source of stress? What is the one task which, when you have to do it, you groan inside and you have to steel yourself against all the negative feelings that you have?
If you had only one month to live, chances are it would be the first thing that you get rid of, because it’s not worth it. There’s too much negative energy there, and not enough positive, God-given joy.
Today I want to help you dump that one thing without having to resort to a cancer diagnosis to do so. Don’t be scared; it’s easier than you think, and it’s not going to hurt that much.
1. Identify Your One Thing
Think hard about what you do that gives you the most stress. Sometimes we’re afraid to admit it to ourselves because it’s such a central thing in our lives. But be honest: what is the one thing that drives you the most crazy?
2. What Purpose Does that One Thing play?
What is the purpose of that one thing in the lives of you and your family? For instance, let’s say we’re talking about hockey for your 9-year-old son. You’re sick of getting up at 6 in the morning every Saturday and hauling small children to a cold rink so they can watch their brother. The expense is killing you. You don’t like the other parents. But what is the purpose of hockey? It’s to give your son competition, fun, exercise, and a social life.
Take a look at those four things for a moment: competition, fun, exercise, and a social life. Can he meet those needs somewhere else? Does it have to be through hockey? Maybe he can join a different league that doesn’t play as often. Maybe you can have him go out once in a while when friends rent the ice. Maybe he can join soccer in the summer to get competition, and in the winter you all can go skating together as a family, or take up cross country skiing as exercise. Or maybe you can go for hikes and go tobagonning once the snow comes.
Or what if your one thing is your part-time job. What purpose does that serve? Giving money for the family, right? Can you meet that purpose in another way? Maybe you can save more money by smarter grocery shopping. Maybe you can get a different job, or find a way to make a small amount of money online. Maybe you can help your husband make more money.
Once we figure out the purpose, it’s easier to see if the activity itself is necessary, and if there are alternatives to whatever is driving you crazy.
3. Can Others Do It?
What if the thing that is driving you nuts is grocery shopping, or laundry, or keeping the living room clean? Can others do that? Can you divide up the chores and assign these to someone else? Can you hire someone to do some basic cleaning? Can you change the way your family works so that the kids do their own laundry, or fold while they watch TV? Does it have to fall entirely on your plate?
4. Can You Develop a Different Attitude?
Let’s say you’ve tried all that and it doesn’t really look like things can change. You can’t get rid of it; it’s an essential part of your family, even though it drains you.
So the next question is this: can you change the way you think about it? I’ll grant you that it’s draining, but can you tackle it in a new way?
Let’s say, for instance, that the thing you can’t get rid of is visiting your grandmother in a nursing home every Saturday. It saps up your time, it’s horrendously boring, you get little gratitude, and you feel guilty the whole time you’re there because you don’t want to be there and you feel like you’re letting your children down. But there’s no one else to go, and you feel like you need to help her with basic groceries and other things once a week.
Can you instead embrace it as time to yourself to pray? Can you give yourself twenty minutes, while you’re shopping for her, just to do have some alone time? Can you bring a book and sit in the food court and read for a few minutes before you go back with her groceries? Can you bring your journal and as you’re sitting with her, make that your time to process what’s happened this week. Can you read out loud to her, and focus on reading something that you’ve wanted to read.
Can you simply think of that time and task that you can’t get rid of as a chance to give an offering to God of your time and energy?
Some things in life we can’t get rid of, but that doesn’t mean we have to hate every minute of it. Maybe there’s a way to start seeing the blessing in a small amount of time away from the family, or in the quiet space sitting with an older person. It’s never going to be the most fun thing you do, but you may be able to change the way you do it so it fits with your style a little bit more, and so that you can derive some intense satisfaction from it, too.
When we’re feeling overwhelmed, the tendency is to think that we are trapped: our lives are exactly the way they need to be, and we can’t change them. But that’s usually not true at all. You always have power to make different choices. So I’d invite you to take a good, hard look at the things that sap your energy the most, and ask yourself these questions. Can something else serve that purpose in our lives? Can somebody else do it? Can I change the way I think about it? You just may find that you have more power than you think after all!
Have you ever had to get rid of your “one thing”? What did you do? Let’s talk about it in the comments!