I have tried in vain for years to prioritize my life. I pursue interests and ideals with an almost manic passion. But like any mania, the fall from the mounting anticipation and excitement is almost always depression, exhaustion, and the cry of the perpetually overwhelmed. It all seems worthy of my attention and energy. I am an eager volunteer joining ranks with all the other overcommitted moms who struggle with the list that never gets done and the constant feeling of being one step behind.
In the past years we have moved from one overwhelming list of chaos to the next. Life always seems to get in the way. I anticipate the next break, the slight let-up in the schedule of the hectic and the possibility to finally achieve that level of productivity that would allow me to check the boxes on my life’s to do list. It never comes.
And here is why. Life does indeed get in the way.
I have a graveyard of schedules that have died a brutal death. They are no match for sick children, travels, late nights at friends, days that stretch beyond the limits of the boxes filled with what I should be able to accomplish in 24 hours. What I should be able to accomplish during our school time if not for a particularly hard math lesson, extra fascination with the Reformation and a desire to delve deeper, or a toddler who happened to find an unguarded bottle of lotion and moisturized the carpet. We can never seem to make life fit into the small squares between waking and bedtime.
In stark contrast to the rigidity and mocking nature of schedules, I have come to prefer routines. A schedule is made to fail because it runs on the premise that everything can fit into little chunks of prepackaged time. A routine is a fluid breathable thing. It remains flexible when you can’t find the car keys, your two-year old decides to throw a fit after nap time, or it takes longer to get school started because your child’s math book is mysteriously missing. It gives a sense of structure but not the confines of it. It helps the children develop a rhythm to the days but not the prodding of a drill sergeant who is marching everyone on to the next task.
I have had to severely limit what I hope to accomplish at this period in my life. This is where it helps to take a vote. Josh and I have discussed my many pressures and priorities and decided that while some may be worthwhile, they are not in any way realistic in this season. It’s not so much the lowering of my overall ideals as it is the systematic weeding out of the unnecessary. Allowing some things to be good enough for now and for other things to be completely thrown out.
I went to a meeting the other night for a organization similar to girl scouts. It is in the process of being chartered here and I was interested for Kaia. There were spots that needed to be filled to make it work. The first roles mentioned were for a treasurer or troop organizer and as I have no affinity for either, I sat and listened. But I am almost always stirred when teaching positions come up. I sat with my hands in my lap and resisted the urge to fill a need that I knew I was capable of doing well. I resisted it because it’s not right for me in this season.
I knew that if I lifted my hand, my sister-in-law would’ve looked over at me like I had just jumped up and said, “Yes! Please sign me up for a nervous breakdown!” She knows what my priorities and routines are like and she would’ve had to slap my hand down like a naughty child reaching for candy. Good friends can do that. They can allow you the out you need to choose to say no to the demands that seem so worthwhile. The burden that is not yours to carry.
- Develop open relationships with trusted friends and family. Share what you want to accomplish, where you are falling short, and ask for feedback. Having a safe place where you get an alternate vote on the shoulds and coulds in your life is invaluable in chipping away at the excess.
- Do a priority dump. Pray about it. Consult the voting members of your life.
- Make a mission statement for this season. It may be for the school year or maybe you can only manage a month at a time. Limit the statement to the top 4 or 5 most essential things. I know everything seems important but if you could only focus on a few which are the ones that can’t be crossed off your list.
- Now write everything down that is part of your current routine.
- Write down all of the things that suck the time out of your day. ALL of it. No matter how miniscule. No matter how monumental.
- If it doesn’t fit under one of the main elements in your mission statement, consider axing it completely.
- If it can’t be cut, consider ways to be satisfied with the good enough for now. There will be other seasons in life and time to focus on different things. Be fully commited to the now. The things God has put on your plate.
I am in process of reducing. Being stripped. It’s what God is doing this season.
My mission statement has four basic elements in this season.
This is not our overall life mission statement but it does align under it.
- I want to educate my children.
- I want to deepen my walk with God
- I want to take care of my health
- I want to break out of my comfort zones and bad habits and embrace who God has made me to be
That’s it. Four things. If it doesn’t fall within those categories, I will probably decline. I will cross it off of my list. It isn’t a priority now.
In my following posts, I will be fleshing out what each of these missions looks like for us in this season.
I’d love to hear what areas are your main focus for this season in your life and how you decided on them. Do you have voting members in your life?
Coming tomorrow: I want to educate my children: Does that mean I have to teach them stuff?