There’s several aspects to the phrase “doing too much”, not all of them bad. I’ll explore some of my thoughts on this here, but do feel free to add your own perspective in the comments.
Sometimes you gotta.
We’ve discussed that many a time here in the blog, so I won’t go into it again this soon, but when a thing must be done, and you’re the one around to do it, well…
And then there’s defining “too much”, which is a phrase whose definition really changes daily, when you think about it. Stamina, willpower, energy, and more aren’t constants, they’re variables; and you’re unwise to treat them differently.
Sometimes I think a large part of life lessons revolve around learning our limits. What do “limits” mean on that daily changing basis; when to push them and when to accept them; when to keep them and when to free yourself from them however you can.
There’s not much out there like facing terminal life conditions to make oneself face up to learning these lessons. Too many of us get an easy pass to skirt around the issue. I’m not saying life still isn’t hard, for most of us, much of the time. But lessons like how to say “no this is too much for me right now” or “I need help with this, I can not do it on my own” are ones I’ve noticed many of us get to avoid facing head on.
When we finally must ask these things, reach out for this help, it often comes with a whole heap of guilt — and not always internal, either. Asking for help is often scary, for those doing the asking and those receiving the request. And if your requests for help have to change from “hey, I could use a little help on finishing this task,” to “help me clean up the bedsheets I just wet myself on”, your perspective becomes much harder to maintain.
But this is supposed to be about doing too much, isn’t it?
Anyone who knows me knows that I run at the equivalent of 110% nearly every moment. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but only a bit; I throw my full self into whatever I do, try to be as fully present in each moment as possible, whether it’s building and reorganizing a first aid kit (a long-overdue task that’s been on the to-do list for months that was completed today), feeding a 4-month-old a 6-month-old-sized helping of rice cereal and enjoying watching her race through it, or passing out over a keyboard as I atttempt to reorganize and make sense of a medication regimen that will keep me as pain-free and functional as possible while giving myself more space between constantly taking medications. (All tasks done today, not counting the occupational therapist appointment, the physical therapist appointment, the open house meet-n-greet for The Teen’s school, or the several hours’ visit and chat about business and other sundry topics with a friend using our kitchen to make and share tasty banana bread.)
Now mind you, the only out-of-house activity of all of those was the school open house, but that’s still more than some people I know do in a week, much less a day, much less three weeks out from a two-month hospital stay. And sure, I’m exhausted and I hurt (but I always hurt these days, and have been told to expect that I may always have some chronic pain issues from the damage I took to bones and nerves from this metastasis). When one has experienced enough pain to completely incapacitate, it’s an effort to readjust one’s pain scale to know when to pay attention and slow down. That’s a mental adjustment I do work on, daily. Ha, but then again, that’s another task as well, isn’t it?
Tomorrow I’ll leave the house again; this time for an informal support group luncheon. (And very much hopefully picking up the rest of my medications, or it will be a much more painful weekend than I’ve had for a while.) I’ve never been to a support group, even an informal one, so it’s a new experience. The rest of the day is scheduled around “resting”; visiting with my mother, discussing salary issues with the live-in help, hopefully a household board game in the evening for some fun.
And yet there are still items on the to-do list that have sat there, some for months (amazing how much cancer interrupts life flow). This blog post has been written on all week, and isn’t the one most of you are waiting to read (the scans were overall good, and details will be forthcoming, I promise). My physical therapist doesn’t understand why I can’t find time to do my PT exercises twice each day, and she’s unfortunately right in that if I did so, my endurance would increase accordingly and I could get more done of what I want or need to get done.
I think that you’ve done “too much” when your body shuts you down against your will. If I want to finish this post, but I wake up 5 hours from now with dffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff across a paragraph’s worth of screen, it’s quite likely I did more than I “should have”. But that’s an “after the fact” tell, not a signal to stop before I get to that point. And I do agree that sleep should get its own fair 110% along with the rest of daily activities, though that’s a lesson it’s taken a stubborn while to accept and learn.
It’s made harder by the fact that other people can’t tell you what your “too much” is. When I say I need to write more, and someone responds that I really need to focus on visualizing a healthy self and resting and taking care of me before “worrying” about more writing, on one level they’re right (especially their own level, of what they can imagine they’d need to do under similar circumstances — may none of you ever have those). But when a blog post or fiction snippet I finish at four in the morning rejuvenates my soul, gives peace to my mind, allows me to actually, deeply, rest for three solid hours, it becomes harder to believe that taking the time to write was “too much”. And you can’t always know ahead of time that I “should have” made that choice instead of taking my ambien and trying for just the resting part.
So, conclusion: No easy answers on what “too much” is, when to know when you’ve found it, or how to avoid it. But I’d adore for this to become a discussion in its own right and hear about your own experiences or attempts to control this urge. If you have any, share your thoughts here.