You would think that after having to abandon the same plan every time I would learn. Change the plan. Accept that the plan simply will not work. Looking at this positively you might call me an over-eager optimist or someone with ferocious tenacity. Being equally correct and slightly more honest, you might just call me stubborn, thick-skulled, and wildly off-based with reality.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about the fact that my daily mental to-do lists are all too much. I’m talking about the number of errands I believe achievable within our morning window of viable outing hours. That time between breakfast and mid-morning nap. I’m talking about how I genuinely think the night before that I can “just pop into Ikea real quick” since I’m going to be in the neighborhood and then realizing (for the umpteenth time) the next day while actually in the neighborhood that my child’s eyes are glazed over from exhaustion and hunger and if we don’t get home THIS INSTANT things are going to get real ugly real quick! There’s that old saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The actual moral of that proverb doesn’t really apply here, but the mathematics of it always reminds me of the transaction cost in taking too long during errands. For every one minute spent on errands past nap time, there will surely be double that time of cranky baby in the afternoon.
[Let’s rabbit trail here for just a minute on the LUNACY of thinking I can “just pop in” to Ikea with or without a baby. While awesome, that place is a labyrinth. An obvious tactical ploy designed by the company to trap you in and make you buy things you didn’t want to buy. Unless you know about that sneaky little door that leads to the shelving of actual merchandise down that hall you can’t actually see upon first entering the store, you will inevitably trek up the stairs to the showfloor, lose all bearings of time and space and acuteness of mind, and after a confused hour of being inspired and disoriented finally although inadvertently meander your way back downstairs to where the purchasable goods are. I try with all urgency to avoid being swept with the current up the stairs unless I am equipped with the appropriate rations of goldfish crackers and Coke to survive the journey. This means I use the hidden door behind the staircase and go straight to what I need. But I am me, so I get distracted. I wander around and look at all the cool things I don’t need and get flashes of cool ideas of things I could create, and continue to wander dazed with the same feelings of inspiration and disorientation that I was trying so earnestly to avoid upstairs. If I’m lucky I remember what I actually came for, but not always. I have much more to say about Ikea but this rabbit trail needs to end. Apparently my heart needs to dedicate an entire blog to our Swedish friend. Another Day. End Trail.]
I’m not really that surprised by myself that I keep making plans to get so much done in one round of errands and EVERY TIME abandon the over-indulgent plan to simply come home and put the little one to bed. Babies don’t have our adult problem of wanting to be overachieving perfectionists. They are much more able to acutely assess what they need in the moment and do it. Selah very adamantly lets me know when she needs another snack, a drink, a snuggle, a rest. I find that I get so gung-ho and heels down in the production of “getting things done” that I deny myself these things during the process or hold them over my head as a reward to be won at the finish line. Where did this crazy idea come from? Why as a culture do we have a need to go, go, go, accomplish, accomplish, accomplish?
Although it pains my vain pride, when I’m truthful with myself I own that I need those moments of rest each day just as much as my daughter does. It seems like the perfect time to clean the house, etc. but I usually avoid dishes and mopping during this time like the H1N1. No, I don’t always nap (although some days I slide back in between the sheets, guiltily think of my husband who NEVER gets to nap, then pray very hard that babes will take a looooong one for me). I eat chocolaty junk foods that I don’t want my toddler to eat yet. I nestle deep into the couch and read a good book. I scan the free section on craigslist looking for treasures to become my next creative project. I pray. I rest. I give myself space to just be because I’m realizing that my mental to-do list for each day is all just too much, that my expectations for achievement are completely unrealistic, and what I really need to do for myself and for my family is to stop spinning my energy in frenzied, unproductive busyness and just get still.
I’m learning that if everything doesn’t get crossed off the list at the end of the day, it’s OKAY! It apparently wasn’t what needed to happen in that day anyway.
Maybe it’s because we lived in a culture outside of the fast-paced U.S. for so many years. Maybe it’s because I’m a mom now when I wasn’t before. Maybe it’s because I’m older. Maybe it’s the amalgamation of all these named reasons and even more reasons that I don’t understand, but I can’t cram as many things into my days as I did before. It’s too much. Trying leaves me physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, apathetic and out of touch with life, and not to mention spiritually dry. That’s NOT the way I want to spend my days! I’m sure it isn’t your life goal either.
I hope you’ll take a moment to be still today. I hope you won’t mentally berate yourself for not getting x,y, and z done. I hope you’ll feed your soul today and bravely declare that the plan was not only unrealistic but unnecessary and unaligned with the needs of the day. I hope you’ll be bravely counter-cultural and ask yourself why you’re trying so hard to do too much. I hope you’ll rest.
I will most likely think I can add a quick trip to Ikea, Costco, Target, fill-in-the-blank with any number of stores here, again the next time we are out. And I will assuredly remember and realize why that just isn’t possible once we’re in the reality of errands. But hopefully I will feel less like a failure and more like a good mother when I pull into the driveway and take us inside to rest and nourish our weary souls.