I had know that this was a possibility, but I thought (in my typical arrogant fashion) that I was stronger/better/smarter than the average Joe. I thought that I could balance family life w/ 2 litte ‘uns, working full time, running an expanding small business, standing on 2 municipal committees, running study groups on The Natural Step and volunteering with Sustainability groups and come through grinning. Anyone reading the previous sentence has already concluded that I was deluded in the extreme.

Of course I failed, hitting The Wall hard in early July. Basically I couldn’t let my work a day job suffer so instead I disconnected almost completely from the outside world-no cell phone or email for almost 3 weeks until I recharged my mental fuel tank. I missed alot of meetings in my breakdown, and family life suffered as my temper flared and my energy leveled slumped to very low levels. One small bright spot was that I was out of rain barrels so no orders went unfilled.

I am back now in some form due mostly to necessity: I have an order for 65 barrels waiting for me. Mia and I unloaded 85 barrels from a semi trailer yesterday morning to the extreme curiosity of the neighbors (“no they are not still full of wine…”). It was satisfying to see the enthusiasm from the ones that I am close enough to that they know what we are up to-with them either driving by with energetic thumbs up, or stopping by to marvel at the display.

The kicker is that I am still struggling with saying “No!”. I am doing well by not taking on new tasks, but all the irons we have in the fire are really good ones. The majority of our rain barrels are going to projects to help Milwaukee Co. disconnect their storm water systems from their sanitary sewers. Currently, as a legacy of 19th century city planning, many homes run their gutters into the sanitary sewers-causing massive effluent overflows with extreme water quality and ecosystem ramifications in the Great Lakes. Literally every barrel I build for them helps to alleviate this issue-and there are currently no other sources. How do I say no to that?

Same for the municipal committees-we are down to 2-3 voices of “eco-reason” on the Smart Growth committee-bowing out now would all but hand the committee to the opposition giving them the power to write our 25 year plan in their image. The study circles are a great way to build a critical mass of empowered citizens to help in future efforts. Then there is the fiscal side-every dollar we earn on the side business designing and installing landscapes, building rain barrels, or selling produce is one step closer to our Dream House. The business is very lucrative-but also time consuming and stressful which makes it the prime suspect in my burnout.

I am more balanced now than I was, but something has to give. My current task load is unsustainable, and I hope and pray to find the strength to level out my commitments to my ability to fulfill them. On a much more pleasant side, I had the intense pleasure of giving several Garden Tours to about a dozen of the local Eco Elite and their encouragement and obvious, vocal approval were an elixir for my soul. Recognition by one’s peers is a wonderful thing.

Of course, the tours resulted in several requests for speaking engagements-the cycle goes on!

The biggest takeaway is to be selective in Being the Change.
You can’t do it all!

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