The Leaky Bucket-Managing Your Daily Energy Reserves

I had always imagined my energy reserves as a big metal bucket full of water. This bucket had holes all over the bottom constantly spitting out water as a small stream ran in. In my little mental cartoon I was manically trying to plug as many holes as I could to make sure my bucket didn’t drain faster than it could fill. As you can imagine that was a rather messy and quite impossible task.

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Then I watched “Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life” with Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans on CreativeLive. They had the students make a chart. On the chart they were supposed to list their top 10-15 tasks that they typically did every day. Then they were supposed to use a bar to represent whether that task was energy filling or energy draining. Make sure to really think about this part. Draining doesn’t always mean unpleasant. I LOVE our weekly homeschool coop meetings. Being surrounded by 20-30 noisy kids for ~3 hours is still VERY draining for an introvert mom, no matter how much fun we are having. What they said next surprised me. I thought they were going to talk about how to get rid of or reduce the energy draining activities, AKA plugging the holes in the bucket. Instead they started to brainstorm on how you could manage your overall energy reserves by either changing the draining activity to a filling one, or creating a fill-drain-fill sandwich.

Changing an Energy Drainer to a Filler

So how do we CHANGE that draining activity into a filling activity? One example they gave was the daily board meeting. Instead of having it in the boardroom why not meet at the coffee house around the corner before going in to work and have some drinks and snacks while you talk? For those of us who stay at home why not turn on your favorite dancing music and sing along while doing dishes? By pairing a draining activity with a filling one your total energy balance after the activity will be much higher than before.

The Energy Fill Sandwich

What do you do when you can’t change an activity to make it less draining and more filling? Bill and Dave suggested the fill-drain-fill sandwich. In a work setting maybe you go for a short walk before the awful board meeting then treat yourself to a yummy healthy lunch afterwards. At home you may have hot shower, do the house cleaning, then take a quiet moment to read a book. By sandwiching a draining activity in between two filling activities you make sure your bucket is overflowing before it starts draining and then replenished after it’s drained.

Balancing the Fill and Drain Rates

While getting rid of energy draining activities certainly helps self care isn’t all about getting rid of the things that drain you. Fact is there are certain draining things that just have to be done. Living life drains energy. It’s just impossible to plug every hole in the bucket. When I started to shift my focus from plugging holes to increasing the water flowing in my energy level has gotten and stayed higher throughout the day. Instead of a 2 hour laundry marathon I now write a blog post (energy filling), fold a basket or two (majorly energy draining), then take some time to do a little art. I’ve been able to enjoy my kids more, feel more satisfied with my life at the end of the day and I find that I am getting a LOT more accomplished. Washing dishes doesn’t seem like quite the same torture it was before when I know my calligraphy pen is waiting for me when I’m done. The best part is that when the unexpected drains occur (three year old temper tantrums come to mind) my energy reserves are higher allowing me to better handle stressful situations.

What are your biggest energy drains and fillers? What can you do to restructure your activities or schedule to better regulate the flow of incoming energy adn keep your bucket full? Come join the Muchness Mamas Facebook community to continue the discussion!

Self-Care is NOT Selfish!

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“You have to put your own oxygen mask on first” How often have you heard that phrase? I know I’ve heard it every time I fly. I’ve also heard it thrown around a lot in reference to motherhood and wifehood. What does it really mean?

Often as women we find ourselves putting everyone else first. We serve, serve, serve, until we are totally burned out. Now don’t get me wrong, selfless service is a VERY good thing, but even the best things in unhealthy amounts can be damaging. So how do you determine when you need to back off, say no, and practice some self care?

I’ll let you know when I figure it out! Seriously though here’s the difference in my mind. Self-care is putting your NEEDS above other people’s WANTS. Selfish is putting your WANTS above other people’s NEEDS.

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Usually determining this is pretty easy. I NEED to eat breakfast. My kid WANTS me to play with them. The hard part comes in when you and another person have conflicting needs. I NEED sleep. My baby NEEDS to be fed in the middle of the night. Now I have to figure out how we can both get what we need. Sometimes determining if something is a need or a want can be difficult too. We all want time off to just relax and rejuvenate. At a certain point this becomes a need. Once the need has been met it once again becomes a want. It is especially difficult in marriage to balance this seesaw between things that can at any time be a want or a need for either spouse.

5 Simple Steps to Becoming Muchier

If you read my first post you’ll already know all about muchness, if you haven’t check it out here. Are you ready to transform yourself into a “much more muchier” version of yourself? Of course the journey looks different for every person, but here are a few tips to get you started on creating your own path.

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Recognize What You Have Lost

For a long time I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out why. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Fact is I’ve been through some pretty hard stuff, and life is still hard. Wallowing in self pity is EXTREMELY tempting at times. How could I regain my happiness DESPITE my trials, instead of getting lost in the thinking that life had to be perfect first? I started looking back on my childhood and asked what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad was the first step in becoming muchier.

