Friday, February 19, 2010

Why I Hit the Wall

I was a first-born, only daughter. I had four brothers and a mother who was too busy trying to make ends meet. Responsibilities fell on my young shoulders. I was trained to be conscious of how everyone around me was doing. I was trained to attend to everyone else's needs. And not my own. My four brothers were "the guys." They resisted doing care-taking tasks. That was girl stuff. So it fell to me. I did it all.

I did not have a real childhood. Growing up in a big family with both parents working and leaning hard on their eldest daughter made me made me an adult too soon. It wasn't anyone's intention. My parents tried to do what seemed best for us. But it worked in my temperament like an iron rod through my spine. I became hyper-vigilant, deadly serious, workaholic. I lived like an adult by the time I was twelve, getting up at 4:00 a.m. to deliver a paper route, taking myself to school, paying for my clothes and lessons, and coming home to cook supper and clean the house before attending to homework. I had to pay my way through college. I rarely played. That was for others.

Years later, with two sons and a husband, I slipped into the old pattern. I did it all. This was my path, the only one I knew, through all of life's challenges. I would work and work and work until the job was done. But with a busy family and a homeschooling agenda, the work was never done. I exhausted myself. No matter how much I did, it wasn't enough. I fell short. I felt sorry for myself and my family, because I couldn't manage the demands.

My inner healing process was complicated and long. There isn't room to discuss it here. But I eventually hit the wall enough times to learn that I had to live in a new pattern.

The reason for my crashes was the doing of too much. Yes, hard things happened. But the crash itself could nearly always be traced to doing too much. I thought I should plan all the lessons, teach all the lessons, keep all the school records, cook all the meals from scratch, keep the house sparkling clean, shop with coupons, decorate for each season and holiday, maintain tidy storage spaces, have everything written on a calendar, never be late, have a beautiful body, and be an exciting lover and companion for my husband.

I couldn't do it all. I just couldn't. And that was my private agony. I thought how sad it was to try as hard as I could, and to fall so far short. I felt like I was living in a tragedy. It took years for me to understand that the life I wanted wasn't found by doing and the things I wanted for my family weren't found through my doing and that doing more was not the path to a satisfying life. My breakthrough happened when I saw that doing so much for everyone else was actually destructive, for me and for my loved ones.

When I was doing too much, I could not focus on what I alone could do. My children needed more responsibility in order to mature and to learn how to live well. My husband needed me to lean on him and let him take care of me. I needed to let others have the joy of helping me. I needed to realize, above all, that the focus of others never was on my ability to get the job done, and as long as my focus was there, I was draining all the joy and creative energy out of my life.

Now you know the one thing that can make me hit the wall. How about you? What can make you hit the wall?


  1. Oooh good stuff here! My wall was with blended family issues, I can relate on many things you have shared here. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Wow. This post is well-timed. Lately, I'm on my way into the wall, full tilt. I'm not even meaning to be. I just default into survival mode when I'm tired - and I've been tired a lot lately. But I can't do it all. My physical limitations don't even let me dream of doing it all. And OH it hurts to watch my husband shoulder so much that I should be doing - things like laundry and dishes and meals...

    I'm thinking of making a schedule of the days I'm allowed to do ______. The times I spend doing _______. And the loving, that comes first and in all the in-between.

  3. Mmmmm.......excellent.

    For me...hmmmmm...i think something I spoke about on a retreat a few years ago....I needed to stop believing a lie of my childhood, that if only I was good enough, smart enough, etc., etc., disaster/chaos/mess could be avoided. A terrible weight for a child to carry...and then to carry it into adulthood!

    Life is messy. It is not all my fault. God may have a role for me in responding to messes, but the role is NOT to take on more responsibility than is actually mine.

    God is good to replace lies with truth.

    Thank you for putting good and true words out into the blogosphere today!

    - Marilyn

  4. What makes me "hit the wall?" Failure of any kind. If my daughter won't learn a lesson, if my cooking didn't come out right, if the clothes come out of the washer stained. Any kind of failure. God is taking me through this, and it is getting easier. I used to all-out cry whenever anything bad happened. Now I am just chalking it up to experience (mostly) and trying to learn from it. Thank you for this post. Lately you are a good convictor of what God is doing in my life :)
    God Bless!


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