I started this a few days ago, not realizing how long and how labor intensive writing this post was going to be. Instead of holding on to it until I’ve finished the entire list I decided to post it in parts.
Everyone has had one of those days, where nothing you do seems to be the right thing, where you can’t find any relief from the mental or physical weight of your stresses. We have been having one of those days for the past ten or more days in this household. It’s nothing and it’s everything all at once. Nothing that’s been happening (or not happening as the case may be) is of life or death importance, it’s all little things, but it’s the cumulative weight of all of those little things that can send you over the edge. After all, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back, not the other assorted items the camel was already carrying.
Anyway, I’ve decided to make a list of ten things that I can do or can work on in order to regain some control over my situation, to relax, to carve out some much-needed “me” time and to not feel guilty when I take said “me” time. Without further ado, my list:
1. Stop reading shelter blogs and DIY blogs
This is going to be hard for me but a very important step. We are in the middle of renovating a house and it’s taking much, much longer than I originally thought it was going to. (To give you an idea as to what’s been going on over there, I started packing over the summer in anticipation of our move. I packed up all my socks and sweaters, things I didn’t need on our 10th day in a row of 100+ degree temperatures. It’s now November and I’m without socks or sweaters to wear but damned if I’m going to go to that new house and bring a pair of socks or a sweater back to the old house with me.) Anyway, my point is when I read the shelter blogs and the DIY blogs I want to keep up with the Joneses: I want my house to look like the ones I see on the blogs. I want to be able to decorate my home for every season and every holiday known to man including Flag Day and Mexican Independence Day, never mind that no one in my family is of Mexican heritage. When in all reality, I have no desire (nor the means) to live in a museum with thousands of dollars worth of furnishings nor do I have any desire to decoupage place cards with handmade paper for each person’s place setting that also match my tablescape I spent as much time working on as the meal I made from produce I grew myself.
2. Get more sleep
This one is so high up on the list in its importance I would have it tied for number one if I could figure out how to format my list that way. If I had gotten more sleep I bet I could figure it out. Little F has been a terror the past couple weeks. He’ll go to sleep just fine but then wake up and keep waking up. He wants to nurse and at this time I can’t tell if it’s a want or a need. A few nights ago Little F woke up about two hours after he went to bed, which is normal for him, and I went in and nursed him. He woke up about five minutes later and wanted to be nursed again. I didn’t nurse him since I had just done so and he cried, tossed and turned, cried, screamed, yelled, kicked and punched, then cried some more. Finally after an hour of that Big E and I went out to the couch and I nursed Little F out there, then we all came back to bed. I was hoping that I could break the association of nursing in bed with sleep. Well, we came back to bed and Little F was up for the next hour and a half, playing, crawling, patting us, patting the wall, whatever he could do to avoid sleep. The next morning I woke up late, Little F woke up with big dark circles under his eyes, and we were all late for work and school. As far as I can tell he’s not teething and isn’t sick. Sleep has never been our strong parenting point, but it’s not been this bad since he was a newborn.
3. One day at a time
Like any good recovering addict could tell you, take it one day at a time. (I am not a recovering addict but my dad has over 40 years of sobriety, my BFF has almost three-and-a-half, and another very good childhood friend has a little over two years. I’m no stranger to the philosophies of AA.) This is how I need to learn to look at things big and small. This is going to be difficult as Big E is a big-picture person and I’m a… well, I’m not sure what kind of person I am. Not a forward thinker or a futurist, I guess I tend to get caught up in the little details. And then the little details become the whole thing and I get overwhelmed. What’s the saying, can’t see the forest for the trees? That’s me. Big E, he can’t see the trees for the forest. The trick will be finding a way our two world views can work together. Which segues nicely to my next item:
4. Use your strengths
I’m enrolled in a leadership program through the University of Kansas. We meet twice a month and have gone over several different topics ranging from conflict resolution to networking to generations in the workplace. My favorite topic by far has been the strengths finder aptitude test. In a nutshell, we all received a code to take an online test. This wasn’t the standard Myers-Briggs personality test, this was a fast, gut instinct quiz that timed you out of your answer if you hadn’t made a choice after twenty seconds. The results were spot on in most cases, and not just for me. When we discussed it in class most people felt they were accurately represented. My strengths were: adaptability, harmony, input, empathy, and developer in that order. I’m heavy on the soft skills, not quite as heavy on the real-life skills as I call them. (I know, I know, it can be argued that the soft skills are what can make or break you in a professional or personal way and anyone can learn technical skills but soft skills can’t be taught.) My point is I need to bring some of those soft skills home with me and not leave them at the office. I need to have them in my arsenal 24/7 not just from 8-5.
5. Acknowledge which events are cyclical and which are one time only commitments
Glancing at my Outlook calendar for the month of October, I had four working days that I did not have a meeting, presentation, or other type of commitment pre-scheduled. When you add in Big E’s work obligations you get even more days where our days are a blur. If you add on to that all of our outside obligations, it’s no wonder I feel like I’m drowning and don’t have any time with my family or for myself. This month has seen after hour board meetings, birthday dinners, going away parties, dinners with those about to depart, etc. Some of these things are cyclical; they’ll happen every month, every quarter, what have you and you can plan for them. Others, like the going away parties and dinners, are one time only commitments. These are ones we can’t back out of and need to be present for. We need to be present for all of them, but especially these and we’ve had quite a few commitments in this category over the past couple months. When you also add taking care of a toddler and renovating a 2500 square foot house into the mix and it’s no wonder I reached my breaking point last weekend. Looking back at how many of the events that either kept us from each other or kept us from the house and realizing how many were one time only events helps me understand that a) we didn’t really have a choice but to be a part of those events and b) we need to work on scheduling the cyclical events a little better if at all possible.
6.Lower your standards
By this I mean I need to loosen up a bit. I joked in the first item on this list about making a meal from produce I grew myself, and that part is actually a goal of mine. Someday. In the meantime I need to be okay with cooking a box of mac-n-cheese along with some frozen peas and calling it dinner. I need to be okay with the fact that when Big E does the laundry he may not do it the way I want it done, but it gets done. I need to be okay with Big E dressing Little F in the morning, even if after checking the weather forecast Little F goes to school wearing a long-sleeved shirt when it’s 78 degrees out and a short-sleeved shirt when it’s 45 degrees. On second thought, maybe I still need to lay out Little F’s clothes the night before.