A Year of Habits, no. 14
It’s been a week in the trenches. Sorely behind on laundry, discouraged by clutter and distracted by some emotionally charged issues we’ve been dealing with, the week ran away with me. A couple of busy days killed all creative thought and then my little break from blogging became a sincere effort to see if sacrificing the time I spend on it would translate to more productivity, a cleaner house, better organization or at least a more focused mother.
Interestingly, nothing really improved. It turns out that all work and no play made Jane a very dull girl. I have a tendency to throw myself into cleaning, working through the entire day without food or breaks of any kind, intent on getting everything done. Then I pick everyone up from school and watch it unravel. If I do too much of this I sometimes become resentful. I place too much value on the cleaning, allowing my own success and worth to depend on it, leaving myself in a position where it’s me against reality. It’s not a good thing. On the other hand, if I allow myself to spend 20 minutes doing something I enjoy, I’m able to disconnect from the “perfect house = I’m ok/messy house = I’m a failure” mentality and embrace the reasoning that “I worked hard today and made good progress; I’ll work hard again tomorrow and in the end it will all turn out.” In addition to this we had a lot of gray days. I realized that creativity is my self-made sunshine and if it won’t shine outside I mustn’t neglect it inside.
As the week wore on I noticed that my productivity and focus were being negatively affected by some things I’m worried about. I tend to stew about things, and we’ve had so many mini emergencies as parents in the past six weeks that I feel like I’ve got emotional ADD. I had a hard time focusing on what was in front of me and instead carried unnecessary worries. I’ve always known that I’m a serious person which is sometimes a virtue and often a fault.
I had two interesting experiences this week. On Monday I felt so stressed about things I can’t control that I felt like I was being squeezed physically. I knelt down and prayed, expressing a desire to cast my burdens at the feet of the Lord. I asked Him to carry the stress, knowing that the work was still mine to do. I was willing to work, but couldn’t work properly with the weight I was carrying in my heart. I got up and went back to work, still worried. I’d been looking for a babysitter for my three youngest children in order to attend the temple with a friend on Tuesday. Suddenly I knew who to call. I made the call, arranged everything and emailed my friend. The instant it was done my stress evaporated. My problems didn’t change, but the worry was lifted. My prayer was answered. For the rest of the day I lived the reality of Christ’s promise that “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
The second experience involved a phone call from a friend. We were giving one another mini reports on the challenges we’ve faced recently as mothers and I shared my observation that I’m stewing too much over things. She then passed along something her Dad once told her. He said that his observation had been that the people who are most successful are those who become good at changing gears. I realized I’ve been stuck in high gear emotionally and it was wearing me down.
Little did I know that within minutes of talking to her another problem would surface involving one of my children. The 24 hours immediately following required me to make a couple of difficult decisions and have some hard conversations. Her counsel about changing gears was the answer. When school was dismissed on Friday our spring break began. Within a few hours we had family arrive in town for the weekend. Nothing more can be done about the problem until school resumes. Once more I prayed for help with surrendering the stress as well as focusing on what was in front of me.
I was able to change gears and we had a wonderful weekend. My parents were here, along with my sister and her husband, my brother and his boys, and another brother and his family were in town as well. On Friday night we rented the movie Ramona & Beezus. We’d wanted to see it for months but hadn’t found time to watch it. The children enjoyed it, but I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a long, long time. It was therapeutic. It wasn’t until I was laughing uncontrollably that I realized how wound up I’d been. The emotional release was so healthy.
Saturday morning 19 of us went to the BYU Art Museum to see the Karl Bloch exhibit. I could have stayed for hours, just sitting in front of several paintings. My appreciation for Jesus Christ has grown in recent weeks, leaving many tender places in my heart. The exhibit was food for my soul and I am anxious to return again before the exhibit closes in early May.
Saturday night we took my parents and our two oldest daughters to the BYU Ballroom Dance performance. My husband and I go together every year and I was particularly happy to have my parents come. It did not disappoint. The colors, music, lights, costumes, choreography and execution were inspiring. Some of the performances moved me to tears; others made me want to dance along with them. ALL of them made me yearn for excellence in my personal life. As I watched the dancers I found myself making observations about life, movement, precision and balance. It happens to me every year. Heavenly Father always teaches me beautiful things during the show.
We’ve had late nights talking with loved ones, children thundering through the house with cousins, good-byes said. Today we had a wonderful visit with my brother, his wife and baby, and another brother who came for lunch. We went on a walk to see the lambs in a nearby pasture. We played a game of keep away with a bean bag in the back yard. We talked about both trivial and weighty matters. We were together.
Tonight I am grateful for many things. I’m grateful for my baby girl who had a minor but very painful health challenge this week. I’m grateful for an unforgettable evening with my six year old daughter spent reading her new favorite (and my old favorite) book, Miss Rumphius. I’m grateful for my supportive husband. I’m grateful for my parents who listen to everything that goes on in my life. I’m grateful for ancestors, particularly those who have gone just a few generations before me. This weekend I got to hold in my hands and read a letter written to my Grandfather by his brother in the early 1930’s. The brotherly love that was expressed touched my heart. I’m grateful for people I’ve never met whose commitment to excellence bless my life. I’m grateful for art. I’m grateful for music. I’m grateful for my brothers and sisters and their families; all of them make me want to be better.
Most of all, I’m grateful for my Savior. I’m grateful for answered prayers. And I’m grateful beyond words for two dear friends through whom the Lord met my needs. The first, who took me to the temple, and the second who shared timely wisdom with me. If I hadn’t recognized the need to change gears I might have missed all the emotional benefits of our weekend activities.
I’m headed into our week determined to downshift. I’m also going to live a balanced week. We’ll keep things neat and tidy, but I’m going to give myself a break along with the children. I’m going to work on some personal goals. And yes, I’m going to keep blogging. We’re praying for some sun (so far it’s been more like Christmas break with all the snow) but if it doesn’t shine we’ll make our own.
Have a great week!