Thursday, May 10, 2012

On not being enough

It has been a tough week.

I've felt like I'm constantly running from one thing to another, trying to cram as much as possible into every minute to be sure I'm getting it all done. Yet whenever I pause to catch my breath, I just see all the things that are still waiting to be done, to be taken care of, to be attended to, to be accomplished.

Meanwhile, my children need me. My house needs cleaning. I need to put food in the crockpot for dinner.

Last night, I felt so anxious I had trouble falling asleep (which is rare, considering we're still a little sleep deprived with night-waking, teething twins around here).

What is wrong with me?
I have a classic case of just not being enough.
There is not enough of me to stretch to cover all that I need to do.

When I think back on the week so far (and how is it possible that this is only Thursday??), I did so much. How can I possibly feel bad for what I left undone? But I do.

A quick rundown, for my own perspective:

A lovely feast for Sts. Phillip and James, last Thursday...complete with lilacs from our front yard, stuffed shells, and chocolate cupcakes from scratch at my son's request. And a new table runner and napkins, because I thought we needed some springy table linens and I felt like sewing. (And because I obviously don't have enough other things to do.)
The Bug, getting stronger every day, and making great strides toward sitting independently. I have been there to play with her every day and watch her get excited about her new perspective on the world.
Blondies, made from Auntie Belinda's recipe for The Boy's teachers. It's Teacher Appreciation Week. We appreciate The Boy's preschool and want the staff to feel loved...so I told myself I had to bake something for them in spite of how hectic things felt. (They probably would have been happy with a note, right?)
The Boy, involved from start to finish in the baking project. He watched the blondies for 30 minutes in the oven while testing various surfaces to see if magnetic letters would stick to them. It was driving me crazy, but I bit my tongue and kept quiet.
The Belle, testing out the toy piano on her own for the first time. She's gotten really good at sitting on her own. I've been in awe of how fast she's growing and changing (and grateful that I'm here to hang out with her while she does it).
The babies, big enough for a hip carry now...and two slings criss-crossed so I can wear two fussy babies at once. And The Boy, who has to be part of the action at every minute. Seriously, shouldn't this one photo of this one moment say enough about my life right now that I don't need to DO so much other stuff? I just noticed there's no hand towel on the ring by the sink.
The Boy, whose hair I cut myself during the sisters' nap time to save a trip to the salon. It saved money, too, but the logistics of getting everyone to the salon (or finding someone to watch the babies while I take him) are complicated, and the sanity I saved is really worth more than the money. 




Throw in some meals, a couple of runs (which I greatly needed and very much enjoyed), some outside play time, six loads of laundry, line drying the cloth diapers (and running out to rescue them before the rain came in yesterday), and working with The Boy yesterday to make Venus out of a styrofoam ball ("No, Mama, that isn't the right kind of orange, that's too red like Mars. You have to add more yellow paint! Now, it needs more swirly clouds...") - it has really been a full week.

Although I'm practicing gratitude for this season of all that is involved in being "at home" instead of "at work," I've realized that it is even more tempting now to fill every moment with something I think I should be doing. I have always been this way, but I think it's even worse now that I'm not working outside my home...I feel like I have to be busy with something all of the time.

It's wearing me out.

This morning, I checked e-mail briefly and found this post from my friend Linda over at burlap+blue. We were college roommates, and I love reading her perspectives on things. Seems like today we were thinking on a similar wavelength. Her post brought tears to my eyes as I suddenly realized how tired I felt.

I'm doing so much. I'm working so hard. And sometimes, I feel like what I'm doing is constantly undone...the dishes, the laundry, the various errands and chores that make up domestic life.

Yesterday, The Boy had out some paper and crayons while I was cleaning the kitchen. He came and asked for a pen to write with. ("You don't write with crayons," he said, "you color with them. I need to write.") I asked him about his work, and he said, "I'm making a list of all the things I need to get done today."

It was one of those parenting moments when I realized how I might appear to him, when I thought about what he might think of what I spend my time doing. Why wasn't I sitting with him while he colored? Because he was occupied. Therefore, I was cleaning the sink.

The thing is, our worth doesn’t come from how much we get done, and when we are constantly DOING things, we sometimes miss just BEING. 

I don't have a classic case of not being enough. I have a classic case of trying to do too much!

I have high standards. I inherited them from my father, a US Air Force major who held himself to an exceptional standard in every area and expected everyone else to do the same. I inherited them from my mom, who taught me that it isn't enough for the counter to look clean - it has to feel clean when you run your hand over it. My dad died at a young age, so if he had any flaws, no one remembers them...but my mom still holds herself to a standard of perfectionism that sometimes keeps her from being able to move forward with things (just ask her, she'll be the first to tell you!).

I expect a lot from other people, but I have an easier time forgiving them for their inevitable shortcomings than I do forgiving myself for mine. When I don't get everything done (and done pretty close to perfectly, if we're being honest), I feel guilty, like I'm letting people down.

I think this is unhealthy, and I want it to change. I don't want my children to learn this from me.

So, for a few days, I'm going to try easier instead of harder.
I'm going to stop adding things to my "to do" list.
I'm going to sit more and do less.
I'm going to quit checking my phone to see if there's something that someone else needs from me.
I'm going to let "good enough" be just that...good enough.

Dishes will probably accumulate in the sink. There might be towels left on the floor for a little longer than usual. Someone will leave toys out, clothes might go unfolded, and things might get messy. Some phone calls and texts might not get returned right away, or maybe not at all. I might miss something.

But maybe I will be able to breathe more deeply and feel less like Silly Putty that's being stretched to the breaking point. Maybe I'll smile more at my family instead of sighing exasperatedly. Maybe my son will get an extra few books read to him. Maybe my daughters will get to swing longer outside. Maybe we'll all just sit in the yard and look at what's in front of us.

Maybe I'll just wait around a bit and see what happens instead of running headlong at my life and trying to make it all happen at once.

Maybe you should try it, too. I'll let you know how it goes.