For those who don’t already know this, I’m a real sucker for alliteration… My brain tends to makes sense of connecting things and the (what I’d personally like to think) Sherlock Holmes part of me is able to make patterns from that which can appear to be disassociated.
So, very naturally, the title of this particular post is collectively a current list of my mental preoccupancy. And, though the three together could seem disconnected, I will explain to you how they indeed are not.
The month of May is an indescribably overwhelming, wonderful, and crazy month for my family nearly every year. It has been this way for several years, and I have come to expect that it will always be this way. (I suspect this is the case for many of you!) This year it was a collision of five immediate family birthdays, family gatherings, Pascha, welcoming a brand new niece, and several additional events worthy of celebration including a couple baby showers (for said new niece), one of which was the largest undertaking I’ve ever collaborated in organizing to date – very worthy of the effort involved, and I was so glad it pulled off as well as it did!
And in all of this everly excitement, the state of my house remained in a state of super subpar survival. With no dishwasher (as of then – it is currently a new addition to our kitchen and fully functional!! Glory Hallelujah!), entirely too much laundry, no energy to power through the necessary chores, and barely enough willpower to drag myself to the store to buy essential sustainance, I have arrived at the thought that May might just have happened with or without me.
And now it is 3/4 over and I am left to catch my breath from the beginning part of May, feeling overwhelmed surveying all the scattered puzzle pieces of the metaphorical 4500 piece puzzle I have to put together to get life moving the way it was before. I feel entirely out of control in nearly every aspect of, well, everything. Which, I suppose, is not the most unhealthy thing in the world. It is a very humbling and realistic place to find oneself. Realizing you are, in fact, not in control of all of your Life is a good, good thing.
Because, I’m finding, in that place of Overwhelm, you have to stop. You just absolutely must. In order to figure out how to get back in Control, (because being Out of Control is such an uncomfortable feeling to us humans, no matter how healthy it is for us, which means we feel consequently driven to do whatever it takes to get back in Control) the natural progression demands that one stops, pauses, and (hopefully) takes a moment to reflect on why the state of Out of Control came to be the way it currently is.
I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly a solution seeker when it comes to discovering that I’m in a state of Out of Control. I want to make a plan to get back in Control, to fix the problem, to make new habits and to take measures that will ensure that it doesn’t happen again. These are well meaning intentions of course, but then my personal nature gets involved in the mix and then you have a highly inconsistent (but incredibly inspired) person, driven to start All the New Habits that will fix everything at once, all at once, and you get a classic, vamped up Crash and Burn.
I cannot emphasize to you enough how often this is the case with me. It appears to be an inevitable pattern in my life, truly, no matter how aware of it I am, no matter what precautions I take when adopting said New Habits.
And yet, this knowledge does nothing to stop me from continuing trying. Einstein says trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. And I, for one, am determined to not be insane. It is of unfortunate importance to me to appear “to have it all together,” whether I do or not.
So my approach in establishing new habits with the intent of getting back in Control is a tentative one this time. I am getting to know myself a little better bit by bit, and by now, I certainly know that I, Natalie, suffer from the initial twitterpation of doing lots of new things all at once. Especially when I believe that doing so will make all the current problems or roadblocks melt away. An easy fix, if you will. A super solution. And it’s exciting at first, doing new things. So naturally, the idea behind doing it all at once is to experience as much excitement as possible!
But now that I am aware of this tendency of mine, I realize that things worth doing are most often things that take time. And I believe that building new habits are probably no different. Habits that will stick, habits I want to become a part of me for the rest of my days, are not going to initially feel easy, nor will the excitement of trying them out last long term.
I find myself recalling an applicable analogy my Dad shared with me a while ago – his observations on the differences between weeds and tree saplings. He said he noticed two directly opposing characteristics about each:
The stem of a weed is hollow and a weed grows very quickly, whereas a tree sapling stem is solid and takes longer to grow.
Slowly formed habits are like the tree saplings. It is worth the time they require to let them take root in one’s lifestyle. In contrast, habits that are adopted too many at a time or too hastily are like the weeds.
Slowly formed habits will be the ones that will test my belief in them as I am forced to choose over and over again that I truly do want to make each said habit a change in the way that I previously did things. And most likely these new habits will require something from me – change, sweat, effort of some form. If the change demanded of me goes against my nature, so much more will my innate tendency rise up to challenge the establishment of that habit.
So I have to want it. I have to want it more than I have before if any new habit is to fully take root. And much more, I have to go into this conscientiously in order for these habits to stick. Accountability, prayer, and a thought out and realistic (key word there) plan are my supports.
