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It’s kind of awkward to start a blog post when I’ve been away for so long. I feel like I’ve been out of the writing groove, but when I accidentally wrote some mini blog posts on my Instagram account this week I knew it was time to open a post draft and just write for fun, even if my thoughts are jumbled and I have twenty semi-organized blog post ideas scribbled on a piece of notebook paper in the gigantic five-subject back-to-school special I bought myself as a treat a few weeks ago. It’s good to be back.
But seriously…the last post I wrote was published on May 16th. My website homepage has been the same for over two months. I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without blogging, and I have really, really missed it. Writing is very therapeutic for me; I express myself better on a page than I do by mouth.
To be very honest, the last nine months of my life have been some of the roughest I’ve ever experienced in many (not all) aspects. If you know me and you’re counting, that takes you back to the beginning of November 2017 when I got engaged. I was already busy working full time and preparing to publish a second cookbook…then I planned a wedding, saw my fiancé for 24 hours in the space of 3 months of our engagement, got married, moved from the only home I’ve ever known to a place far away from family and the church I had been a part of for my whole life, put our house in order, tried to figure out this whole marriage thing, and jumped right into intense work on my second cookbook to keep up with the personal timeline I had set for myself as soon as Necessary Food was published. Smart? Uh – NO!
Do I regret it? Also no.
I’ve always had a serious problem of over-committing myself. Part of it is a daily consequence of my OCD, which constantly tries to trick me into believing that I’m responsible for things I’m not and I have to do as much as I possibly can, and more, in order to be good enough. When you’re single, you can get away with that mentality for the most part. In my case, there were five other people in the house to keep things running, and I wasn’t the one primarily responsible for keeping the house in order and making sure there was food to eat. Once I got married, I lost my back-up squad! Let me preface this by saying that I have the most amazing, understanding husband who, while sometimes confused by this harried creature he married, did his level best to bring sanity to our home and Walmart salads to the table when I didn’t have time to cook. But…until July 1st, my husband was also a doctor in his intern year of residency. His schedule varied by the month, but he typically worked 70-80 hour weeks, which when combined with studying for continued education and taking time to eat and exercise and run errands, didn’t (and doesn’t) leave a whole lot of “free” time. While Ryan was working, I was busy trying to be “super wife” and keep the house clean, pantry and fridge full, and laundry done while still working the full time+ hours that I had worked as a single woman. I kept trying with virtually no breaks for many months. I had to finish this second cookbook so it could be published before the holidays this year. Anything less would be doing less than my best, and that would be sin. (This is how my personal experience with OCD works.) Meanwhile, I was an emotional mess and completely stressed out. I was stuck in a downward spiral that I didn’t know how to get out of, and my brain was always running at 500 miles per hour. When Ryan and I were able to spend time together, it was hard for me to enjoy it because I felt guilty knowing we both had work that needed to be done. I couldn’t wind down enough to go to sleep, so I’d lie awake for an hour or two every night (while my dear husband, who can fall asleep within twenty seconds, blissfully slept).
In May Ryan worked a month of night float, so his entire schedule was flipped and he was at home, awake, for a grand total of two hours every day. I would stay up until outrageous hours making cookbook recipes – shooting for 16 completed recipes a week to make my deadlines. They often took 2-3 tries to get right, so I’ll let you do the math on how much food went through my kitchen. I gave some of it away, but a lot of the flops are still in my freezer…haha. In May, I gave up blogging. I just couldn’t blog and make a cookbook at the same time now that I was a wife (at least not with the deadlines I was setting for myself). In June Ryan worked days again, but he was on a difficult team and often didn’t get home until after 7 pm (and he left by 6 in the morning) – one night it was 10 pm. In June I typed up several months’ worth of recipes, organized cookbook info, edited pictures, etc. In July I knew I was going to be gone for 2½ weeks since we were attending Ryan’s brother’s wedding and I was going to be singing in Laudate Mennonite Ensemble, and I worked right up until the day before we left editing all the cookbook recipes. I sent them to my designer, flew to Pennsylvania, and was fully planning to try to catch some time to schedule social media posts for while I was gone…but the time never came, and I had to just let it go.
