Don’t Invite Chaos

We’ve been having some work done on the house. Nothing dramatic, just attending to some things that were on the scale from droopy to downright non-functional. In that process we got a new toilet and vanity for the bathroom on the first floor of our house. Really glamorous topic, right? Don’t worry, it’s not going to get any earthier than this.

bathroom-clean-faucet-145512The first floor bath is a half bath, and it is the one that gets the most use by guests. The toilet in it was there when we moved in and whoever chose it must have been short. I have nothing against short people, but there are toilet height realities at work here. As some of my extended family (nearly all of whom are tall) get older, my concern about the shorty toilet grew. Rather than install a bar for guests to haul themselves up with, we got a new toilet and dumped the vanity that was there for a nicer one. Now, I measured the vanity that was in there. I chose carefully from the incredibly ridiculous number of options, but I didn’t take the depth into account, so the switch, which was supposed to be seamless, invisible, easy peasy now created a mess by exposing part of the wall that was unpainted and damaged from the old vanity. My guy took care of the damage, but he is not a paint guy so lo and behold our easy peasy switch now has another element to it.

I’ve not really been happy with the color in that room for a while. I liked it when I chose it… It happens sometimes. So, as these little changes were taking place I thought “Maybe it’s time to just repaint the sucker.” When the damaged wall appeared I thought: “Guess I’ll be doing that sooner rather than later.” When we had a break in the installation process because we were waiting on backsplash parts I thought: “I should probably do that before he comes back to finish the job.”

I mentioned this to my husband. “You’re probably right. We should do that before he comes back.” I started thinking about paint color (something we literally NEVER agree on by the way).

And then I said: “He’s coming back in four days.” Scot mumbled and then said: “Well, let’s do it this weekend.”

I pointed out that this weekend does not exist. Saturday is the date of darling daughter’s end of term violin recital. It is also the rescheduled date of darling son’s season ending soccer tournament, which may NOT end in time for all of us to make the recital. The next day features church (did I mention he’s a seminarian?), a meeting in the afternoon and plans to hear a civil rights speaker that evening. Apparently painting on the weekend meant at night or something. No thanks. That left two work days, one of which featured him being gone and the other of which featured a VERY long list of things I needed to do for my practice.

So I’m doing all of this logistical math. I can see the writing on the wall, but still there’s a part of me trying to figure out how to make it work. Maybe if I skipped that, but then I’d have to call so and so and I haven’t even chosen a color yet. I could probably go after dinner tonight and get paint. Then I could start first thing in the morning while I drink my coffee…. Seriously?

I had pretty much lost the thread. I had decided this needed to be done. I had a vague dissatisfaction with the color – not hate mind you, just vague dissatisfaction. That escalated to needing to fix it and then to needing to address it pretty much immediately by multi-tasking, maybe also talking on the phone and recording a guided meditation. Sounds perfect, right?

And all of this urgency was just because if I painted it before he came back, the finish along the edge of the backsplash would look nicer. Yep, that’s it. That’s all. A line of paint that will likely be water spattered and camouflaged by the weird crap my kids leave in there most days anyway.

I was going to intentionally make things more difficult, jam pack my schedule, reorganize my priorities, give up rest and family time for that? What happens then? Do I win some kind of award? Does my house get featured in a magazine? Can I post a picture on Facebook and have everyone ooh and ah?

I saw it all happening, all of these semi-conscious decisions to escalate, to make it better, more, now, and it wasn’t until I was very nearly about to pick up my keys to go to the hardware store at a stupid time of day to get paint (with some internal grumbling and resentment by the way) that I realized that I was inviting chaos into my life by even considering this project. I was making things more difficult for myself for a reason that I’m still not clear on. I stopped. I took a deep breath.

I went back into the bathroom and took another look. Not perfect, but better. A little work to do for sure. Five minutes later I got an e-mail from my guy letting me know my parts were in and he would be here in the morning to install them. Time was officially up.

And so his part of this project is now complete. Our part remains and as I was in there today, I took a look around. Maybe that color is okay after all. Maybe a touch up on the repaired part would be enough.

blonde-hair-brick-wall-close-up-975668I can’t say I’ll never invite chaos in again. That would be a big promise for me. But what I do want to do is to get better at seeing it, seeing the moment happen before I get too deep in, before I’ve bought the materials for that super-easy DIY or craft project so that I can just see them out of the corner of my eye as I do all of the other things I actually want to do more, before I say yes to something I don’t really want to do that will exhaust me. I want to notice the role I play in my chaos, in my scurrying, and in my own resentment making. I want to see all of these things because I HAVE learned that seeing things changes them and a little internal renovation is always a good thing.

