Lead Straws & Two Ton Cherries

How to know when you are doing THE MOST and most importantly, how to stop!

Written by: Yameen Chestnut, MS, LMFT, NCC

As a parent or significant other, we can all relate to an instance where we simply didn’t quite perform up to the task of fulfilling responsibilities or meeting our own expectations. In whichever capacity, it often seems that our roles have become more burdened, more complicated and overall more difficult with all that we want and try to do to be the best we can at any given moment. To no avail, times come when we simply don’t quite hit the mark trying to be all things to all people we deem important enough to put on our “juggle list” in our lives. It is times such as those that I often wonder, where was the exact point in my “doing all things” phase before I officially began “doing the most”. Where I should have stopped, and admitted that I am merely human and incapable of performing inhuman feats, at least on a consistent basis. Why didn’t I recognize I was doing too much? Which straw was it that broke the camel’s back? Many are familiar with the proverb of the last straw, placed on the camel’s back by the owner. Not quite satisfied with the size of the already burdensome load, the owner places one last straw, only to eventually break the camel’s back, leaving the owner no way to transport his goods to sell at the market. I can picture that poor camel lying there and its owner asking himself that very question of how this could've happened and why wasn’t he able to tell when good enough was enough?

Although we no longer are in a time where we are loading camels to help us transport our good to market, many parents work daily to ensure their children have the best of everything. Many parents and spouses work tirelessly to fulfill roles that even that broken back camel from the proverb would give a side-eye to and tell you if it could speak, “YOU ARE DOING THE MOST!” We don’t have broken back camels to accompany us along our journey to signal to us when we’re reaching our limits. What we do have, if one stops and observes with a sobering and objective eye long enough, is evidence all around us of unfinished projects and incomplete tasks. What we do have are goals and dreams, that can and often do require some level of prioritization. One of the biggest myths in this entire process that many have convinced themselves of is that you must do it all at once. That you can’t put them in order of priority and simply do one thing at a time. Within the movement of Mindfulness, there’s a lesson of doing one thing at a time with total focus and effort. This idea of uni-tasking, as opposed to multi-tasking, is rooted in the belief that when we focus on one thing, the quality of the outcome increases.

One approach is to begin exploring your surroundings to start the necessary process of prioritizing all the things AND PEOPLE that are important to you. List your goals, responsibilities, aspirations, desires, etc. Next, reflect on times where your figurative ‘camel’s back’ was broken by that one additional burden you placed upon yourself. Remember, the camel didn’t place that last straw on its own back like we often do! You have a choice in the matter of what burdens you assume. Don’t mistake inherited burdens for assumed ones. Unlike that camel’s load, the unfair and unrealistic straws we often place upon ourselves weigh heavier, as if made of lead. They can have devastating effects on our lives and those around us. Although sad, the reality is that many of the situations we find ourselves in are largely self-inflicted and occur because of being on auto-pilot, creating a culture of multi-tasking and unfair expectations. I often refer to it as a two-ton cherry on top of a delicious ice cream sundae. What is your two-ton cherry that you’ve placed on yourself, on top of an already good enough, already respectable list of things to do on the road to being your best self? Is it working on your PhD while simultaneously trying to start your own business? Is it adopting twins while building a new home? Is it simply making promises that can only be fulfilled if conditions are ideal and absolutely everything falls into place? There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, but learn to be realistic throughout your process and learn how to identify the point when one last straw could simply be too much!

Yameen specializes in mood disorders, youth & adolescent work, couples, pre-marital and family counseling related to transitions, adoption and trauma. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with him, you can email him at yameen@thewellcounselinggroup.com or call him at the office at 317-471-8996.