Last week was rather upsetting to me as I realized I can no longer continue doing my job 100% when treatments take me away from the office for 15% of the work week. I had to tell a project lead that I needed to pull back from his work for the next month or two. He was exceedingly understanding. And several managers have reminded me that I should not feel like I have to keep doing it all. One person told me that I need to take off my Wonder Woman cape for a little while.
Pushing some tasks off my plate was a big relief; I feel much better able to cope with treatments and life this week. But what I’m wondering is, for so many of us, why does it take a serious illness or another major life event to feel like it’s OK to say, “No, I can’t do everything that everyone wants me to do”? Why do we ever feel like we have to don the Wonder Woman (or Superman) cape?
I have colleagues who work nights and weekends routinely to catch up. Friends who struggle to meet the demands of three or four volunteer positions. Acquaintances who travel so often that they miss family milestones. And fellow mom buddies who feel they must orchestrate elaborate birthday parties, craft homemade teacher gifts, or come up with 25 novel scenarios for their Elf on a Shelf each Christmas.
We end up doing so much that we lose the joy in any of it. We grow resentful of jobs, service opportunities, even kids’ sporting or theater events because there just aren’t enough hours in the day. We don’t have the energy. A generation ago, at least folks observed a sabbath day each week (whether Sundays or Saturdays), reserved for relaxing and family. Today, it’s just another day for running errands or checking work email to avoid starting the new week too far behind.
What would happen if we all took off our super-capes and set some limits? Not because we have to for health reasons, but because we want to. Sure, people will be disappointed. Some things won’t get done. We might even have to give up some status or (gasp!) money. But odds are, nothing that gets knocked off our to-do lists will be essential.
Although we might experience a tinge of loss or a hit to our pride in the short term, what we gain in the long term will be worth it: More time with family and friends. More time to read, enjoy a hobby, or be alone with our thoughts. We’ll set a better example for the next generation. And we might, just might, stop feeling so frazzled and stressed. How about it—Will you try hanging up your cape?
(photo credit: auntbunnysblankets, etsy: https://www.etsy.com/listing/111694506/child-wonder-woman-cape-wonder-woman)