A few days ago I started to get that overwhelmed feeling. You know the one – where you just feel that you can’t take one more thing on your plate, you start snapping at people for no good reason, and you just feel like you want to curl up into a ball until it all goes away. Only I don’t have time to stop to curl into a ball as much as I want to. And I do. I’d like to curl into a ball and sleep til next Tuesday, but it’s not an option.
Once again, while I tried to avoid it, I’ve overscheduled us. Though in all fairness, I’ve done it better than I have in previous years. In the past I’ve scheduled every moment of every day and often times with people that yeah, I’d like to see, but don’t necessarily need to see. That sounds bad, I know… but what I mean is that there are people I didn’t see often when I was living in the States and yet I’d go out of my way to see them when I’m home for a 2 week vacation and that would leave me with a lot less time with those that I did spend a lot of time with before we moved. That’s not to say I don’t want to see everyone else, but it means that I wasn’t really allocating my time very wisely.
So this year when I did my planning I really tried to focus on who did we all want to see and how could we cover everyone’s wishes and desires for this vacation. And I’ve managed to do that. While our schedule is beyond complex and exhausting, the things we have planned are fun and with people we love spending time with. But it doesn’t eliminate my overwhelming need to feel like we “have” to be constantly on the go here. That it’s not a good day unless every moment is scheduled.
But beyond the overscheduling, it’s made me recognize my overachieving tendencies. That my need to get things accomplished in a certain timeframe escalates whenever I’m here. It’s something that I was hoping I’d rid myself of when I moved to Spain and mellowed out my lifestyle a bit. But no, the moment my feet touched the ground I haven’t stopped. And that’s included feeling the need to accomplish a million things in addition to our visits with everyone. That I need to be up before 7 to either go to the gym or go for a run, to make sure laundry is in the washing machine before I even head out for said run, etc etc. I feel the need to go above and beyond here compared to my life in Spain where I take things not just day by day but often moment by moment.
I’m exhausted. My need to get things done is keeping my brain in overdrive and I’m not sleeping. Or it could be the lack of blackout shades here – I’m up with the sun which in Barcelona doesn’t rise til well after 6 compared to the 4:30AM here. The kids have rarely slept past 6 which given they usually don’t get up til 6:30 on a school day, is definitely early for them too. Which makes me wonder how the States affects them as well or could it also be the lack of blackout shades for them too???
I was always an early riser here in the US, but Spain has chilled me. Or maybe it’s because my kids got older and learned to sleep in? But I’ve recognized in the last few years that it’s ok to sleep late and it’s ok to not have all my errands done by 8AM no matter what the day. Oh and all sports should be done as early as humanly possible on the weekend so that there is time to accomplish even more stuff! And yet, I’ve let all that go by the wayside in Spain. Hell, we can barely make it to tennis at 11AM these days. And while I’m here in the States I find that idea just ridiculous. It’s like my brain has done a complete 180 shift back to my old overstimulated self.
Is there a middle ground here? Have I become too tranquila in Spain? Have I forgotten what it’s like to hit the ground running every morning? Is that even healthy? Part of me says it is. And part of me recognizes it’s not. Is it my surroundings? Is it because the majority of my friends in Spain don’t work that I’m able to in a sense follow suit and just become more relaxed, enjoying 3 hour Spanish lunches and shopping? Is it the environment where nothing is done in a rush that has been an influence on me? That I’ve learned that in a way I have absolutely no choice but to chill?
As I find myself yelling at people while sitting in traffic or telling the kids how much I hate stupid people (who cause the traffic), I recognize that the overachiever in me isn’t necessarily a really nice person. She’s snaps on a whim (though don’t get me wrong, she can do that in Spain too), she’s too busy to spend time with her kids because she’s got too much on her plate, and she’s being overstimulated from 50 different directions which is then causing her to be overwhelmed and frustrated with all around her. However, Spanish me has slacked off in her work because well, she just doesn’t always feel like doing it. She also has regular 3 hour lunches which means she’s not really handling the household duties like she used to. She doesn’t have the kids in 50 different sports or activities because she doesn’t really want to haul them all over the city (though in all fairness I don’t have a car to haul them in which only makes hauling them around all the more challenging). In a sense, she’s gotten a bit on the lazy side, lacking those overachieving skills she prided herself in for so many years.
But Spanish me has overcome so much adversity in the last few years. I have to push myself harder in order to survive. But that overahieving has come in a different form than what I’m used to. I have succeeded and will continue to succeed in that area. But what I need is to find a middle ground between American and Spanish Julie…she’s there somewhere. She’s the one that finds a work/life balance. That gets things done when they need to get done but doesn’t feel the constant pressure to do 50 things at once when she can do 25. That doesn’t mean she’s lazy, but it means that she recognizes that it’s ok to slow down every once and a while and smell the roses and to enjoy the lifestyle that we’ve moved halfway across the world to experience. That it’s important to be the best you can be but the best doesn’t necessarily mean the one that wears herself out in exhaustion because being the best meant being better than everyone else – it means being the best that I can be.
In the meantime, I’m going to try to take these last 2 1/2 days here and try to reflect back on how I could have done this trip a little differently in order to have a better balance for us all. And I’m going to try to slow down for at least a few minutes and enjoy all that it around me since I know it’s going to be a long time before we are back again. I’ve never had 2 weeks that have flown by so quickly which to me says that we didn’t relax nearly enough. Aidan has actually begged me that we don’t go anywhere today – even he feels the overstimulation.
Speaking of Aidan, I think this is the moment where I also mention that I want my kids to find a balance. I never ever want them to be lazy people and I think with Josh and I as parents that won’t happen. But I hope they learn through our experiences both in the US and in Spain that they can have a healthy balance. One of the things I’ve learned about living in Spain is the feeling of working to live but not living to work. Work is important, getting stuff done is important, but so is spending quality time with the people you love. And so if I can give anything to the boys out of this experience, I think this is an important lesson for them to learn – be the best you can be, work hard and play hard and make sure you take the time to enjoy all the people and things around you….