For right now, the habits I most dearly wish to make are namely these –
- To wake up each morning right. For me, this means beginning my day with my husband, before children are awake, starting it off with prayer and a wholesome means of filling my soul, which will center and direct my day ahead of me. Rather than keeping on doing what has been happening, which is that the day just happens to me…
- To get into a daily routine wherein I accomplish what needs to be accomplished when it needs to be accomplished. Time for my personal betterment and nourishment, homeschooling, housework, serving needs attentively. (Not in that order…Ha.)
- To make a habit of minimalizing a bit each day. My knee-jerk reaction to discovering I’m in the depths of Out of Control is get-rid-of-all-the-things!! Now! I am learning that in order to, hem, keep order, it must happen through a system of gradual, daily maintainence. My hope is that I can come up with a plan and benchmark goals to get there.
Which connects with the second word in the title of this post –
I grew up doing most of my chores every Saturday, with a few sprinkled throughout the week (making my bed and brushing teeth were an every day affair, no worries). And I’m finding that now, as the housewife of a little six-person family, sustaining that trained habit is just not feasible. It will not work any more. The biggest challenge for me has been namely laundry, and reschooling myself from the doing a load on an as-needs basis to a load-a-day-no-matter-what kind of habit.
I lack all consistency in this wretched task. I’ll be dedicated for a couple weeks in a row at best and then the weekend happens or something that takes me away from the house, and the delicate and wobbly habit is back on default, which means the laundry sits until I remember it’s Sunday the next day and the boys don’t have any clean dress pants. (Really, no joke.)
And my bathrooms…. I don’t know if I have the courage to risk the embarrassment I’ll feel if I go into that truthfully. Let’s not. You have a good imagination.
As for dusting. What?
Mopping – I need a good mop. Then I’ll be good at it.
Vacuuming and sweeping and keeping the kitchen and common area space clean and tidy are pretty much the only household chores I consider myself good at and capable of keeping in order. Again, I have a small house. And I’m a stay-at-home mama (with four kids age five and under). This should be no trouble at all for me, right?
But no matter how easy it *should* be, most days it simply isn’t. And that’s because these are not everyday habits for me. So when these particular household tasks need doing, it is because they have been building up and sitting over a period of time where I haven’t been keeping up with them, which makes it so, so much harder to summon the self-discipline to plow through them and gittum done.
So for me, the housework issue is so much more than merely that. It is a matter of self-discipline. Something I practice much less than I think I do. And forming habits to develop that wonderful and fruitful virtue will greatly help my housework habits.
It is so very easy to guilt myself over everything I don’t do. And sometimes so much so that it sends me plummeting down the spiral of Funk, wherein I forget all good things and become entirely absorbed in the Overwhelm of all the tasks I have to do that I “don’t have energy to do.”
GROW UP, WOMAN.
Again, self-discipline. Nobody ever has energy or desire to do work they don’t like doing. But side by side with manning up to the task at hand and plum doing it because it’s gotta be done, there is something to be said for giving oneself a little grace. Not so much so that you let yourself off the hook and pump yourself up for doing nothing for the sake of feeling better about yourself, but rather the kind of grace that gives room to healing from the brokenness that perpetuates this temporary state of life. The kind of grace that lets you take a breather, regroup and summon the gumption to follow through with your work and reap the reward of seeing it done. The kind of grace that sheds light on all that you DO do, as opposed to what you don’t. The kind of grace that allows you to heal by remembering that in this human state, brokenness abides, no matter how perfect you may want to be.
Because, again, it is so very uncomfortable a place to find oneself in, that place of Out of Control. The funk of “I can’t” or “I don’t want to, yet I must.” But instead of willing this brokenness to stop existing, I’m going to try beginning to expect it. Not in a cynical sort of way. Not in a surrendering, giving up kind of way either. In a realistic, proactive way. Because if I expect that I will find myself in the place of Out of Control from time to time, I can accept (for lack of a more specific word,) it and come up with a plan to get out of it when it inevitably happens to me again. We all get worn down and worn out. There is no avoiding it. So instead of getting surprised and angry about the fact that it has happened once again, it’s time to do something about it and make sure I’m ready for it next time.
And in allowing for that grace to work, healing will happen as the more I train myself to keep a disciplined lifestyle, I learn to live (and love!) a fuller, more fruitful life.
I’ll let you know how it’s going.
How do you make new habits? What are your secrets to getting that housework or your general tasks done? How do you help yourself heal from your struggles?
If you’ve made it to the end of this, thank so very much for hanging in there. This was a long one.
May God bless you always and especially today.
Stay tuned for more posts to come!