The To-Do Trap!
You might have noticed I've been rather remiss in terms of blogging in the last month. This is for a couple of reasons [well, excuses]. The most important one is that lately, I have struggled with the paralysis that comes with perpetually feeling "behind." Behind on dishes. Behind on vacuuming. Behind on doing all of the mom things that my Pinterest boards tell me I should be doing. The laundry isn't folded. The sink is full. I've struggled with the fact that mothering two tiny creatures can be all-consuming in terms of my time, energy, and sanity.
Most people who know me know that I love making to-do lists! I love that accomplished feeling that rushes through your soul (maybe this is just me...) when every box is checked off at the end of the day. Lately it feels as if my to-do list continues to grow exponentially while my ability to complete tasks is ever diminishing due to interrupted sleep and an incredibly needy infant. Have you ever felt this way?? I keep thinking to myself: I should be better than this. Why can't I catch-up?
I have never been able to escape that strangely terrifying image from elementary school biology when I learned about the venus fly trap. I've begun to occasionally feel like that tragic housefly landing on a benign leaf that has abruptly turned into monster-like jaws. (Seriously, how disturbing is that plant?) In my case, the jaws are made out of all items in my planner at the end of the day left undone.
Through a period of reflection, I realized that I am not trapped by all of my unfinished tasks. I am just stuck in the wrong perspective. Instead of lamenting over a list full of unchecked boxes, I need to spend a few moments at the end of the day focusing on what I accomplished. I've decided to call this mental exercise my "Ta-Da!! List"
A few nights into making "Ta-da!!" lists made me remember a conversation between my husband and me. We were discussing plans for a weekend that was coming up and deciding about whether we would have the time to go apple-picking. He needed to mow the lawn, the house was a wreck, the kiddos were almost out of clothes due to piles of laundry, but we decided memories were more important than crossing the chores off our lists. This concept seems so obvious in retrospect. However, I still consistently need to reorient my days to reflect it.
I confess that I do like a tidy house. If the housework-type tasks pile up, I start to feel cranky and out-of-control. This isn't a post about how "good moms have messy houses" or any of those types of judgments. I'm not at all denigrating the days that end with laundry baskets full of folded clothes and your hands smelling vaguely of cleaning supplies, and the cabinets full of clean dishes. All I have learned recently is that I need to keep those pesky other days in proper perspective.
Tonight as I write this, I'm sitting in a house with laundry half-folded on the coffee table, a sink full of dirty dishes, towels are on the bathroom floor, my bed is unmade, the contents of the diaper bag are strewn about the mudroom, and the carpet is full of dog hair. When I look at everything with the "Ta-Da!!" mentality, I realize that the laundry is half-folded because my beautiful baby boy wanted to nurse and snuggle for a while this afternoon. The sink is full because my little girl, my husband, and I decided to make pumpkin bread together as a family after her nap. My bed is unmade because I took a much needed 45 minute rest time when both kiddos were napping. Towels are on the bathroom floor because I rushed to shower after getting a Body Back Boost workout in at 7am this morning. The diaper bag stuff is strewn about because we got everything together quickly to go to the pumpkin patch. The carpet is full of dog hair because...well no vaguely sentimental excuses here, I just really need to vacuum more often.
Overall, I'm simply changing the metric for measuring success for a day or a weekend. Instead of looking at unchecked boxes and feeling "behind" at the end of every crazy day. I look at everything I did and realize that life is a journey not a race. Each day is a twenty-four hour hike full of surprising scenic overlooks, spontaneous detours, unsuccessful short cuts, and probably a few dead ends. There is never a real reason to feel like I'm rushing towards an invisible arbitrary finish line.
LM Montgomery penned one of my favorite lines ever in literature:
"Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?"
I feel a lot of kinship with Anne of Green Gables, the fellow clumsy and often discombobulated redhead, who spoke these words in the novel. A tomorrow comes with all of the promise and potential this beautiful life has to offer. Sometimes in order to prepare our busy hearts for a new day we need to face it thinking "Ta-da!" not just "To-do."
I hope your tomorrow is a bright one!