I’ve been thinking a lot lately about necessity. We all have what we think of as our limits…how much we are capable of, how much we can handle, what is just “too much”. I think, though, that we are often very wrong about what those limits really are.
We’ve all heard about the pregnant wife who lifts the car off her husband in a moment of crisis, or the father who goes into the burning building again and again to rescue his kids, despite smoke inhalation and burns that should have dropped him in his tracks…and those are a good example of being capable of more than we think we are, but they aren’t even what I’m talking about. The body is designed to produce enormous amounts of adrenaline and cortisol to allow us to perform feats like this in an emergency, but what I’m talking about isn’t even physical so much as mental.
What I’m talking about is the long, grueling tasks of life that we think are just too much. How often have you looked at a single mother who works two jobs and still manages to bake cupcakes to send to school for her daughter’s birthday, and said, “I don’t know how you do it!” Or spoken to a co-worker who has, for the seventh week in a row, pulled 60 or 70 hours, and asked “How do you do it?” And often, in fact nearly always, the answer is, “I don’t know – I just do it.”
You do it because you have to. We all do. We get up in the morning and, whether we have had enough sleep or not…whether we are feeling well or not…even if we are tired or headachy or our bodies ache — we do it. We make the coffee, fix breakfast, get dressed, go to work…we work all day…we come home and make dinner…read to the kids…bathe the baby…get everyone to bed…and then maybe we have a little time for us. Unless you’re working two jobs – and then you work all day, maybe come home and change clothes, and then go work all evening. Either way, you fall into bed at the end of the very long day, exhausted, so that you can get up the next morning and do it all again.
How do we do it? How do we just keep plodding on when it seems like there’s nothing left? I have been asking myself that lately, because I have not had a day off in four weeks. I have worked at least 8 hours a day, every single day, (and many days 12 or 13 hours) for four weeks. I have also done laundry, cleaned house, attended back-to-school meetings, taken the kids clothes shopping, and a hundred other things I can’t even remember.
The other tasks of life don’t slow down or get put on hold just because I’m working two jobs. The kids still need to be fed, the house still needs to be cleaned, the clothes still have to be washed. Bills still have to get paid, cars still have to be repaired (that reminds me, I need to call the repair shop!), and all the minutiae of daily life are there, needing attention.
Six months ago…a year ago…I would have said I could not do this. There is no way. I am not capable of surviving on four or five hours of sleep a night, no weekends off, and no time to breathe or rest. I am not capable of working two full-time jobs and still being a wife and mom. Sorry, nope, can’t do it.
But I was wrong. I thought I knew my limitations, but I underestimated myself. So if I am capable of this, what else can I do that I didn’t think I could? I don’t think I’m capable of maintaining a healthy lifestyle while doing all this – but maybe I’m wrong about that too? I don’t think I can find time to write – am I wrong about that? Is the sky really and truly the limit?
(And at the end of it all, in a year when hopefully this is all in the past and I am only working one job and being a wife and mom, is there going to be anything left of me? Or am I burning it all now? By exceeding what I thought were my limitations, am I using up resources that I will need later? Do we have a finite amount of strength and energy to be used during our lives, and am I burning all the reserve fuel now? )
I wonder about these things. I worry about them. Sometimes at night, when I finally get to bed after everyone else has been asleep for hours, I lie awake despite my exhaustion and wonder – what am I doing to myself? Because I really, truly thought I would crash before now. I really didn’t think I had it in me – so now I’m wondering where it’s coming from.
Yeah, I know, I think too much. Big surprise there!
But anyway, give it some thought. Try it out. Do one thing today that you didn’t think you could. You think you can only walk for an hour? Walk for an hour and a half. Don’t think you’re capable of making that complicated recipe? Do it anyway. Convinced that those algebra problems are beyond you? Do them. And make a vow to yourself, each day, to try at least one thing that you didn’t think you could do. There is no failure unless you never try.
You may surprise yourself. In fact, I’ll be willing to bet you will. Because at the end of the day, I suspect that our limitations are only in our minds and that if we push, we may find they don’t exist at all – or at least, that they are a lot farther than we thought they were.