A Greek food festival. A chili cook-off. A professional soccer game. A play with friends. A movie in the park. A trip to California. A weekend getaway with my husband. A weekend in the mountains with grandpa. My sister’s bachelorette party.
All of these events are supposed to be fun. They’re meant to give me a chance to relax and unwind. Some offer a break from my kids. Others offer a chance to hang out with family and friends I don’t often get to see. I am looking forward to them. Really, I am.
But also, as I look at these events stretching across every foreseeable weekend in my upcoming calendar, I can’t help but feel a real sense of anxiety. Dread, even.
As someone living with the pain and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis, I know perfectly well that these events are only going to be enjoyable for me if I am feeling halfway decent. I’ll need to have at least a little bit of energy. I’ll need to not be in too much pain. But each additional event lined up back-to-back across my weekends make that less likely. How on earth did I let myself get so over-scheduled?
It’s easy I guess. A few of these events made their way on to my calendar months and months ago – when my weekends were wide open and there was no over-scheduling issue in sight. I was probably feeling better at the time too, so it was easy to look weeks and weeks into the future and picture myself having enough energy to enjoy those events.
Then the rest began to slowly fill in, taking up all the open spaces. A friend would offer an invitation. That sounds like fun and there’s nothing on the calendar that day. I bet the kids would really enjoy it. A family member would want to fly in to visit us. Of course! We would really love to see you – and so would the kids! My husband would suggest something. He really wants to go. He does so much for me and we don’t get to have as much fun as we used to. Why not?
So I found myself saying yes a lot more often than I probably should have. Because, though I realized the calendar was filling up, everything I was agreeing to was supposed to be fun and relaxing, right? People like to have fun on the weekends – that’s what they are for! Why shouldn’t I say yes?
Academically I know that over-scheduling myself is a really bad idea. I know that I, more than most people, need time to rest. And I often need time to recover from the last event before I can enjoy the next one. But it can be so very hard to say no. It’s frustrating and overwhelming to have to constantly remind everyone about my limitations. It’s frustrating and overwhelming to have to constantly remind myself.
So now I’m faced with a calendar that doesn’t have an unplanned weekend in sight for months – and I have a dilemma. Do I preemptively cancel some of these plans, even though they might turn out just fine? Or do I charge ahead and just hope I am able to make it through without crashing and burning?
Either way, one thing is for sure: next time I have to remember not to let myself get so over-scheduled in the first place.
Do you find the pain scale is an effective tool?