Were you a Little House on the Prarie fan? I was. I loved that TV show.
Half-Pint was the super sweet nickname that Pa gave to Laura, which is the perfect segue into today’s blog post.
Capacity is not a one size fits all deal, yet I’d venture that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people try to live as though it were.
And the funny/strange/sad thing about that it is people tend to relentlessly push themselves to match the capacity of whoever they perceive is the equivalent of their Sydney Harbour. BIG capacity. Huge. And for 99.8% of us, utterly impossible to match.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Why the relentless sense that we MUST compete? And win.
Are we born with an internal soundtrack? “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.”
No you can’t.
And that’s perfectly okay.
I am about to fly in the face of a great deal of popular thought here, brace yourselves.
Life is not a competitive sport.
It’s just not.
Not to me, and when I look around at the people I know who are grounded, happy, creative, giving, it doesn’t seem to be to them either.
Capacity, or more precisely knowning your capacity, is where it’s at.
Me, I’m a Quarter Cup.
I know my limits, and I live within them.
Becoming aware of my capacity, then changing my lifestyle to reflect that knowledge, was a completely life-changing realisation.
I have no desire to push myself to keep up with the 2.4 litre people out there. That’s their capacity, not mine.
Quarter of a cup. That’s me. The smallest cup in the stack under my sink.
“Capacity for what?” I hear you wondering. Let me explain the metaphor.
I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about the college professor and his jar of rocks – he puts a jar in front of his class then fills it with various sized rocks and asks if it’s full. Some say yes, some see room for smaller pebbles, so pebbles are added and the once “full” jar becomes fuller. This continues until no more rocks or pebbles will fit in the jar. Professor Clever Nuts then adds water, showing the class that the jar wasn’t actually at capacity, but it is now.
I think this story is usually used to communicate the exact opposite of what I mean when I talk about capacity. It’s about pushing, finding every available crevice and filling it to the point of bursting.
Who wants to live like that? On the brink of breaching, like the Hoover Dam?
I didn’t think so.
Capacity is physical, mental, emotional, and social. Capacity is what you need and what you can manage, not what you imagine you should be able to manage, or what your boss/parents/friends/partner/inner critic expects from you.
How much socialising keeps you feeling connected to others?
How much time alone helps you to feel ready to jump back into the fray?
How much sleep do you need? This one is huge. Huge!
What is your most productive time of day/night?
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
How do you know when you’re running on empty?
What do you do to refuel?
These, and many more, are the kind of questions that will help you to recognise and honour your capacity.
There are no prizes for living according to someone else’s expectations or capacity.
Unless exhaustion and a nagging sense that you’re never doing enough are considered prizes.
I wonder if thinking about capacity, rather than thinking competitively, might be a lightbulb moment for you.
Could it be that reflecting on your unique needs and make-up could help you understand your capacity?
For those of you scoffing at this idea, running through the long list of responsibilities of your life and rolling your eyes, I want to say this; I don’t believe capacity is fixed and finite, we each have seasons where we can stretch and hold more, or where our capacity is diminished. Trouble comes when we attempt to do and hold more for too long, when we push and push and push without considering our capacity.
There’s wiggle room, that’s the good news. On the flip side, capacity doesn’t simply yield to our to-do lists forever. We can’t blithely operate outside of our capacity year after year and think there won’t be natural consequences to that.
This isn’t a one blog post idea. Clearly!
All I can tell you for sure is that knowing my capacity frees me to spend zero time fretting about whether I’m doing enough, being enough, whatever-ing enough. I am not required to live life comparing myself to the 44 gallon drum folks.
Can you imagine anything more ridiculous?
A teensy quarter of a cup trying to pretend they can hold gallons and gallons of liquid!
All that would result in is a mighty flood, and most likely a drowning. How tragic that would be.
I know when I’m able to stretch, and when I need to fill my near-empty cup. I know when the water line is too high, and it’s time to put my hand up and call in reinforcements. I can only give from what I’ve got.
Do you know your capacity? I’d love to hear about how you came to that understanding.
Whether you’re like me, a Quarter Cup, or you’re 2.4 litres or a 44 gallon drum person, I urge you to honour your capacity and ditch the comparisons.
PS Have you noticed that I haven’t been posting daily like I said I would? Capacity strikes. I am working loads of extra hours at the moment, and I know I can’t do it all. That’s what knowing your capacity is all about. You’ll also notice that I haven’t apologised or berated myself for the change in plans. Capacity breeds confidence.