Identify What You Need

Ask yourself the hard question “what can I change now to be more true to myself and find peace, and even joy, in the midst of the chaos that is life?” Not what can you change about your circumstances or what do you wish others would change about themselves. Be brutally honest, what do you need/want to change about YOU? Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone, but when you are suffering from a lost of muchness you may find that your ability to change yourself has been completely eradicated. It is crucial to surround yourself with people who can support you and push you to keep going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. You need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed, and not let you make excuses for yourself. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. True joy is found in having and working towards a goal that really means something to you personally. I’m not talking about a goal that has a finish point, like making 15 sales or taking 10 photographs a day. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose you may find that so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much as they used to. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, fashion, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

Take Action

This is by far the hardest part of this entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change and dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. I clearly remember a phone call with Christine where she suggested I stop trying to be a full time photographer and focus on my blogging instead. WHAT?!?! You are telling me to give up on my dream? I wanted to fight back, I wanted to resist, but deep down I knew she was right. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood and my large family. Caring for them was stopping me from making my business a real success. Trying to get such a time intensive a business up and running was stopping me from being the mother I wanted to be. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Knowing and embracing my life purpose allowed me to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days where I look at my art supplies and the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it is getting easier and easier.

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You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something disappears never to be seen again. It is something that we can work at and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own measuring posts.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found, no matter what may be going on around you.

If you’ like to chat with me and other amazing women who are taking this journey of self-discovery come join our community on Facebook!

What is Muchness, and Where did it Go?

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A few years ago I watched Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” and absolutely loved it. As I watched, however, it took a lot to fight back the tears. It was like watching a fantastical version of my own life. Precocious imaginative child grows up to become a mere shadow of her real self. She has completely forgotten who she was. While doing her best to please everyone around her and live up to societal expectations she loses her muchness and now believes “I don’t slay, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.”

I’m not sure when exactly everything changed for me. When I stopped being the real me and started being what I thought everyone wanted from me. The result was, however, that I was a pretty empty shell of a person. My mouth smiled, but it rarely spread to my eyes. I would answer the question “how are you ?” with “Great!”, then feel sick inside because I knew it was a lie. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was perpetually exhausted. I spent my days cooking, cleaning, booger wiping, diaper changing, and doing everything else to take care of my family. No matter how hard I worked I felt like a failure because I never got my to do list done. I often did nothing other than the necessities to keep my kids alive. Why bother busting your butt to achieve perfection when you are just going to fail anyway? I was a total mombie!

 

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I wasting my life away trying so hard to make everyone around myself happy. Now don’t get me wrong, there is great value in serving others and some of the greatest joy in life is found in service, but I wasn’t doing it the right way. I was so focused on what others wanted, not what they needed, and they all wanted different things. I would never be pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. My house would never be clean enough, or children as well-behaved as they should.  Pleasing everyone is just impossible and the more I tried the more of my muchness I lost. I completely lost sight of the importance of self-cer in my life.

Just like Alice I was lost in a world where everyone told me who I should be, and who I was. What I should be doing, and what I shouldn’t. This left me feeling empty, drained, and completely inadequate. One day, just like Alice, I finally woke up. “This is my dream…I make the path!”

I choose who I am. I choose what I value. I have a choice, and I can slay my Jabberwock. I can’t really tell you the story of the moment when everything turned around. It’s not just my story to tell. I can tell you it was with the help of one kind compassionate friend who told me “Whatever you decide I will support you 100%”.  I was set free. I was empowered to make a choice that was best for ME and follow it through knowing that if I fell it was ok. Someone was there to catch me and help me learn how to fly.

It was time for me to stop making excuses and start making changes. I was no longer willing to be a passive observer in my own life. As I started living my life with more intention and thoughtfulness things have begun to fall into place. I have been blessed to meet people and have experiences that I never imagined possible. I have learned so much about myself and who I am. I have a voice again. The precocious child who knows who she is and what she wants in life is back! I’m back. I have my muchness. I know who I am.

I am not ashamed or embarrassed by others negative thoughts on large families. I hold my head high when other women tell me that I am damaging their feminist movement by choosing to stay home. I ignore those who tell me that I am somehow hurting my kids by homeschooling them, or worse hurting the rest of the world by not having my kids in public school. I create the art that I love, without guilt for spending time on it or fear that others won’t like it. I am open and honest about my needs and desires with my spouse. I’ve put more appropriate limits on my children and taught them to be more independent. I bought new clothes for myself, at retail instead of from the thrift store, and they have the fun colors and patterns that I love. I get up, dress up, and show up for my life every day (well almost every day, every girl needs a day to veg out in their pajamas with netflix every now and again) I’m even planning to dye my hair crazy colors as I always dreamed, but was afraid was inappropriate.

And now I am ready to carry what I’ve found forward and use it to bless YOU!

If you are struggling to find your muchness don’t give up. You can do it. You are a wonderfully unique individual and the world needs your beauty! Just jump, because if you do you just may fly and if you don’t, well then pick up the pieces and move forward with your head high. Failure is nothing more than the quickest path to success.

It’s your life. YOU make the path.

If you’d like to talk to other women who are on this path of self-discovery come join our Facebook community!