When You See the Cracks

This is the first week of summer break for my kids. So far things have been going pretty well. They’ve had volleyball camp for a couple of hours every morning and my husband had been doing pretty much ALL of the domestic heavy lifting in preparation for an upcoming absence. So, yeah, so far so good for me. No need to work out that balance when everyone else is doing the work.

adorable-animal-basket-167700Well, as luck would have it by the time he left my kids had worn themselves out staying up giggling (which they thought we couldn’t hear). I had worn myself out trying to get a bunch of stuff done in the evening. Even the dog seems tired. And we all know what a tired family means. Just in case it’s been a while for you, there’s a whole lot of grumpiness. In my case there’s a lack of good sense. I just don’t think as clearly when I’m tired and as a result everything seems to take longer. I make mistakes. And I’m not very nice about how all of that goes down.

Sounds like good old-fashioned summer fun, right?

I have a distinct recollection of my mother opening the door and telling us to come home when we got hungry.

We don’t roll that way as a culture anymore, and I’m not sure we’re better for that change, but that is a whole separate post.

I wanted to tell you about this moment I had today, in my fog and stupidity (don’t worry, I’m not berating myself, it’s temporary and totally sleep related).

It was when we got to the orthodontist’s office.

Back Story: I had always handled the visits to the orthodontist for my son. When my seminarian left his day job and I started working a lot more, we enacted a shuffling of the domestic realms of responsibility. Kid teeth responsibilities were part of that shift.

I’ve talked before about the importance of me acknowledging that running the household with all of its various parts and responsibilities is no small feat and I had a good long run at it. My efficiency rating, not my aesthetic rating mind you, was pretty darned high. I had several years to get good at all of it.

The reshuffle has caused some bumps in the road as has the further offloading of some responsibilities onto our growing kids. There have been several moments where I’ve had to put my standards, my expectations, and my even my desires in check because things just aren’t going to work that way. Please understand that I don’t say any of that as condemnation. We’ve got a lot of moving parts and in some ways dividing them up instead of having me as the domestic dictator makes things harder. Decision-making is less centralized. Scheduling requires more communication in less time. Keeping the larder stocked for all of the different kinds of cooking happening causes a level of inefficiency that makes my little teutonic soul cringe a little.

We’ve had some problems scheduling this particular orthodontist appointment. It had to be cancelled for one thing. It had to be rescheduled because of a traffic jam. It got so bad that the doctor called to see if we were actually going to bring him in. I admit I was a little embarrassed about that. I went ahead and scheduled an appointment. They slipped us in quickly, and today in the middle of a whole slew of prep for an out of town trip, we breezed in, on time, and as we were walking in my son said: “I forgot my retainer.”

I stopped in my tracks, right there in the parking lot. Mostly because I needed to take some deep breaths in order to not yell at him. It’s possible that a quiet “Damnit” slipped out under my breath. We went into the office anyway, just to confirm that there was absolutely no point in proceeding, which I knew but thought we’d check.

As we drove to our next of several thousand errands, I looked around at the lay of the family land and I’m seeing a few places like this, where the train is off the rails a bit, where we’re not quite making connections. Things are falling through the cracks.

A couple of years ago this whole set of observations would have created a shame spiral. I would have been furious with my husband for screwing it all up in the first place. I would have been furious for my kid for leaving his retainer at home. And all of that anger would have been a cover for feeling like a bad Mom, like somebody who couldn’t keep things together, like a failure.

Those of you who finished your intense parenting phase before social media might remember some pressure to get it all right, but I’m telling you June Cleaver and Carole Brady have nothing on Pinterest and the blogosphere full of amazing ways to make your family’s life enriching, engaging, and picture perfect. The comparisonitis that can develop when you’re tired or unhappy or unfulfilled or desperate to be good at something is pretty intense. And I felt a lot of that pressure.

boys-childhood-children-51349Today was a little different. Today I saw the gaps. I saw where our transition is not going very smoothly. I saw my part in that. I also saw other people’s parts but immediately saw them as learning curves rather than deficiencies. I also saw the grace we gained by allowing those gaps, the extra minutes spent reading, or sleeping, or NOT obsessively planning.

And so I sit here in this moment, really tired, but more than a little proud. I am proud of the work I’ve done to feel better about myself and my choices. I am proud of the shifts we are all making to grow and learn together. I am astonished by the changes we’ve made and am so delighted to be able to see our collective progress even in the moments when I’d really like to just rewind the clock a few minutes to retrieve an orthodontic appliance.

