It was the 4th or 5th time that month rewriting my ideal ‘routine’ for the day. I was striving to create the optimal schedule that would make time for everything I needed to get done. I felt like there was so much for me to do all the time that surely the only way to rid myself of all that stress was to get it all done right, by staying on top of it, without missing a step and pushing myself until everything was complete. Otherwise, I frankly felt my life would fall apart even more than it already was (gasp! oh no! I could NOT let that happen)
I was walking on this precarious tightrope of to-dos that any wind could knock my socks and I over into an internal oblivion of despair. See, I was carefully planning and doing all this to run a peaceful household, and be the optimal mother I felt I could be but the element that seemed to throw everything off were be the people I claimed to serve.
It was easy for a 2 year old to break schedules, make way more messes than I could catch up with, not be entertained for the slightest second so I could just get one thing done! I counted on his naps for me to finish client work but his naps were increasing becoming more and more unpredictable or non-existent, and my irritation and stress levels were exponentially increasing.
Even though I planned moments to be with my child—to go out with him, read to him, teach him— I missed out on most of the enjoyment of it all because my mind was fixated on tasks, on the next to do, on everything else that needed to be done.
I was there physically and even seemingly emotionally as I expressed with an enthusiastic high-pitched mom voice praise and excitement over the things he did but inside there was just a ticking clock impatiently waiting for him to go down for a nap or entertain himself so I could do something else and hopefully knockout some more of the to do’s heavily weighing me down.
It became an obsession. An addiction, even. This poisonous drive to just get things done that was creeping into all the crevices needed to create stress and crack precious relationships.
I become a slave to an agenda, an idea of what my home should look like, what I should be doing do during the day so I could feel complete, accomplished and finally at peace. I evaluated how I felt about myself based on what my house looked like and what I got done that day. I often went to sleep discouraged and woke up totally overwhelmed. (See post about Feeling Enough)
I felt like a slave. You’ve heard misery loves company, right? I’m seeing that EVERY emotion, good or bad, loves it too. If I felt like a slave, certainly everyone around me should be one too!
I found myself impatiently nagging my kid and my husband to do things.
I started to only view that guy I married as an instrument to get more things done so he could just lighten my load.
To my dismay, he simply couldn’t keep up with my demands. I became resentful if he didn’t do as I asked. Even if he did do it, I’d be mad inside because he didn’t do it quite right, or not as I expected or because he didn’t just do it without being asked! I was never happy with anything he did! It was ridiculous.
I couldn’t handle him relaxing and watching TV because, heavens, I NEVER got to do that, why should he??? He should be doing chores, like me!! I was tired all the time but never took a rest like him!! I became even more bitter.
When I did do things to ‘serve’ him, only in retrospect do I realize how grudgingly I did it because inside I felt like he never did the same or enough for me. Or I did it so I could see him ‘finally step it up’ and do more things for ME in return. I felt disconnected from him and assumed it was because he simply didn’t meet my needs better or just do more things for me (you know, be an even better personal slave. Geez.) I felt like I just didn’t get the ‘relief’ of stress I thought he should give me. I felt sorry for myself all. the. time.
I felt like my kid also didn’t respect anything I asked. I found myself arguing with a two year old, which is NEVER pretty.
Bleh. I was exhausted and yet my house was still not ‘clean enough’ my tasks were never completed and my relationships with my family felt so cold and out of whack. Life felt empty even though I knew I had so much, which made me feel even worse. I just felt like if people in my family could just be THIS way or just DO certain things, then things would be so much better. Everyone needed to change but me for it my life to improve! I mean I WAS doing everything in my power to fine tune things, working REALLY hard to make things work, right??
I love how we are taught in the life…well, definitely in retrospect, at least. I’m often brought to a breaking point before I’m actually humble enough to change and that inner change is what actually brings about the changes in outer circumstances. (see repentance post) I’m usually brought to place where I’m sick of being miserable, tired, confused and frustrated and I finally plea in totally sincere and desperate prayer for a rescue.
I’ve often had this thought come to my head:
” God lets our life fall apart so we can finally let Him help us rebuild it in a more beautiful way.”
It took a lot of ‘falling apart’ before I actually started to make a turn around and leave behind attitudes that kept me so unhappy. One defining moment for me to better understand what it meant to have real joy was when I had my second baby.
When I was pregnant with him (so super on edge as it was)I was running the treadmill of life, frantically trying to get everything done before the baby came. I had client projects that needed to be FINISHED and out of the way. The idea of having yet another kid put in a panic as I was convinced that even more lack of sleep and screaming sounds and non-stop demands of a newborn would surely push me over the edge and send me to a mental hospital.
But then I had him. He was 2 1/2 weeks early which stopped me right in my tracks. I didn’t get nearly anything I had hoped to have done but instead of a panic, it was a relief. A huge one. I finally had an excuse to say, “Hey world, leave me alone, I just had a baby! I’m dropping everything!” I held that tiny 7 lb human and stared at him, my whole being was actually and finally THERE with him: physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I experienced a deep and beautiful connection that left me with so much peace, confidence and sheer joy.
I got home and dishes piled up, laundry was backed up to high heavens, house was upside down, but I had finally let loose and focused finally on the things that mattered most: my family members.
For the first time in such a while I remembered that peace and happiness don’t come from just checking of to-do’s (even though I still think there is great satisfaction in that) but the ultimate hallmark of joy is being IN LOVE. In love with the people you get to serve and in love with life itself. That love provides the energy, confidence and peace to carry about doing all other minute details but never overshadows your focus over precious family relationships.
I remember thinking that even though my life on the outside seemed upside down, I was not overwhelmed by it. I knew that there would be time later to get caught up with all those mundane details. We would survive. It didn’t mean I was a bad mom. I was enough. I really had it ALL.Life can look messy externally, but you can be in total harmony internally because you know where your true priorities lie. It was my great epiphany. (See post about “How to prioritize your day to create the most joy.“)
From that moment I fumbled and stumbled (I still do) and learned and continued to grow as I kept learning and re-learning this great lesson.
I feel like I’ve come a long way since then. I’ve learn to drop a lot of unnecessary things out of my life, not stress, focus on what counts, and take care of my needs to best serve those around me. It meant letting go of extra income and clients so I could have a calm life. It meant taking time to take enough breaks and time to just enjoy. It meant embracing and accepting life as it comes. And meant accepting my efforts, accepting the efforts of others, whatever they may be. Of course, I still have my moments, but boy, I’m SO MUCH happier now. I’ve fallen in love with my spouse again, with my kids, with my life with my life giving God again. For this, I’m eternally grateful.
Can anyone else relate?? Love to hear your thoughts!
Other post that might be helpful:
How to deal with negative emotions in a positive way
Why Christ Matters, a mother’s saving grace.