Controlled Chaos

Monday evening. Sitting here trying to figure out how another weekend blew by. I can’t believe February is almost over and I wonder what I have to show for it. I am just exhausted from the never ending stream of things to do for myself, our family, each individual kid, our extended family, friends, the house…..it’s endless. And I feel guilty because I don’t volunteer for anything in our community…but I have no idea how I could possibly squeeze that in along with the demands of my job. I don’t have the stamina and I don’t want to let people down. It’s just non-stop crazy.

For the longest time I’ve been fascinated with the concept of a patron saint, someone Godly that represents a body of people or maybe even an individual. I often wondered who my patron saint would be. Then it hit me. If I had a personal patron saint, it would have to be Martha, always the busy body. Mary Magdalene sat and visited with Christ because she realized the gift before them all, while Martha huffed and puffed that there was so much to do to and no one offering to help.

Yeah, Martha’s my home girl.

You should see my massive “to do” list. I scare people when I show it to them. I break it up into three buckets – the stuff that I really want to tackle this week, the stuff that needs to happen fairly soon (maybe the following week), and a third list of stuff that needs to happen eventually. I write all of it down so I don’t forget about it, and I have a version for work and for my personal life.

I keep all of it on Microsoft OneNote on my work computer. I discovered this life-changing tool maybe about five years ago and can’t believe I had not found it sooner. All you need to do is type…everything is automatically saved. You can easily drag and move around whatever you type on the page, so whatever I put in one bucket can easily move into another if the timing changes.

As things pop in my head throughout the day (at the most inopportune times, of course), I can write them down on the respective lists, and then organize them by theme (different projects at work, meeting agenda planning, action planning, vacation checklists, blog ideas, home projects, etc.)

If you have access to the Microsoft Suite on your work computer, I urge you check this software out because it has made a world of difference in how I stay organized, versus writing tasks and ideas down on random pieces of paper and then transferring it to a master list that I would write over and over, like you used to do with those Franklin Day Planners once upon a time. I can’t do it justice in explaining the value of OneNote in this blog. Really, I can’t. You just have to see for yourself.

85fifteen-323873-unsplashFor some crazy reason I also started using a personal planner last year, Ink + Volt. I now have a red 2018 Ink + Volt planner. I don’t know why I use both methods to stay organized, but I do. I know there are all kinds of planners out there but I don’t need a cutesy one with stickers. Mine has a substantial cover – book quality – with page markers and prompts to ponder. It’s big enough to be easy to write in and small enough to throw in my purse. It has a section for you to plan your year, each month, and each week.

I enjoy checking off a task that I teed up for the week but lately I keep carrying over the same stuff from week to week. True, I’ve been making minor progress on each of my tasks but I am not getting the satisfaction of being completely finished. That bugs me.

March is almost upon us and in my planner, there is a prompt for what I will focus on in March. I feel so scattered. I don’t know what to do.

On one hand, it’s Lent. Lent gets all kinds of bad rap from people who don’t observe it, and I’m not exactly a role model when it comes to my personal observation of it, but one of the purposes or benefits of Lent is to close yourself off from outside distractions and draw inward. Many people use this time to pray, to fast, to break from the demands of the outside world. This is a good thing, a very necessary and helpful thing. Good thing it comes around once a year. And I suppose I could do that. I probably should do that. If you only knew how scattered and fractured my mind was, you’d know why this is a good idea.

But March is also my husband’s 50th birthday, and a way to celebrate and honor him. This is a man who at this point has lived eight years longer than his own father, a topic comes up quite often for an event that happened 42 years ago. No matter what I do, I don’t do enough to honor my husband. He deserves every good thing and I continually fail him as a wife, supporting him the way I ought to. I’m still really selfish and let my needs come first. Right this very moment I should be ordering a cake but I may very well just go to bed, at 7:30 pm.

I’m also having mixed success with the detox I started last month (see Detox Day 5), and feeling kinda bad about that. And I still haven’t cured the wanderlust that hit me pretty hard 10 days ago. Which leads me right back to Help Wanted. Sometimes you just want to call up your mom, wave the white flag, and ask for and get the help you need. But I don’t have that option. I’ve never had that option. I’m not looking for pity – it’s just the way it is.

