The Great Quit: When Capacity Demands Margin

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great quit

“Have you had a chance to read the book for planning retreat yet?” A simple question from my friend and director of an organization I am volunteering with. 

“No, not yet.” And then the tears started flowing. I understood what was happening, but she didn’t. She didn’t know that when I’m overwhelmed and angry and stressed and sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden, my capacity is depleted and the pressure of life leaks out of my body in tears. Super fun for me. I would imagine super uncomfortable for everyone around me.

Over my capacity

I proceded to explain to her all that was on my plate, some challenges I was facing, and the things that were grating against my personality. She listened and offered understanding and suggested I let a few things go. More tears. You see, I love each of the things I am involved in. Or at least I thought I did. It would be sad to let them go. I had been with my book group girls for nine years. The idea of giving that up brought deep sadness. And I love my editing job and my church volunteer job and my new part time job and my homegroup and my Bible study and…. “This is what happens when an introvert has FOMO and over-commits,” I blubbered.  

It was this same friend who suggested to me a few months back the idea of looking for a job that was a good fit. At the time, I was trying to find a part time job, but didn’t have any idea what it being a good fit had to do with anything. I needed to check that box, and whether or not it was a good fit seemed like a luxury I couldn’t entertain. But I was starting to see why that was so important.

So I did what any good over-analyzer would do. I went home a made a list. A detailed list of all the things I was involved in and all the components and tasks and characteristics under each of the roles and evaluated what brought me life and what brought stress and anxiety. I detailed the highs and the lows. I highlighted the parts that I would love to eliminate, if I could be so bold as to only keep what was a good fit. And then I prayed over it. I made this mess and knew I’d need a little direction to make better choices going forward.

The Great Quit

This list was the beginning of what we affectionately refer to in our house as the Great Quit. I started with my book group. I realized while I loved these people dearly and have enjoyed sharing our lives for the last nine years, I didn’t love the time difference and the technology problems that came along with trying to meet with people across the country. And while I love to read and have plans to do more of that this year, the reading felt like pressure. So I finished the book, promised to keep in touch with my friends, and I quit. 

After a few days, I was still basking in the glory of having crossed something off the list. So I took another look at it to see what else might be able to go. I looked at the nitty gritty line items that didn’t serve me well or were not a good fit for me. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I eliminated 18 things from that list, over five areas of my life. I either faced them, finished them, or quit them. The Great Quit felt great! 

A note on anxiety

We’re all busy. We all have a lot going on. Many of you have more on your plates than I did. We all are stretched too thin. And I realize we each have a different capacity. I had slammed full speed into mine. Which told me that I had blown past my margin a long time ago. I was operating outside of optimal and just wanted to get back to a place where I could be better and feel better and enjoy my days again. But that is hard to do with anxiety.

Anxiety is a liar. Anxiety magnifies and distorts. It takes your to-do list and your calendar appointments and blows them up, overhead projector style, until they’re taking up much more space in your brain than in the actual hours of your day. And the sheer size of it looming over your head is enough to render you useless under the weight of the dread. To add insult to injury, the bigger it all looks, the less productive I was at working towards getting it all done. This may be a foreign concept to some of you, and I’m thankful if you don’t understand. But if you know, you know. And I’m sorry that you do. We may even need a bit more margin than others.

Take a peek at your responsibilities, roles, tasks, commitments. Be honest about what you see. What is serving you? What is enabling you to serve others? What is fun and light? What is dark and hard? What may be heavy but is good and necessary? What is sucking you dry? What is just not a good fit? Are you living life at a managable pace with margin to cushion the stress of life? Or are you due for your own Great Quit?

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