“Follow your desire as long as you live and do not perform more than is ordered…”
-The Maxims of Ptahhotep, transl. by R.O. Faulkner
It’s no secret to those in my life this holiday season tends to be tough on me. In fact it’s hard on a significant amount of people. The stress of planning, shopping, meetings, gatherings, and the accumulation of many projects. I ended up with a reminder from a friend about being busy as opposed to sedulous. Most of the reminder emerged from my personal feelings about some of my commitments to online events as well as helping my family decorate for Christmas. Despite my hatred of Christmas and observe it for the sake of my family I partook in not one but two holidays to which I feel no connection.
Agreeing to help out in holidays I don’t personally observe was my first mistake. Apart from Christmas I don’t observe Yule and this internet event focused on this. The group had been quiet for a while, and I started to see how quiet it was. Except for me no one monitored the group. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone else nor the resources set aside for this group. I had no choice but to start this event from scratch. Luckily some notes were left and some people helped me with research. Without them I couldn’t have managed what I did.
I haven’t been so lucky with my family. I thought if I volunteered to help with decorating the Christmas tree, one which was creatively speaking a Herculean task for my parents, I contribute meaningfully. Instead I was handed a mess of resentments over a color scheme my mother didn’t like, her frustration with a design she saw somewhere on YouTube that wasn’t working for her, all heaped into one emotional, passive aggressive mess. It was another lesson in when to be helpful.
I showed signs of feeling taken for granted. I received complaints about arranging an event because it wasn’t the way such-and-such person would have run it, I had to dig from my own time and resources at the last minute, and my mother obstructed any creative endeavor with the tree (she even fought with me about ribbon width!) I felt cheated, used, unappreciated, the whole gambit of resentful emotions. When discussing with my friends how drained I felt one question kept popping up: why am I doing this? I believed I gave reasons at the time, but in retrospect I gave excuses. It was to the tune of “my obligation” or “giving back” or some other sense of duty. That changed overnight.
I had my umpteenth struggle with my mother about how to decorate the tree last night. I’m the type of person who, when planning, tries to be as clear and precise as possible so that there’s no confusion. When gathering the additional materials for the tree I explained what I designed and what I would need. Well after these materials were purchased and ready to be made my mother decided to drop a bomb on me. She had her own plans for those materials, plans which she never communicated, and rendered anything I wanted to do useless. I stared at her for a moment and reminded her I had gone over this with her. She dismissed my reminder. I grew so frustrated at this point I was speechless. I saw all my time and effort dissolve in that one moment and couldn’t think of any way to salvage it. I stared at her and saw the project as hopeless. I realized then I was doing this for no reason, not even out of kindness.
“I’m through,” I whimpered, “I’m through with your childish games. I’m too grown up for this.” I walked away and left her to her own devices. She didn’t want my help, anyway.
I’ve had time to think about my projects up to this point and it all needed one question answered: why was I doing this? I’ve evaluated the time, effort, and other resources I’ve put into my projects up to this point. I realized my friends were right in that I became too busy and spread myself thin. I’ve had all the wrong projects on the back burner so I could be “charitable”, when in reality I set myself up for failure. I was contradicting my own message about the pitfalls of this act. My endeavor resulted in exhaustion. Luckily since I can identify the issue I can solve it.
On my part I can identify which projects I feel are best for me. I can also take advantage of the holiday season to rest and work on those. Because of that I won’t blog as much for the next couple of weeks. This will remove any distractions for myself to get things done which should have been out the door months ago.
I’ve learned this holiday season that it’s time to walk away from some commitments when the costs outweigh the benefits. When I put forth more effort than I get back it means I have to muster up more energy for other work, energy or resources I may lack. I’ve also learned to walk away from commitments when I’m truly doing it to placate my ego. In the end the result is the same. I have less than what I intended to gain.