THE BLOG

When You Get to the Buffet, Don't Put It ALL on Your Plate

11/25/2013 02:26 pm ET | Updated Jan 25, 2014
Nila Aye via Getty Images

Do you have too much on your plate? This is not about Thanksgiving. What you eat is your business.

Once a year, an overflowing plate is okay... just not from now until New Year's. I'm actually talking about the overwhelming plate that is your life: the overwhelming feeling of an overfull plate and a mile-long to-do-list, especially around the holidays. How to shift out of the overwhelming for me always seems to involve telling someone else, like my mom or my hubby about how much shit I have to do.

What the funny part is I wind up adding things in my own head that are really are not important or even necessary. I'm a clumper. I clump it all together and have made to-do-list's that felt just awful and like they weighed 20 pounds.

I blame my mother. Just kidding! But if you met my mother, you'd understand and may set unrealistic expectations for yourself also. My mother is a dynamo. She is Queen of getting stuff done. She never falls apart. She is an even-keel person. I am not wired like that and it took me until my early 30s to be okay with that. I learned to never compare myself to another, including my mom. God didn't make two of her on purpose, just like there isn't just one type of flower.

I'm passionate, wild, crazy, creative, bold, emotional, loving and all these aspects that I have learned; if I don't allow myself to be me in my fullness, I die a little bit inside. My mom is logical and loving at the same time, a true business woman with a knack for numbers. I'm not.

I'm a word gal, a writer. I'm eclectic and eccentric, a free spirit who doesn't play by the rules. We both rock in our own perfection. She always reminds me of this, and when I to-do-list-myself to death, she has gotten me off the ledge. She's a gem. She looks at those lists without any emotion. They are just words written on a piece of paper. They have no power over you, unless you let them. My hubby is like this too. They are the yin to my yang, or however that goes.

Learning through my own dramas has taught me that when I put too much on my plate, the most freeing thing to do is to dump everything off if it. Like when you see a hot scene in a movie where they are going to do the horizontal tango on a desk, and with one fell swoop of the arm, everything is gone off that desk. Yeah, kinda like that. Quick and fun and ludicrous.

It is a mental trick that works for me. I convince myself for a fleeting moment that I really don't have to do anything I don't want. It really is like a trick to some part of my brain that actually falls for it. Our thinking is like a flawed computer program where we need to learn to just work with it. You can't just turn it off and back on again, like I do if I get into a computer trouble. No ctrl, alt, del, for negativity thinking (which would be so awesome and would sell for a bazillion dollars.) This crazy plate theory of mine entails just clearing your plate of everything. Feel the freedom of not having to do anything at all. You have to do NOTHING now. I mean, really, unless you are an actual heart surgeon, your to-do-list is not life or death. Are they important things to you, yes, but in the grand scheme of life they are not.

Often when we feel we have a lot on our plates, it's about pleasing others, making them happy or doing what we are "supposed to do." Don't argue with me here. If you have kids, you fall into this pattern by accident and often. Here is an example: You may have to bake something for your kid's class party. To some this is easy. To others, this feels like the weight of the world. They scour Pinterest images and curse Martha Stewart for ever having been born. I am a goober like this, in that I love to bake and get grand ideas, not even to please my kids or so the other moms think I'm cool. Been there, done that on both, and I ain't goin' back!

For our last class Halloween party, I let my six-year-old pick out a picture of the cupcakes we could make. Meanwhile, seven minutes away, one of my smart and wise girlfriends who is also a stay-at-home mom has a lady she pays to make cake pops that look fun and taste good. Which costs more? My damn cupcakes! They looked ridiculous, full of oozing marshmallow fluff, tops of Oreos, M&Ms, placed atop of a regular iced cupcake. The experiment did not turn out as expected. They were an epic homemaker fail. Martha called and laughed at me. My son still thought they were cool though. I didn't feel the least bit bad. We tried our best. Worst case scenario, you stop at the store on the way to the party and grab something. Teaching resiliency, going with the flow, detachment, being kind to yourself and never trying to be "perfect" is how I roll with my kids.

Once you take everything off your plate, you prioritize what is important, what is necessary, what you can let go off and what are your reasons for doing some of the things. Start a wish list for your to-do-list. I wish I could... If I had a personal assistant I would like to... Once completed, get the wish list out of your face, and put it out your sight. You DO NOT have to do this list. When I got real with myself and stopped worrying about letting other people down, what others think and trying to be in two places at one time, I realized personal freedom. You can be more present with your kids when you set some boundaries, stop just going through the motions, trudging through days ruled by to-do-lists and actually enjoy your children.

You have to make peace with doing what you can or guilt will consume any mother if given free reign. This I've learned. Unfortunately, I cannot go to see my daughter perform in the Thanksgiving Day parade. Does she know I love her? Absolutely. I didn't even put this on my plate. We found a way to get her there with her friend's parents. If I forced myself to make it work, which I have done in past situations, it always feels like a mix of good and awful. Doing what I am "supposed to do" but not what is right for me leaves me crabby, drained and resentful. When you have four kids, boisterous-energetic-young children, your hubby works a lot, are pregnant or all of the above like I do, you can have an excuse but still may beat yourself up. I teach my children, by example, to be happy with and stand by your choices.

Back to your empty plate now. As you look at it with a fresh perspective, you may find that you put every single thing back on your plate. You make clearer choices when it feels like you actually have freedom and power. When you take the things off your plate and let go of the guilt, obligation, perfectionism, other people's opinions, unrealistic expectations and thoughts of cloning yourself... you can decide what is really right for you. And really, I for one, am going to die with a to-do-list and some stuff on my plate, and it will still be okay.

P.S. There will always be moms who can have 10 kids, run a company, work out every morning, be at every event, bake everything from scratch, never be flustered, and look flawless. Just remember to look and see if she has any wires, maybe she truly is a robot. Never dare to compare. We are all doing our best and never apologize for how much or how little you put on your plate.