Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just Slow Down

This probably won't come as a huge shock to most people, but I am always on the go. I'm not necessarily "on the go" physically at all times, but I am constantly "on the go" mentally; always planning for the next hour, the next minute. I'm an extreme list-maker, multi-tasker, and schedule-keeper. It's a struggle for me to relax because of the constant nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should be doing something productive. Even if I don't have anything to do, I will invent a reason to feel busy. I begin every day on a mission to do as much as possible. I measure the success of my day against how much I accomplish.

Because of this, one of the things I was most excited about when I decided to stay home was finally being able to relax. I wanted freedom from my old schedule, freedom from always feeling like I needed to be going somewhere or working on something. But I quickly learned that changing your lifestyle doesn't automatically change your personality. I still always feel like I have to be on the go. I still struggle to relax. I still try to accomplish as much as possible every day. At times, it has caused me to be less attentive to Reese (like when she almost swallowed one of my rings while I was sending an email), or to Matt (like when I agree to watch a movie with him but then clip and organize coupons the whole time), or to my own needs (like when I skip lunch to get more cleaning done). Finally, God sent me the reality check I definitely needed.

Last Friday, the guests on Oprah were people who learned important lessons from other past guests. One was a woman who left her two-year-old daughter in her car on a hot summer day. She had planned to come right back out and get her, but she got distracted and too much time went by, and the little girl actually died. Matt overheard the story and said to me, "how does that even happen?" I'm sure he expected my answer to be equally full of shock and confusion. After all, how does that even happen? But I wasn't confused or shocked. I was horrified and upset. Then I started to cry. Although a part of me was crying simply because I can't imagine losing a child, let alone feeling responsible for that loss; another part of me was crying for a much more serious reason.

As I was listening to her story, I had a horrifying mental image of myself in her place. My house. My car. My baby. It obviously wasn't totally unimaginable to me because there I was, imaging it. Never in a million years would I think that something like that could happen to me. But the picture in my mind came way too easily. The story upset me way too much. The possibility seemed all too real. And that tells me only one thing: I absolutely have to slow down. So as a result of my reality check, here are a few of the things I know I need to change:

#1. I move entirely too fast. My driving habits are a great indication of that. I drive too fast. I follow too close. I pass people for no reason. And why? I don't know. I'm a stay-at-home-mom. I don't have anywhere to be. And even if I did... it certainly isn't worth the risks I take to get there a few minutes (or sometimes even a few seconds) sooner. I can't imagine the guilt I would feel for the rest of my life knowing something that happened might not have happened if I had just slowed down.

#2. I do too many things at once.There's nothing wrong with multi-tasking... as long as you know your limits. I forget my multi-tasking limits all the time. The more things I'm doing at once, the more likely it is that at least one will be forgotten mid-way through the process. I'm constantly doing things with half of my brain because the other half is either still working on the last thing or trying to plan the next thing. Last week, that resulted in burnt garlic bread, but next week it could be something that actually matters.
#3. My to-do list is always unrealistic. I make long lists because I'm always afraid I'll forget about something important (note the irony in that situation). I put things on my list that don't need to be there and then I get all worried because I'm "so busy." Busy with what? I don't know. I truly think the problem is not that I'm actually busy. It's that I have such a need to be busy that I create busyness.

I'm amazed that I have so willingly given up so much for Reese (my body, my money, my sleep, my freedom, my career), but I haven't been able to entirely let go of my time. Looking back, I'm so incredibly thankful that God delivered the message in this way and spared me a very painful lesson. Maybe now I can finally start choosing the quality of my time over the quantity of what I get done. Maybe now I can remember that I am human and I am not invincible, no matter how hard I try to be "Super Mom." Up until Friday, I started every day with a list. And I know it's not realistic to say that I'm just going to stop making lists. It's a part of my personality that keeps me very well-organized and is one of my greatest time-management assets. However, I am definitely going to work on making realistic lists and not attaching a time limit to their accomplishment. And I am also definitely going to make sure that the first item on every list I make from now on will be "just slow down."

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