This morning, I am taking my own advice from a few years ago. I am feeling overwhelmed by work and school and the pull to swim and walk and be outside, which so often gets denied these days. I went to bed thinking I should start slicing back on what I’m committed to doing with the first slice being the blog. But I woke up remembering my own post from a few years ago where I make the case that women complaining about how much was on their plate were missing great opportunities at work and in life. The most exuberant and happy people I know are the ones who traded up their plates for platters.
So I decided to change up my writing practice. 1) Write in the morning when I’m full of energy. 2) Keep a running list on my office whiteboard of next topics. 3) Try out the things I’m learning in my class on my blog. What about narrative voice? How could I change up how I write to try a new narrative voice. Maybe it could lead me to fiction. You get the idea.
Here is the post from a few years ago.
Too much on your plate? Get a bigger plate.
Everything I read these days is contrary to this wisdom. The hottest restaurants serve small plates. Portions have become tiny, carefully arranged barely edible art. We’re told to live in the moment, not reflect on decades lived or the unknowable future. We are to marshal our resources, learn to say no, keep our eyes on a single prize, and scale down our expectations.
You can’t have everything, you know.
Exhausted working women put their feet up on the coffee table and leaf through magazines that tell them it’s unreasonable for people to expect them to excel at business and be great moms. Sheryl Sandberg can do it only because she’s insanely smart and rich and has a houseful of servants. But you, you’re just ordinary. You need to stuff that Lean In business under one of the sofa cushions and go check your kid’s homework. If you try to do everything that Smartypants Sheryl says you should, you know what will happen.
You’ll have too much on your plate.
It becomes a fear – an overfull plate. And when it becomes a fear, it becomes an inhibitor. And when you’re inhibited, you’re living a life that’s smaller than it should be because you’re afraid of the overfull plate.
Last year, when I was training for a long-distance charity walk, other women would say to me, “I’d love to do that but I’ve already got too much on my plate.” By implication, this said to me, this person is thinking she’s a lot busier than I am. I’ve got time to be walking around town while she’s wall-to-wall busy. My first reaction to this was a little bit of indignation, wanting right away to flash my calendar and prove that I was busy, too.
But then I saw that full plate business for what it really is – a way to protect oneself from new things and scary challenges, a turn down that’s accepted everywhere, an explanation no one questions. Oh yes, too much on your plate. I understand. Don’t worry about not trying, not pushing yourself. Nothing wrong with taking a pass. It’s okay.
Looking around, it seems to me that the people living lives that they really love are constantly trading up for bigger plates. The really exuberant folks are eyeing platters because simple plates just won’t do for what they want to have in their lives. They learned that more ideas, more fun, more connections, more effort make them stronger and more able to carry a bigger plate. By not giving in to hesitation or self-doubt, by deciding against hanging back and compromise, they’ve built muscle – in their heads and hearts. They’re stronger by lifting a heavier weight so what looks hard to others becomes easy for them.
And that’s what I want for my life – more muscle. And a bigger plate.