How to Get Out of Overwhelm

Even When You Have to Do It ALL…

You have so much to do, a really big list, and it all feels important and then it happens.

You shut down.

Your brain refuses. Your body refuses. You can’t even imagine what you should do next.

when you have to do everythingIt’s overhwhelm. The big cloud of too much-ness that cuts us off from our intentions and keeps us from getting things done, and usually makes us feel like crap about that. Yep, overwhelm.

Here’s a secret about overwhelm, though. It’s really just a cloak. It’s a shield. It’s a protective device.

And just saying that makes it seem a little different, doesn’t it? Like so many of our thoughts and feelings, overwhelm is just trying to keep us safe. If we can loosen it a little, we may find that we don’t need all of that protection.

So how do we get out of it, without dumping all of our responsibilities (even if that’s what we’d most like to do)?

I’ve got some pretty simple (notice I didn’t say easy) suggestions on that front.

1) Check in with how you feel about that list of things you have to do. Many times overwhelm is your brain’s way of protecting you from becoming angry, afraid, or my personal favorite when it comes to domestic responsibilities, resentful. I don’t like thinking I have to do everything. It gets me all jammed up. Makes things feel unfair, makes me feel like a drudge. When I am overwhelmed, I don’t have to really feel those things – they just percolate gently in the background instead of coming to a full boil.

Overwhelm often protects us from fear as well. When we have a list that will help us make progress on a big project or includes some risks, steps forward, new territory our fear shuts that stuff down. Nope, we’re going to be overwhelmed instead of afraid because afraid – afraid sucks. No thanks.

Ask yourself if there’s a feeling you might be avoiding by being overwhelmed. If you can admit how you feel and maybe feel it just a little, the fog may lift.

2) Check in with what you think about that list of things you have to do. Sometimes our thoughts make forward motion simply impossible. Let me give you a couple of examples of thoughts that might spur overwhelm:

  • I have to get all of this done today – the trick about this one is that there’s usually a second half to it about what it means if you don’t – some version of you’re no good.
  • I have to do all of this perfectly.
  • Nobody else does anything around here.
  • I’m the only one who can handle this stuff.
  • Sure would be nice to have 5 minutes to myself.

All of these thoughts (and others) signal to your brain that you need a break, that the list is not possible, that it would be dangerous to try to complete it (because if it’s not perfect you’re screwed or whatever). So you brain complies with a nice bit of fog. There, break granted. If you can find the thought that’s making the list too awful to do and face it, the fog may lift.

your brain needs a break3) Create your own break. I know, I know! When you are overwhelmed by everything you need to do, the last thing you think you can do is take a break, but let’s be honest, when you are overwhelmed you’re not getting anything done anyway, right? Why not give your brain what it’s asking for, a break? How you do that depends a lot on what feels like a real break for you, but I can make some suggestions to get you started, in case you are wrapped in brain fog at this very minute:

  • Take a short walk outside. The fresh air, the movement, the nature will all help release that fog and help you get some clarity on where to dig in.
  • If you are a meditator, do that even if it’s just for five minutes.
  • If you aren’t, make yourself a cup of your favorite warm beverage and sit somewhere pleasant and just drink it for five minutes. Don’t do anything else. Just drink your drink, look around and take some deep breaths.
  • If you suspect that what you really are is tired and there’s any way to take a power nap, do that. If you can’t, try my favorite trick and set a timer for 15-30 minutes, put your feet up and close your eyes. Trust that the timer will let you know when your time is up.

Giving yourself that time may be all your brain needs to release that fog for you.

Once the fog is gone, you can consider what’s on your list, but I won’t suggest that you edit it because I promised from the start I wouldn’t argue with you about whether or not you really have to do it all…

But do you?

So Much Love,

julia

The Crazy Weekend Problem

Woman take a rest from hiking on the rockOccasionally I am reminded by fellow coaches that rest is a critical part of the process of growing and running a coaching enterprise. They remind me that “just being” and having time to “just be” is fundamentally necessary. What I don’t tell them is that it’s hilarious that they are reminding me of this because if they had seen me a few years ago they’d realize that my current schedule is SUPER restful and full of “just being” compared to my former life. I agree with them and continue to strive for even more rest and time to be, and then we get to the weekend.