Above: the morning of Charles and Missy’s wedding, making sure every hair is in place. Never mind the giant wrinkle down the middle of my dress. #suitcaselife Photo creds to my mother-in-law!
That trip was truly a God-send. Ryan was able to take a week of vacation, and we could spend time with family and just do things together on a more relaxed time table. No work for either of us. On tour with Laudate, I had a decent amount of bus time in which to just sit in silence. I wasn’t always actively thinking about things, but this was honestly, truly the first time since I got married that my brain had a chance to completely unwind. While I was watching scenery out the bus window and catching snippets of conversation, my brain was thrumming in the background, processing all the changes I had experienced in the past six months. I was able to observe some women who really inspired me with the intentional way they separated their full personal and work lives successfully, giving me hope that I could learn to do that too. Then I got this earth-shattering thought – “What if I set work hours for myself?”
That may sound laughably obvious to most of you, but for me, it was a completely new idea. I’ve always felt the need to work as long as there is work to be done. Don’t leave anything unfinished. Since I commit to so much, there is always work to be done, so I’m always working! The thought that maybe it’s not lazy to have some free time even when I still have work to do was a new one. I also have always had a hard time viewing housework as “real work.” I enjoy it so much that it must be lazy to take time to just focus on cleaning and organizing, right? After getting married I just loved being a wife and homemaker, but I felt guilty to spend too much time on that and not enough time on blogging and working on my cookbook.
Just to be clear, my skewed mindset wasn’t my husband’s fault. He’s always encouraged and been proud of my business pursuits, but he is also undeniably the breadwinner in both of our minds. When I called him from PA to tell him about my new revelation about setting work hours for myself, his response was, “That’s a great idea!”
Slowly but surely, God used my time away from my normal routine to teach me some alternative ways of viewing life and formulate some solutions. I am so excited about this. I haven’t felt this free in many, many months. I don’t know that these things will make sense to many of you, but if you’ve dealt with any form of an obsessive compulsive disorder, I hope some of my breakthroughs can be an encouragement to you. Even if my ramblings make no sense to you, I hope you can see and appreciate the hand of God as He has guided me to new ways of viewing life. I think all of us have serious blind spots in some area or another, and I’m so thankful that God is continually leading us into new paths. I’m also thankful that He doesn’t expect perfection all at once.
So…do I regret making myself this busy and jumping right into cookbook #2 after getting married? (This was what created a lot of my stress over the past six months.) My mom asked me that question, and after ruminating on it, my answer was no. I’m so stubborn and thick-headed that it literally almost took an emotional breakdown for God to get my attention and realize that I just can’t live life like this. I had to be taken to the breaking point in order to change my path. Am I sorry that the first six months of my marriage had to go through this? Yes. But I’m glad it happened now rather than later.
So what are some practical ways that I’m going to be changing the way I live life, and how will that affect my blog and future projects?
- A big part of keeping my OCD under control is learning to say “no” to the things that I feel compelled to do. In this case, I’m going to be setting work hours for myself. I’ll be setting aside time every day to enjoy keeping my house in order and doing all the normal daily tasks that go along with running a house – and I will view that work with as much weight as bookkeeping, supervising cookbook design, and writing new blog posts.
- I’m not going to do blog/cookbook work after 9 pm. Sometimes my husband studies and I work at the kitchen table until late into the evening, but I’ve come to realize that if I’m working until 10 and going to bed at 10:30, my brain has not had time to decompress. I’ll probably still be at the table with my husband, but I’ll be reading a book for fun or trying to learn how to do trendy calligraphy.
- Blogging and publishing are officially becoming my hobby – not a career. If I don’t want to make recipe videos, I’m not going to make recipe videos. I do not have to be the most prolific blogger on the block. I don’t have to sell a certain number of books. I’m going to do this for fun, y’all! If I keep the right perspective on it, it is fun!
- I’m going to do more spontaneous things. I’m going to be more sociable. More flexible. I’m going to have to watch that I don’t overload myself with activities on the other side of the spectrum now. 😛 This morning I took carrot cake in to the hospital for Ryan and his coworkers in honor of his birthday today. It’s things like that that I want to take the time to do.