Just Stop It

There is an SNL skit with Bob Newhart playing a psychiatrist. His method of treatment, he explains, usually only takes about five minutes. The joke is that what he does is to tell his clients to just stop it. It’s really funny, at least to me and folks who do work like mine. It’s particularly funny because there is some truth to it, as brazen and unfeeling as this approach seems. Today I want to talk about a situation where “just stop it” is really probably the best advice that I could give you.

design-desk-display-313690One of the complaints I hear the most frequently has to do with busy schedules and the amount of that time that is spent doing things that aren’t fulfilling, often for other people’s fulfillment: the scheduling, the kid ferrying, the going the extra mile at work because of someone else’s stupidity, the saying yes to every opportunity to help anyone. If I were to say: “Just stop it,” I know the look I would get. It’s that “You don’t understand. My life is not like yours. Maybe that works for you. I thought you had children. Where ARE your children?” kind of look. I couldn’t possibly understand.

And yet I do.

Because I have had a calendar like that. I have had days like that. I have had months and years like that, where nearly all of what was on my schedule was distasteful to me and was solely for the benefit of someone else. Truly I have. If you know me and you weren’t the beneficiary, that doesn’t mean this wasn’t happening. It just means you didn’t get in on the action; and just so you know, that window is closed.

If you’d asked me why I was doing all of that I would have told you it was all completely necessary. In retrospect some of it was completely necessary, but a lot of it was not. And THAT’s that discernment that would be so great to have when you’re actually in that moment, when you can’t catch your breath because you’re too busy doing all of the things.

My advice to you? Just stop it. Stop it all, at least for a day. You’ll figure out pretty quickly what’s truly necessary – like feeding children. You may also figure out that those people you are serving can do far more for themselves than you realized (hungry children are actually remarkably capable), but while that’s a great thing to learn – like a SERIOUSLY great thing to learn, even that is not my point with the Just Stop It exercise.

attractive-beautiful-blonde-1101726The point of Just Stop It is to make the yuck that’s down in there come up when you stop. When you just stop doing all of the things that you are doing to make it okay, what happens? What thoughts and feelings come to the surface?

Are you worried about what people will think of you? Are you afraid of looking like a failure? Do you need to have a super clean house to maintain some kind of parenting standard you’ve secretly bought into? Are you keeping yourself busy serving everyone else so you don’t have to figure out what YOU really want or face the fact that you don’t believe you could EVER EVER do that so it’s safer to not try? Okay, I meant to slip that last one in, but that wasn’t all that subtle, was it? My capacity for subtle is fleeting at times. Sorry (not sorry if that’s what you needed to hear).

When we just stop with the behaviors that we think are completely necessary and totally driving us crazy, we find out why we are choosing, yes choosing friends, to do them. We find out where the healing needs to happen. We find out why it’s so hard to get off the merry go round and take a breath. And when we figure out what’s under all of that activity, we can address it. We can ask questions about it: “Is that really true? Will they really think I’m a bad Mom? Do I care if they think I’m a bad Mom? Will I really get fired? Will I feel so guilty I actually can’t stand it?” We can check out that baggage and either repair the zippers or decide it’s time for a new super sleek and helpful carry-on, a new way of thinking.

attractive-beach-beautiful-1097781I so want that for you to be able to get off of that merry go round. If you think it’s not possible, I extra want it for you. Because love, I want you to breathe. I want you to breathe in the idea that there are an infinite number of ways to be in this world and that you haven’t found but a small fraction of them. I want you to breathe in the idea that nobody else really cares if you’re meeting some Pinterest perfect standard of anything. I want you to breathe in the notion that there really is a big gap between letting a few things go and having all of the wheels come off the bus in some catastrophic and irreparable way. I want you to breathe in and entertain the notion that your discomfort is trying to tell you something and that the longer you ignore it, the louder it will get. I want you to inhale the possibility that the things you want, the way you feel, and the experiences you crave really do all matter, every single one. I want you to know that you are still in there, and we would all really love to meet you.

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.