Last September and October, this was my life:
--PTO President, in charge of popping popcorn twice a month, the Membership Drive, helping with the Box Tops Contest, and the entire School Halloween Carnival.
--Fall Youth Soccer Coordinator, in charge of setting up the field twice a week for practices and games, doing the scheduling for it all, preparing the healthy snacks for the players, and organizing the photos and medals and trophies.
--Ward Activities Chairman, in charge of the Ward Halloween Party
--MOPS Babysitter, twice a month
--Pumpkin Salesman, for the twins' pumpkin patch two Saturdays in October
--Bridal Shower Giver, for my soon-to-be sis-in-law Alyssa in September
--Salmon Idol Contest Participant, going to weekly practices and memorizing two songs and choreography
And at the end of September last year, my Grandma P. suffered a debilitating stroke. Because of all of my commitments, I was unable to go visit her in the hospital and the rehab center in Spokane. I felt that I should, especially since I am the second closest living relative to their home. The weekend I had planned to finally go and see her, ended up being the weekend following her death. Her funeral was in October. I drove up to Spokane with a friend, sang at the funeral, and drove home that night. The next day, I had to babysit at MOPS in the morning, prepare for the Ward Halloween Party all afternoon, pack our family's bags to leave again that night, run the Ward Party that evening, and leave for Utah right after the party ended in order to attend my Grandma's graveside services the next morning. We left the day after the graveside services to come back home to Salmon to run the Pumpkin Patch sales. That week was the peak of stressful life for me last fall. It was the crowning moment of discovery for me, to realize that I needed to quit life as I had become to know it. I just didn't want to DO it ALL anymore.
When Ammon was in Kindergarten, I worked full-time. I always felt bad whenever a sign-up sheet came home from school, and I couldn't volunteer because I was working. I told myself that when the time came and I wasn't working, I would volunteer to my heart's content, so that I wouldn't have to experience those feelings of remorse and guilt from not being able to again. And during the past four years of being a stay-home mom, I have volunteered a great deal. I've volunteered with the school: helping in the classrooms, going on field trips, serving in the PTO. I've volunteered in the church: helping with functions, giving my services in different organizations, planning activities for the youth and the ward. I've volunteered in the community: with MOPS and the county fair and soccer and baseball. But by the end of last fall, I felt in my heart and mind that my volunteering time was coming to an end.
By the end of fall 2009, I was officially burnt out. There were several unnecessary stressful situations with Youth Soccer during the fall season that I had to deal with, and I vowed I would never do it again. Things fell apart with my assistant for the Halloween Carnival last year, so the entire night of the Carnival was a crazy mess, and I promised myself I would never go through that again. And of course, there was that awful week following my Grandma's death. During that week, I felt guilt and remorse for being so committed to my volunteering activities that I couldn't even go visit my Grandma on her deathbed. I felt pain and sadness for having so many commitments that I couldn't spend an extra day with my family after my grandma's funerals. I felt such stress at having to deal with all the extra-curricular activities that wouldn't even make a difference in the long-run aspect of our lives. I promised myself then and there to quit it all.
It's strange to think that the reason I started volunteering is the same reason that I chose to quit volunteering: both due to feelings of regret and remorse and guilt.
I'm happy to report that I'm not in charge of Youth Soccer anymore, I am NOT doing the School Halloween Carnival this year, I recently got released from my Ward Activities church calling (to be a Gospel Principles teacher) so I won't be planning the big quarterly parties anymore, I didn't audition for the Salmon Idol contest this year--a performance I've been involved with the past 3 years, and I'm currently trying to step down as PTO President--a job I've had two years, and before that I was V.P. for 2 years.
This fall is so much different. Of course, I thought by now I'd be working. I told myself when I quit my credit union job 4 years ago, that when the twins were back in school all day, I'd go back to work. I really want to, but it hasn't happened yet--not for lack of trying. After the boys started school, and I didn't have volunteer activities to fill my time with, or a job to go to, I felt rather bored with my life. I felt useless. I felt like nobody needed me anymore.
After reading the "Eat, Pray, Love" book, I knew I wanted to enjoy life like the Italians do--and feel pleasure from doing nothing! My whole goal this fall is to enjoy life. I want to enjoy every aspect of the season that I've been unable to do for the past several years. I want to savor each moment of the trees changing colors, of watching football games, of seeing the garden mature, of witnessing my children's accomplishments in school. I want to be a participant in my own life and in the life of my family, rather than being a "President" or "Chairman" or "Coordinator" for some association. It's been hard for me to retrain my mind, but I'm slowly getting it. I'm beginning to recognize and appreciate each moment for what it is. And I'm grateful for this time that I have right now.
Because I know this moment, this season of my life, won't last forever.