18 thoughts on “Step aside Half-Pint”
YES! To ALL of this. There is no scoffing just yes, yes, yessing from this side of the world.
What a breath of fresh air on this Sunday morning. Please can newspapers print words like these. Oh what a wonderful world it would be!
I love that you’re not apologising. We are all allowed to come and go, stop and start, continue or surrender. Who defines living big and small anyway?
Acknowledging our own capacity and working with its dynamic or static nature depending on the timing of life – that sounds like a beautiful way to feel at home.
This post was worth the wait!
Agree whole heartedly
Oh, I’m so happy to hear it Mimi, thank you for being part of the conversation. It’s good to be reminded every now and then that just as we are is totally wonderful.
Fran, your response to my words is deeply, deeply encouraging. Thank you for not just reading but responding.
BRILLIANT! I agree with every word 🙂
Thanks Edie, I so want to be having these conversations with like-minded peeps and those open to new perspectives.
I reckon I’m a quarter cup too, but I spend a lot of time thinking I should be a bloody swimming pool. Might be something I need to think about .
Could be Kate. Could be.
A swimming pool is a bloody big load of water!
Brilliant my wonderful 1/4 cup friend!!!
Love that you’re not apologising or flagellating yourself for simply doing what you can actually do.
I will admit that I so enjoy reading your words of wisdom and encouragement, that I have been hanging out for this next one. But being a flexible capacity gal myself, I get it!!!
Thank you Nettie for reminding me the value in being me. That my merely being here is enough, what I manage to do is ace, how much I can take on at any time is what I can take on and that’s cool. Oh the relief I feel when I truly breathe that in…..
Thank you ☺️
Breathe it in deeply babe.
Your capacity is brilliant, extraordinary, and as you’ve honed it and drawn strong borders around that, it has served you beautifully.
Thank you for wanting my words. That’s just… well, it’s all that I ever dreamed of, to know people do. ❤️
There is so much sense in this. I don’t think there is a single person in the world who has not been left completely depleted from trying to operate beyond their capacity. I’ve experienced it many times, but there is a societal pressure to increase your capacity and try operate beyond it. I think real peace and contentment only come when you recognise what’s right for you and work within it. You are a perfect example of this. xx
There is so much pressure, and it’s crazy how often we acquiesce without even realising it. And for what? That’s the real mystery.
Going against that has changed everything for me.
Hi gorgeous Nettie! 💜
It’s taken me 65 years to understand and embrace what you have just put so eloquently! So, thank you for confirming that it’s okay to just be, when the need arises! 💜
It’s more than okay to be Maz, it’s glorious to be you!! ❤️
This resonates with me. I’ve spent the last few months saying ‘we need to do less’. Less for each of us (hubby and I), less for the kids, less as a whole family. So that we be together more. It’s good to know when you’re stretched and when it’s time to pull back. Thanks for your wonderful words!
Hi Cindy, it’s a great realisation isn’t it? Next step is actually doing it – perhaps you could have a glass of wine with your husband one night, get the family calendar out and *schedule* that longed for free time. Make it as important as all those things you want less of. Good luck! It’s so good for us to say no to busyness and just doing all the things. There’s less to life!
Thanks for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts. I appreciate it so much.
Great post, Annette! It has taken me time to comment because I have had to THINK about this! For me, I think my capacity very much depends upon my state of contentment. When I was working and pretty damn down in the dumps with my job, I had very little capacity. I only had enough to get me through the work days and then it was drawbridge up, fluffy slippers on! When I left that job, my capacity increased. I think my natural inclination would be to have little capacity but i’ve exercised the plastic of my cup and I think my capacity has now increased markedly. And I probably now keep pushing myself a bit to maintain that capacity fitness because I kinda enjoy doing things, and achieving things. But the whole competitiveness bit is blurgh! I feel, for my kids who are preparing to enter the workforce, that there is a need to keep pushing, pushing, pushing to collect more bits for the CV for them to go into the roles they want to. And they’re not chasing status or pay, just jobs that stimulate them intellectually and align with their interests. I’m not sure how to put a brake on that. I wish everyone could just take a step back and chill a bit.
It’s a good thing to ponder, and I too wish people had more of an inkling to just relax about life! I do feel for your kids, it’s a tough thing to navigate starting a career and self-care.