Tuesday, 28 April 2015


YOLO - You-Only-Live-Once - and FOMO - Fear-Of-Missing-Out -  annoying acronyms often used to justify reckless, if not downright dangerous actions.

Jack Black on 'YOLO'

Growed ups like me tend to get all judgy on the young 'uns for taking 'living in the moment' a little too far, but actually I think many of us are guilty of much the same thing. We just don't have a trendy hashtag to advertise it! Instead, we have burnout, fatigue, heart attacks and depression.

Many Christians aren't much better - they have their own version of YOLO:

I Can Do All Things Through Christ
Vinyl Wall Quote
 (from polyvore.com)

They translate 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' as 'Let me pack on more stuff because doing more good stuff makes me a better Christian and I'll feel guilty if I don't do it'

I was that person who would secretly enjoy it when people said they just didn't know how I did it all. I was also secretly proud of the fact that I was so very honest and authentic when I told them I cried at least once a week as my form of stress relief.

I used to have this sneaking suspicion that I was really just lazy and if I only managed my time better or took this or that supplement I really would be able to do it all.

That was until my body started showing signs of what 'doing it all' was doing to me. My body chemistry was totally out of whack from crazy sleep patterns, erratic eating habits and rollercoaster emotional rides - mostly because of a very bad combination of YOLO and FOMO. That and the idea that I kind of owed it to the world to do the stuff I was good at. All of it. All the time.

By the time I realised that things had to change, I was in an already stressful job situation, and I realised I was taking responsibility for situations I had no authority to change. Responsibility without authority is demoralizing. I was totally overwhelmed.

For my health, for my sanity, for my marriage and for my kids, I resigned from that job and took a job in a totally new field, with a big drop in salary, but with a better potential earning capacity and in pretty much every other area in my life I wiped the slate clean - and over the course of a few months I just withdrew from everything except work and my family and weekly church gatherings.

It was hard. In many ways it felt like I was dying inside; especially when things I had been involved in carried on perfectly well without me. Maybe it was the part of me that got life from being indispensable that was dying.

But once I got over that, I felt like a new person! Such freedom! I was able to spend more time with my family and learn how to enjoy my kids again because I wasn't always functioning at my limit. I was able to look at where I could best apply my energy and I discovered some activities I never thought I would enjoy as much as I do - like vegetable gardening for example. I also learnt that I didn't have to feel guilty for lying down to read a book or doing something 'unproductive'.

When I say no to things that aren't heading in the direction I'm going in, then it empowers me to say yes to things that will advance me personally and professionally. It opens up space for real yesses.

Some things that helped me on this journey:

  • Read the season - There are things I am good at and many more things I am passionate about, but I am learning to read the seasons. There are some things I carry in my heart daily, keeping the flame alive, but I know they will only come to fruition another time, and even then I carry them lightly and I choose to walk day by day with Jesus - watching for the nuances of the journey he is taking me on. 
  • Good enough is the new perfect - I have been known, in moments of arrogance, to say that I'm not competitive, I'm just always the best, or first, or whatever. Yeah. I really did have that thought. This is a whole blog post on its own. But I've stopped beating myself up or agonising over my 'failures' if something isn't quite on target or absolutely up to the (usually impossible) standard I have set myself. 
  • Find non-violent ways of establishing boundaries - I have been looking at non-violent communication and it really has helped me to find ways of making potential conflict situations into constructive moments. Still learning though!
  • Just be where you are - When I was at work I would feel guilty about not being with my girls and when I was with my girls I would feel guilty about the work I had to finish and so I was less productive and didn't enjoy either activity. Just be where you are.
  • You will always disappoint someone - Not having people disappointed in you is not a measure of success. There will always be someone whose expectations you didn't quite meet - but often you get to choose who that is. And sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent disappointing someone. Just get over it. It helps me to remember that my Abba absolutely adores me and is always pleased with me - who else matters really?
  • I don't have to do it just because I'm good at it - I met someone who was spectacularly good at a number of things in different fields, but chose to forego greater financial gain and follow his passion. I don't have to make sure everyone knows all the things I'm capable of all the time. I was good at teaching ballet - I danced for over 25 years, and I enjoyed teaching. But it didn't ignite my waking hours. I know that many people don't have the luxury of choosing their passion over what they have to do to make a living, but I had it and I seized it. 
  • I figured out what my deepest priorities are - And I saw how decisions I was making were moving me away from living my deepest priorities and putting me in situations where my values were compromised. I made the choice to get out. I had some idea of what captivates me at my core, and so I started making decisions that would move me towards those goals.
  • A great team - I had a great functional medicine practitioner who helped me see what my decisions were doing to me, and friends who encouraged me as I made changes, even ones that inconvenienced them, because great friends always want the best for you! Most of all I am so grateful for a wonderful husband who sees us as a team, working together to fulfill both our destinies and meet both our needs. You may be blessed with a great team - or you may have to find it. Do what it takes to get a team, and then, be on someone else's team in helping them achieve what they are designed to do.
  • Limits are ok - Some limits need to be shattered, while others need to be respected. Deciding which is which is the hard part! Limits are not always the enemy, sometimes they are your friend.
I bet you're waiting for me to say something about balance. 'Everything in moderation' and all that. But I'm really not that into balance. I don't want to love my kids or my husband in a 'balanced' way. The word balance makes me think of other words like 'pinched' and 'calculated' and 'exhausting'.

I'd rather be centred. And when I'm centred on Jesus that simplifies a number of things.

One proviso though... if you're the mom or dad with kids and a spouse and it all seems overwhelming right now - this is not an excuse to up and leave and go find yourself by hiking through the desert for 6 months. I removed myself from the places where I was dispensable so I could be more fully present in the places where I was truly indispensable. No one else promised to be married to my husband but me, and no one else gave birth to my kids but me. In all other places, I am dispensable. Immediate family is first priority and making them suffer so I could 'find yourself' or whatever, was never an option for me.

I really identified with this quote by Thomas Merton,

There is a form of contemporary violence to which the idealist fighting for peace by nonviolent means most easily succumbs — activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of activists neutralizes their work for peace. It destroys their own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of their work because it kills the inner wisdom which makes their work fruitful.

So I realised that I really can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, and sometimes that thing is saying 'No' and letting go of my need to be impressive and just live, because, you know, YOLO.


  1. Such an important post. Saying no also opens up to more important yes opportunities, you are so right.

    1. Three years later, I'm living in the space that my 'No' opened up and loving it!

  2. This is a really wonderful post! It's so important that we create a positive message for those with anxiety - let them know they are not alone :)

    1. Thanks so much! Knowing you are not alone does make things seem much more manageable :-)