This past weekend that involved sitting in a high school cafeteria with about 200 other parents and elementary and middle school students who are all participating in Destination Imagination (a very cool competition for kids). I was there ALL day. It was really, really, really noisy. It was full to the brim with energy. It was, in no way that was natural and easy for me personally, restful.

I was reminded in that moment of the importance of not defining my “rest” time according to the factory’s schedule. This notion that my rest time or my time to just be should happen on the weekend is both unrealistic and kind of mean. It has a 1950s suburban feel to it this idea – some sort of weird fantasy that never really was in all likelihood: the idea that Saturday would come and the kids would be playing in some creative and wholesome way, the house would be magically spotless and at some points friends may join us for a cookout (someone else would bring the food that requires effort), and we’d all play cards and drink weird cocktails. Yeah, it doesn’t really work for me either, but that idea is there, that the weekend is magic that is supposed to make up for everything else.

A few thoughts occur to me about this little fantasy:

  1. I could consciously make that Saturday happen.
  2. I could decide that that fantasy is not what weekends are for.
  3. I could decide that “just being” or resting once a week or only on the weekends is not a nice way to treat myself.

I am partial to number 3. I like it because it takes the pressure off of the weekend and for a family that includes a soon-to-be minister, a coach who hosts personal development events, and kids who like to participate in things that happen on the weekends, maybe taking the pressure off of what the weekend should do for us is restful in and of itself.

pexels-photo-321576-2What that means though, taking that pressure off of the weekend, is that I need to be extra conscious about building that time into my days – maybe even my everyday – in chunks of time that are workable. Maybe I could even do this in ways that I make known to my tribe or my colleagues so that they can treat that time as sacred. “Mommy is meditating; shhhh.” “Oh, she always takes a walk during lunch on Thursdays; she’ll be back in the office by 1.”

This has been my approach and I carry it out through a series of practices that I’m still cultivating, but I’ll share in case you need a few ideas.

  1. I keep a dream journal. When I wake up I try to write down what I remember about any dreams that I had in the night. This allows me to wake up a little more slowly and to forge a little connection to what’s going on in my brain while I’m not paying attention.
  2. I take a few moments for quiet reflection or prayer in the morning, sometimes before anything else, but on school days more often after the kid hustle and before my own. I sometimes write after this if something comes to me.
  3. When I feel stuck or overwhelmed or really anything that’s getting in my way, I write it all down. Yes, that’s a lot of writing because I write. Your practices could be something that works for YOU.
  4. Meditation. If you don’t like that word, follow my friend Martha Beck’s advice and just find a sit spot, a place you can be for a few minutes and notice what’s around you.
  5. I try to choose (at least some of the time) activities that don’t feel like they block out everything else as much as TV or social media can in the evening, activities that make me feel refreshed or satisfied in a way that digital entertainment sometimes fails to do for me, like reading or working on some music.
  6. I take daily walks with my dog.
  7. I keep regular appointments for self-care.
  8. I am honest when I am sick and really honor that by taking excellent care of myself.

I try to build that rest in all of the time, but I still sometimes crave it on a Saturday when I’m scheduled for a big, loud, crowded activity. What can I do then? I’ve found three strategies that are particularly helpful:

  1. closing my eyes for a second and taking a DEEP breath – letting all of the noise sort of become one background noise, a hum. Remembering to take care of my needs.
  2. engaging fully in what’s going on. I sometimes resist the energy level and the noise and it just makes me more uncomfortable. When I can find a way to engage WITH it, I tend to feel better and more satisfied.
  3. finding a way to take a break. When the kids at our competition got to the Dance Party in the gym part of the day, I lasted about 10 minutes before I requested the car keys from my husband and went to take a nap until the awards ceremony. It was delicious. The other Moms who were there solo simply asked one another to keep watch while they took short breaks. And nobody minded. We ALL needed a little time.

Processed with VSCO with e5 presetWhat are you asking of your weekend? Are you saving up all of your self-kindness for Saturday only to find that Saturday’s schedule is grueling? Maybe it’s time to adjust your thinking AND your calendar. I think you deserve to feel better a little more often, don’t you?

If the answer is yes, but you can’t imagine how you could possibly have enough time for that, check out my free mini book: 10 Ways to Make Time. It’s got all of my favorite and personally tested strategies for finding more time for the life you actually WANT to live.