Anyone who knows me, even for a short time, tends to comment on my Type A personality. Always at work, and unfortunately often at home, I’m a planner and a do-er who can forget how to relax. With this basic underlying personality trait, I am always looking for the answer to how I can get things done. As it turns out though, there’s also real power and value to learning how to say “I can’t”.
The first time that I ever really listened to that voice in my head was when I started formulating our plan to quit our jobs. We had just taken a week vacation, but I still had time to use up, so I took off one more week while JJ went back to work. Somehow, rather than run around like crazy, I spent time just sitting in our backyard and thinking….and feeling. And when I honestly listened to those feelings, the one phrase I could hear clearly was: “I can’t do this anymore”.
At every other point in my life, I could sometimes hear that little cry inside me, but I pushed it down and just soldiered on. I had always taken it as a sign that I needed to try harder, work more, and just keep going in the same trajectory because it was what I was already committed to doing. Based on that logic, I made a lot of decisions that just did not work for me, like staying in a dead relationship, or maintaining a friendship with someone who made me feel terrible.
The day that I sat in our backyard and honestly felt the sensation of “I can’t” as a call to change rather than something to ignore was an epiphany. Since then, I am infinitely more aware of the emotion when it comes up, and I give it the weight and consideration it deserves. It feels amazing to honor the part of me that is telling me such an important truth, and this system has guided me to wonderful places.
I couldn’t keep working in the same job, day in and day out, so I quit.
I couldn’t keep living in Ohio, so I moved on.
I couldn’t keep living a life unexamined, so I constructed a life that lets me have 4 months off each year.
I couldn’t wait to travel, so I started right now.
I couldn’t, so I made a life where I could.
This leads me to the main Amazonian update of the week, which is that we called “uncle” and changed our working hours. Other warehouses in the system tend to handle overtime by first having associates work 5 days of 10 hours each, and as a final step, requiring 5 days of 11 hours each. Our warehouse starts with having us work 11 hour days first, and then adds the fifth day if needed.
I suppose many folks would prefer the plan where they work more hours in less days, but it was too much for us. Our commute is an hour in each direction, and on those 11 hour days, we only had 10.5 hours at home every day. While we could get everything done in that amount of time, I knew something had to change the day that I felt annoyed at JJ for wanting to give me a hug. Rather than enjoy his touch, I was angry that it would slow me down from getting everything done before I could go to bed. This was clearly a case of an important time to pay attention to the “I can’t” sensation!
Luckily, because we are hired through the Camperforce program, we have the option of working either 10 or 11 hour days. We decided that even though it would mean less money, shorter days are the way to go. Our original plan was to stick to the longer hours, no matter what, but I’m proud that we honored our guts and their complaints. At a certain point, money can not make up for a lack of time to hug your companion.
We are still planning to stay on for about a month after the Camperforce program ends, and at that point we will be regular seasonal workers. We will have to work 11 hour days if the warehouse sets them, and we will reassess whether we’re willing to subvert the “I can’t” for a time.
This leads me to the final point of the “I can’t” discussion, which is when to ignore it. I am absolutely not recommending that we all just stop doing anything that is difficult or unpleasant. Certainly, everyday has elements that we don’t really want to do, but we appreciate that we’d dislike the fallout of not doing them even more. For me, that’s cleaning, of any sort. I would prefer to do most anything else rather than wash dishes or clean the bathroom, but I love the results of my efforts.
But, when every fiber of your soul is braking vigorously against your current path, it just might be time to pay a little attention. Humans work best when our hearts and our goals are in alignment.