Lately I've been feeling wrung out. Exhausted. Spent. Empty. Dried up. Drained. I look at a sunset and feel tired. I sit down to write and feel tired. I am impatient with other people. Holidays make me cranky. Poetry, art, learning new things, connecting with God...they all take waaaay too much effort. I just don't have energy for such things.
At first I blamed the children. They wake up a lot at night and I just don't get enough sleep. Then I blamed my job. Too much pressure, too little paid time off. Then I blamed church. Two callings, plus three hours of church a week, suck away a lot of my time. Most recently I've blamed Abe. If that man would lift a finger to help out once in a damn while, I've thought, I would have more time to recharge my batteries.
Admittedly, all of these factors contribute to my stress. But the truth is that, at the very core, I am the source of my own stress. I am creating my own problems. And I need to change something in order for things to improve.
One of the big contributing factors is my obsession with productivity. I floss while I pee. I check my email while I talk on the phone. I plan menus and create grocery lists on one side of a computer screen while my children watch Sesame Street videos on the other. I get a little high thinking about all the things I've been able to accomplish in a day. Abe will come home on Tuesday (the day I stay home with the kids) and I'll immediately intercept him on his way down to the computer room: "Do you want to know what I did today? Do you? Do you? Huh? Huh? I cooked whole wheat pancakes for breakfast. I washed and folded (and put away!) four loads of laundry. I went grocery shopping, took the kids to the library, mopped the floors, vacuumed the carpets, cooked two nutritious meals (one for today, one for tomorrow), introduced the children to Beethoven while engaging in imaginative play, visited with both of my stay-at-home mom friends, and cleaned out the fridge! Aren't I amazing? Aren't I? Aren't I? Huh? Huh? Huh?" I despise being behind on things-- I never want to be scrambling at the last minute to do anything--but I've become so hell-bent on being ahead that not being ahead has become like being behind and I find myself scrambling anyway.
The second issue is that I have convinced myself that my children surely couldn't live for a single day without having me-- their sun! their soil! their water!-- there to nourish and guide and direct them. I feel guilty about having to leave them for thirty- six hours a week while I go to work. I feel guilty leaving them on Saturday evenings to go on a date with their father. I want desperately to be able to spend more time with them, teaching them, reading to them, crafting with them, taking them to play dates, creating structure and routine for each of their days. I do what I can, but it's never what I wish I could do. Because I'm gone much more than I would like to be, I feel compelled to spend all my non-working time lavishing the children with attention and nurture. Besides going to work, taking naps, and leaving for a weekly date with Abe, I don't go anywhere without them.
So my life is a series of identical days that go something like this: Wake up sometime between five and six a.m. with my wild little boys, who think this is a godly hour for waking. (They are wrong, of course, but try convincing them of that.) Then, from the moment they persuade me that I am not going to talk them into letting me sleep for another hour 'til the moment my head hits the pillow at 9 pm or so, I am a whirlwind of frantic activity. Cook a hot breakfast, bathe the boys, get ready for work, dress the children, play with the kids, family scriptures, family prayer, drive to work, work-work-work, come home, cook dinner, play with kids, get the kids ready for bed, family prayer, story time, admire the children, appreciate them as they are right now, enjoy them because they grow up too fast, now put them to bed, clean up house, wash dishes, fold laundry, read for ten minutes, and crash into bed. There's just not enough time! I always think. There's so much to do and just not enough time! I run around panicked all the time, terrified that I am not doing enough.
This isn't living-- it's wheel spinning. Something needs to change. I need to change. But the question is, what? And how?
I don't know for sure, but as I've pondered this question, the following thoughts have come to mind:
As the New Year approached, I found myself identifying a lot of ways in which I could improve, areas in which I could use a lot of work. I was trying to figure out an efficient way to work through them as quickly and effectively as possible. Then I had a wild, gasping, sobbing breakdown at work last week (so embarrassing), and I realized that I wouldn't be able to do anything to better myself or heal the world if I didn't slow down, remember how to breathe, and reconnect with the simple joys of life.
So that is what I am going to do. Over the next twelve months or so, I'm going to dedicate some time to exploring, writing about, and trying to weave the above concepts into my life. If you find yourself pushing yourself to go, go, go at an unhappy and unsustainable pace, I hope you will join me.
Here's to a calmer, more joyful 2012.