Twenty-one days! How’s it going for you on this month-long challenge to change your life? (grin) MY GOODNESS! Doesn’t that sentence sound dramatic?! Yes. It does, but I’ve found that sometimes the biggest changes can begin from the smallest of starts. Consistency is key and choosing to consistently eliminate the negative words and attitudes withIN us will, over time, help eliminate more and more of the negative words and attitudes around us!
This year has been quite the adventure for us. It’s been a time of…well…it’s been a challenge. That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact. As I spoke with some neighbors just yesterday I mentioned that 2019 has been a challenging year for more people that I know than those I know who’ve sailed through it.
Earlier in the year (and not too long ago–as in OCTOBER!!) I became overwhelmed for a short time by all that needed to be done. God, in His grace and wisdom, gave me a break and a talking to by my husband. (HA!) I was frustrated by all the many things that had interfered with my oh-so-carefully crafted schedule…repeatedly...as in: I no longer seemed to HAVE a schedule. (This might take a little bit, so get comfortable, ok? Hang with me, though. I promise: There is a point and an application.)
That was a problem for this slightly OCD/schedule-oriented person. I desperately wanted things to be different–on SO many fronts that I couldn’t fix or fight!–but this lack of schedule was right at the top for me and I just couldn’t get a handle on it. My frustration had built up until it just overflowed like lava one Sunday morning and I had a meltdown right out there on my back porch. Overwhelmed didn’t even touch it. I was tired in every way possible and, for the first time in a very long while, I wasn’t sure I was going to figure it out…at least not in time to make it happen for all of the others who were depending on me.
I had put so much pressure on myself to get everything done to my own personal standard in such a shortened time frame…do you see where I’m going with this? Maybe you’ve done that, too? At some point…or eight? Yes, I thought so. I am Wonder Woman, though, so of course this shouldn’t have happened to me! (insert a VERY wry grin and a great big eye roll here.) Ever notice how easy it becomes to head into the dark side when you’re tired and frustrated?
ANYway! The gist of the conversation with my husband revolved around his assessment of my efforts (which was FAR more generous to me that I had been to myself!) and his loving observation that in making every other person we were trying to serve as a couple a much higher priority than I had made my own self I had gotten lost in the shuffle. That needed to change. He asked me to list some of the things I was most frustrated by and was a little bit taken aback, I think, by all that poured out in response. He began to list some of the ways he thought might help me–INCLUDING taking time out to take care of ME and do something that didn’t have anything to do with anyone else. He thought I should start painting again. To be honest, at first it felt like a condemnation of just one more way I was failing and even more things that needed to be added to my “schedule.” Knowing his heart, however, I stayed still and tried to listen for the intent and not just the content of what he was saying.
That conversation saved me. Literally. It saved me and my sanity and my attitude and my heart that was hurting with all of those unrealistic expectations–that were mostly (all) mine and never ever said by the people I was trying to serve. I never want to forget all of that grace and love and wisdom that God sent through my husband and straight to me in my time of desperation. Although he was doing the talking, I was being HEARD and that made all the difference in the world.
At the end of it, he asked me what I had gotten out of our conversation. There were lots of things, but the one that came out of my mouth was this: I need to make a list instead of making a schedule.
I’m not sure he was expecting that, but he readily agreed and reminded me that doing so ALSO meant that the list would evolve over time. It would grow and it would shorten, it would change directions, it needed to include things that would take care of ME and not just everyone else…and it didn’t all have to be done at once. RELIEF! A list is something that I could manage right then–and he encouraged me to do so…right then.
I headed into the house and grabbed some art supplies. I’m not sure that was what he expected, either, but it was crucial for me. He was right. I needed a list, but I also needed to take care of me a little bit before I could go back to taking care of everyone else right then. A short time later I added this tiny painting to my window sill in the kitchen so I would keep a reminder before me and, hopefully, avoid another meltdown! I was too tired to even be creative on my own, so I chose an image from Pinterest that I liked and just made my own personal version of it along with the words, “make a list, not a schedule,” and down at the bottom I added a tiny heart to remind me that I needed to love on myself while I loved on those I was working to serve.
It’s helped me.
So did the 8 pages of list that I made right after that. Yes. EIGHT pages. It’s no wonder that my mind was on overload. I was trying to remember everything and do everything all by myself. I use to make lists for every day in addition to the “continually running schedule in my head” and I had gotten away from doing that. Now, making my list helps me to remember that I can be more flexible. “THE LIST” might never get completely done, but I can make some serious progress! I can take it in smaller doses instead of setting unrealistic expectations or time lines. I can be proactive and do smaller tasks/ mark them off when I need to see progress or I can choose to do larger tasks based on actual priority instead of the order it popped into my head and got added to the list.
All that to say this: the holiday season is almost here. There will be a LOT to do on top of your already big to-do list, so actually MAKE A LIST and start to check it off instead of trying to keep the one running inside your head or make a schedule that only puts pressure on you. Maybe you need to grab some art supplies, too, or a take a walk, listen to music, or sit and actually pet your pet! Whatever it is that will feed your soul, put THAT on your list, as well. Build some time into every day that doesn’t have anything else to do with anyONE else but you. It might just make NCN over the holidays become an easier effort for you and everyone else, as well.
Remember: you can do this! PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION! (even on the list! grin)
Grace and Peace!