I’m not talking about a wrinkle that can be smoothed out by expensive creams or emollients. This wrinkle is one strictly of our own making. It’s the "Overcommitment" wrinkle and it can become entrenched before we know it.
It starts with the best of intentions. Confronting the second half of our lives, we menopausal goddesses often wish to make a contribution, to leave a legacy, to help make our world a better place. Alas, for midlife women, a disturbing trend takes place as we volunteer, mentor, and generally give back. We overcommit. We overextend. We overdo. In the midst of rediscovering ourselves, we lose ourselves. Again.
One of our Venuses recently shared that her fulfilling work for the local Lyme disease network coupled with volunteer time spent teaching school children about healthy food was now eating into that most precious of commodities: time to nurture herself.
Another of our satellite Venuses is retired, though not at all RETIRING. And she has found herself involved with a number of boards that are becoming the bulk of her "free" time. She laughs that she is working harder now than when she was part of the "workforce".
And for so many Venuses who are still part of the traditional workforce? Committees, charities, and extra work projects can insidiously leach into limited free time.
These stories are all too common. Having spent years nurturing others ( spouses, coworkers children, bosses) we are in the habit of saying "yes" when asked for help of any kind. Couple this with our desire to contribute and our natural feminine inclinations and you’ve got a setup for overcommitment and burnout.
We need to create a new volunteerism. We need a "SAVE THE MIDLIFE WOMAN" campaign. We need to extricate her from the nets of helping, much like we save dolphins from fishermans’ nets. We need to create habitat for her to nurture herself, whether it be a room or a corner or a space in a closet. A space that is her personal natural environment where she can retreat to daydream, make art, journal, or sleep if she wishes.
And when she is able to fill herself up with glorious, delicious TIME, she can then choose those arenas in which she will give her time and energy. With limits. With boundaries. Always with an eye to her most important project: Herself.
I’ll be the first to say that my own volunteering and giving back is incredibly rewarding, even necessary to me. But I’ll also cop to saying "yes" to too many wonderful endeavors only to find them becoming obligations and burdens rather than joys. Simply because "I" got lost in the shuffle. And losing oneself is a guaranteed fast track to resentment and exhaustion.
So join me. The time is now. "Save The Midlife Woman". It’s a good first step toward saving so much more.
(Stay tuned for the next blog entry where I’ll share a miraculous, foolproof secret method for extricating yourself from overcommitment.)
Years ago, a girlfriend and I created "Volunteers Anonymous." Basically if either of us had the urge to volunteer for a new task, we first had to call the other to run it by them. We would discuss the pros and cons, the real reason for saying yes, etc. If it still felt good after the conversation and no just a knee-jerk reaction, we would proceed. Girlfriends are great.
Learning to say NO is one of the hardest things I have ever learned to do … also one of the best …