Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That too many plates were smashing!

Because I do all my work from home, I felt that I should be able to handle anything. But just recently I noticed that there were lots of plates I was keeping spinning; parenting, household maintainence, education, writing, promoting, church based activities, commitments which touch base with others in the outside community. Wow, if they were all paid, I ought to be a millionaire.
I was getting cranky and emotional.

I guess we've all seen images of those plate spinning shows. A number of large dinner plates are placed on long sticks and each given a forceful spin to help them keep their balance. Just as one gets spinning nicely, some of the others begin to wobble as they lose momentum. The fellow in charge rarely gets a chance to sit back and admire them all because he has to be so attentive and alert. This is fine for a brief show, but when we try to live our lives with this same principle, exhaustion and frayed nerves soon set in.

I think there are two accurate signs that we're trying to keep too many plates spinning.

1) The supposedly enjoyable ones get relegated to 'just another plate to spin.' Parties and social events become chores to politely attend and get out of the way instead of relaxing outlets. A womens' author I read mentioned the sort of ladies who want to groan when they roll into bed and their husbands expect a bit of intimacy. I can quite understand that. Oh, I forgot about that plate. I hope he'll be happy if I give it just a quick spin tonight. I need to catch a few hours of sleep so I can jump straight up and check what other plates are slipping.

2) As we think we're coping very well, unbeknown to us, our stress hormones are rising and our adrenal glands are beginning to resemble burnt out matches, but we can't see so we don't know. We only notice that our physical monsters are rearing their ugly heads; those chronic conditions we're prone to when things get a bit too overwhelming. For some it's migraines, for others acid stomachs, we all know what they are for us. Mine is a horrible thing called "IC" which flares up especially when I'm under pressure and has aptly been likened to a headache in the pelvis. Burning and pressure in the bladder happens which I can't easily get rid of because it isn't a urinary infection. It's part of my system's response to my being run down.

Last week, I saw a young couple dressed like gypsies moseying slowly down the street with their baby, looking as if they were having a wonderful time. It reminded me of the lovely, laid-back time I had with my family in 2004 when we took our caravan way up to Queensland and back down the coast. Even though Blake, our youngest, was just a few weeks old when we started, it was one of the most relaxing times.

I've been making the decision to prioritise health and stop some of the plates spinning. I've stepped down from some activities, which although great, were things I realised were other peoples' priorities and not mine. If you haven't noticed yet, I tell you there'll always be people giving us more and more plates to spin if they think we can manage it. We don't have to take them all. I've pared mine back to just a few (the homeschooling, writing and family ones). I'd encourage you to do the same if you feel you need to.

When there are only the essential few, you don't need to spend all your energy just to keep them spinning. You get the chance to spend more time polishing them and even adding pretty designs to them, which is far more satisfying than simply keeping them spinning.


  1. Hmm, just read my comment and realised I sound like a yapping dog! What I mean is that I agree with your points. I too am trying to slow down, remove some of the plates so I spin the ones I've been asked to spin with joy, enthusiasm and love.

  2. Boy, can I relate to too much happening at once. Everyone seems to think mulit-tasking is some sort of highly valued artform, but too much can definitely lead to a real unhappy state. To add to Penny's puppy speech- juggling plates- Grrr

  3. Hi ladies,
    Thanks for your comments. I believe women who work from home have got to beware of being asked to spin too many plates. The analogy is probably a good one as it's a pretty doggy position to find ourselves in.

  4. Oh I so understand this Paula!! I'm sitting here tonight groaning about a mums & kiddies get together tomorrow. I accepted the invite because I thought I need to keep in the loop. But the reality is my daughter gets upset at these things because the kids are older than her and don't play with her. And I don't feel like I have anything in common with the other mums, so I'm not getting anything fulfiling out of it.

    This might all be fine if I didn't already have a lot of plates spinning, but I do! It's time I had a plate cull.

  5. Hi Helen,
    The scenario you've just described sounds highly reminiscent of many of the homeschooling get-togethers my kids and I attended over the years. They are fairly quiet kids and I'm more of a one-on-one chatter than a group person too. It took us a surprisingly long time to figure out that it wasn't for us and that there was no reason we shouldn't bow out gracefully.

  6. Yes, Paula, it is so true! We pick up plates that aren't ours to spin and that places all other plates in danger. I remember when I was your age saying to a friend, 'God may have spoken to you about doing that, but he didn't talk to me about it.' As the words came out of my mouth the revelation hit my heart.
    I quit doing lots of things because it was expected. What a relief.
    And we always needs to leave room for the unexpected plate that God throws our way. How sad if we can't do the extras he has for us!

  7. Wise advice. And you may have noticed how long it took for me to actually sit down and read this. Yep. Too many plates spinning. :o)

    As someone who has spun plates, I have to say, it's kind of boring. Lots of balancing, but not much excitement. I still prefer juggling.

    Peace and Laughter!

  8. Thanks :)
    Jo, when I was having my book launched earlier this year, many of my church-going friends and family couldn't attend because of spinning plates - their entire weekly schedules were full of prior commitments. That taught me a lesson. I'm sure they're spinning too hard and fast when there's no room for an impromptu event.
    Cristina, coming from a juggler, that's advice well worth taking.

  9. Paula - that sort of thing has happened to me too many times, though not for something as important as a book launch. (though, hardly anyone being able to fit in my 30th birthday even with 3 weeks notice, wasn't fabulous). That's a shame a lot of your friends weren't able to go.

    When I lived in Sydney, I remember a period where we had something booked every weekend for 4 months straight. I wish I was joking. I used to make "appointments" with my girlfriends to catch up at least a month in advance. I'm not sorry to be out of the rat race now, but it's still easy to take on more than necessary.


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