So today I’m tired. And feeling a little uninspired. And wondering what March has in store for us. Will it feed our souls or punch us in the gut? Will it be the punctuation needed at the end of winter’s monologue? And why do I feel the need to control chaos anyway?

Nitey-night…

 

Image by 85fifteen on Unsplash.com

Simplify or Magnify?

Regarding that last raw post of mine, you are probably asking yourself again,

“Hey uh….Where is the ‘Laugh Love’ part of the blog name???”

Yeah…you’re gonna have to get out your wide-angle lens when you read this blog.  I know I’m all over the map with topics. I definitely cover life, the love part is sometimes tough love, and there are definitely loud, long laughs. Maybe all of them don’t translate to the written page, but we make a point to inject humor as much as we can.

So believe me, events like the Florida school shooting this week leave me virtually speechless, there is SO much that I want to say but I’m exhausted just trying to get the words out.

It’s times like this that I want to circle the wagons and just focus on my immediate family. That’s kind of my default mode as it is…just focus on us, just the five of us in this house. Maybe because we didn’t grow up where we live now and our closest family is a few hours away so we don’t have a ready social network where we live, and our travel schedules once upon a time didn’t allow tight friendships to form. I don’t get caught up in a bunch of parties and drinking, I don’t have a ton of extra time to devote to things like the PTO…and believe me, if I had a bunch of free time, I’d be focused more on my own health and developing desperately needed friendships, and that’s proven very hard to do without a lot of drinking involved. I’m so tired, I’m afraid I’d fall asleep. I just can’t hang like I used to, like the moms who are 15 years younger than me.

But back to the whole “circle the wagons” concept….for many Christians it is now the Lenten season and for some denominations like the Catholics and Orthodox, it’s a time for quiet reflection, closing out the distractions of food, drink, entertainment, and obsession of every kind including politics. To look inside your own heart and understand what you personally can do to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to those in the storm, and so on. Directly and indirectly. Figuratively and literally.

Maybe some people think this inward focus is quaint, old-fashioned, or dogmatic on the part of the church. Ok. Regardless of whether your church or your religion is commanding you to do it, I do believe there is value in scaling back, simplifying your life to the bare necessities so you can channel your energy first toward inward reflection and then finally to outward action, to wherever your heart says it is needed the most.

I struggle with this myself, with ways I can be most effective, most impactful. I had this conversation with a superior at work, and she told me that my purpose in life was to live a happy life with my family and to go have adventures with them.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that but 1) it sounded a little hedonistic when she said it to me, and 2) I personally have always longed to be and do something more, and I struggle with my ability today to do more than influence my own family. And if I fail to do that job well, what business do I have trying to make a positive impact elsewhere?

This brings to mind one of my favorite quotes:

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Maybe in light of the events in Florida, this is a time to just stay home a little bit more, and hug your family. Spend time with them. Listen to what’s going on in their hearts.

And if you can’t do either of those things – figure out how to be still with your own family or how to help those who need it most – then spend the time helping yourself. Start there. Be still and just be you.

Maybe you think that sounds selfish. I’m telling you it is not.

God knows when my children were much smaller, there were days of utter exhaustion, endless chauffeuring, laundry, baths, homework, shopping, doctor appointments, and on and on, that I wanted to fall into a heap and cry. I wanted anyone, anyone at all to come to my house and stay for a week or a month or a couple of years to help me out. Other than my husband, there was no one.

I wanted to cry but there were no tears. My self talk was brutal. Like hundreds of thousands of mothers before me I told myself I needed to buck up and shut up. Just do the job. Hundreds of thousands of mothers before me had it much tougher than me. But still, I would have given anything for just a little bit of help. Someone to hold me and tell me it would get better and everything would turn out ok. That mothering in this insane world would get a little bit easier as your children got a little bit older and self-reliant, even if the risks got a lot scarier.

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So if you’re wondering how in the world to get through your days, whether you should simply your life or magnify your contributions – and I’ve heard some of you ask this very question – I’m here to give you permission to do whatever you are called to do. And if you need a break, then take one. Cancel appointments for yourself or the kids and rest. Or cancel those routine appointments and responsibilities and take that extra time to expand your reach beyond what you usually do.

If ever you have wondered what choice to make, you’re not alone. And whichever choice you make, including none at all, is fine.

 

Photo by Philipp Berndt on Unsplash