- I’m going to try to minimize my screen time and stick with more old-fashioned activities (reading, playing piano, making cards, walking…maybe even crocheting?). Social media notifications are a continual burr under my saddle and have a tendency to make me anxious. I do not have the Facebook app or Facebook Messenger for this very reason. I’m going to have to do something about Instagram. I love that platform, but I check it way too often to clear my notifications. If anyone has any tips about streamlining social media usage, please share below! I recently turned off the “reply to story” feature on Instagram to minimize Instagram messages. Is that super rude?? I worry about such things, but on the other hand, I have to keep my sanity! I prefer to answer questions via the email contact form here on my website, so I channel people to that as much as possible. Taking steps like this and realizing that I am only one person, not a machine, and that I am allowed to set limits for myself is very helpful to me.
- After I get this cookbook published, I’ll probably keep revamping my schedule to work less and less. (Keep in mind that I’m starting from more-than-full-time hours…haha.) I will keep blogging, but I’m going to blog when I feel like it and have something to blog about. Since I love blogging, you might see me quite a bit – but I can take breaks, too. And if I ever have children, I can take off for months if I want to! I have a feeling I’ll always come back, because I love having a creative outlet and a space to write.
- As far as future cookbooks go, we’ll see. I will not be publishing another book with deadlines. Future works might be more or less compilations of blog recipes without so many cookbook exclusives. I’d like to do more in the ebook realm in the future, but only if I feel like it. Blogging is where my heart is!
So what does my life look like now?
Well, I got back from PA early last week and instead of opening up my computer first thing Tuesday morning and wading through two weeks’ worth of notifications, I spent an entire day cleaning the house and doing laundry. (#unheardof) The house was in blissful disrepair before I launched into it, but that didn’t even bother me! I felt so free! I even made my husband a pitcher of iced coffee for the fridge and as he poured some that evening he asked curiously, “Did you do this just to be nice?” I laughed and told him to get used to it. 😛 I love doing nice things for him, but for so long I barely had time to bake a squash for supper, much less make unnecessaries like iced coffee. Needless to say, Ryan likes living with this Briana a lot better.
Above: getting back into the cooking scene with my Mommy’s Meatloaf recipe
Who is this Briana? This is Briana Burkholder. Briana Thomas really built a name for herself and held herself to very high expectations, but her identity has changed and she no longer needs to keep up with a certain performance level to be worth something. She has a God Who loves her and a husband who takes care of her and encourages her to do what she loves. She’ll probably always struggle with the need to perform, but she knows that God will faithfully show her when she needs to reevaluate her priorities.
Above: finally creating some new recipes! This cheesy veggie dish will be coming to the blog when I have time.
I am Briana Burkholder, and I currently have dishes to wash and food to make for my husband’s special birthday supper tonight, so if you’ll excuse me….
As I think over the last year of my life and all the mistakes I’ve made, some stunningly simple yet profound words from Laudate’s beloved director, Dr. Ken Nafziger, come to mind:
“That was then. This is now.”
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PS – I do plan on keeping the name on my website and social media accounts “Briana Thomas” to avoid confusion since that’s what I’ve always gone by, but for all practical purposes, I am Briana Burkholder. 😉
PPS – Periodically some of you ask about wedding pictures, and I do intend to post some before our first anniversary…haha. I just haven’t had time to go through them yet, and we didn’t have great weather to take them in so I’ve toyed with the idea of retaking some. Still have to decide about that.
PPPS – My second cookbook is in the design phase right now and I’m working with some incredible designers. It should be released in a few months but I don’t have an exact date yet. Can’t wait to share it with you all! If you don’t have Necessary Food (my first book) yet, CLICK HERE to check it out. It has so many of my classic favorites!
Below: hashing out cookbook design
Update: In the spirit of cutting back and not overwhelming myself with trying to respond to each and every person without sounding trite and cliché, I just want to say right here that I read each of your sweet, encouraging comments, and if I could see you in person, I would’ve given you a big hug and whispered a heartfelt “thank you,” hoping that you could see my true feelings in my eyes because I would’ve been too choked up to say anything else. Thank you for your friendship.