Thursday, March 31, 2011

An Epiphany, Of Sorts

Part of the joy of having too much to do and too little time is that you don't have as much opportunity for navel-gazing introspection.  I can remember an era of my college years when I could sit at Barnes & Noble for hours, pouring my thoughts out on paper and consuming too much coffee while doing so.  And I had such incredible swaths of free time that I would make these intricate, full-color, hand-lettered journal entries, sometimes with Scripture, sometimes with quotes I liked, often with extra drawings and things to add to the effect.

My beautiful friend Jenn got married this past weekend in South Carolina. The pictures in this post are of her wedding preparation and reception.

I was probably insufferably introspective back then, mulling over the significance of everything and taking hours and days to digest conversations and relationships.

Fast forward to now. I've had to make it my own personal mission that "Today I will blow dry my hair."  And I feel triumphant on the days when I can actually achieve that 10 minutes of personal care.  I haven't sat alone at a Barnes & Noble and written anything in probably the last 5 years, much less during my recent foray into motherhood.

But, while its sometimes enjoyable to dive so deeply into the daily grind that I leave little time for pondering the great mysteries of the universe, it is also an exhausting way to live.  Everyone needs a chance to sit back and think, a chance to deconstruct ourselves so that we can understand the "why" behind what we do.

We hung out at Jenn's house before the wedding.  Sophie made a friend, whose name I sadly do not recall...

I've felt myself slipping into a trench lately -- feeling like I'm walking about three feet lower into the ground than the rest of the world.  It has a lot to do with 6 straight months of sleepless nights, but it has a lot more to do with my own negative thought processes. (Which may also be the product of sleep deprivation -- it can really work a number on your psyche.)

My dear friend Julie was also at Jenn's wedding. It is like an alignment of the planets to get all three of us in the same room!  (It was such a delight to spend time with you both, and I feel like it went far too quickly!)

Anyway.  I give you all that psychobabble to tell you that I decided to steal away from my office for an hour today to ponder.  Pondering during the lunch hour must be done expediently -- no time for lengthy Crayola-based endeavors -- so I parked myself in a comfy chair at Panera and did some thinking.

Sophie and I at Jennifer's wedding reception in Charleston.  I love the South for many reasons, but one of them is Azaleas In Full Bloom.  In March.

I've been considering for a while that I probably have a severe case of workaholism.   Eh, not the end of the world, but still problematic if I let it get out of control.  But it's strange.  I haven't been feeling the pinch of stress at work so much as I have at home.  Its the parenting and the housekeeping that make me feel overwhelmed and woozy -- these are the things that I don't know how to do and/or don't do well.  I wake up and already feel incompetent only 10 minutes into my day.

She held the reception at this beautiful old Plantation home near the water.  It was stunning.  So was the bride.

So perhaps it's not workaholism.  Perhaps its something different.  Perhaps its perfectionism.  This was my deep Panera epiphany.  Perfectionism.  That's the problem.  And it surfaces in negative, all-or-nothing thinking.  It goes something like this:  The kitchen needs to be clean. I can't seem to keep it clean. Our house is always messy because I am a bad housekeeper. Everything is filthy and my whole life is a disorganized, crazy pile of nonsense.

Apparently I can make incredible leaps in illogical thought when it comes to dirty dishes.

Jennifer and I have known each other since probably around 9th grade.  I consider her one of my closest, dearest friends.  I loved getting to share this moment with her.

So what's the solution to this type of thinking?  Well, I only have about 6 hours of practicing this new idea, so I can't vouch for its success or failure yet (oops, there's some more all-or-nothing thinking), but apparently the solution is all in moderation.  Instead of describing things in terms of the extreme ("always," "never," "everything," "nothing,"), you just make a point to notice when you are thinking that way, and you try to rephrase the thought in a more moderate way.

So: "Our house is never clean."  Now becomes: "Sometimes there are a few housekeeping tasks at my home that need to be done."

And: "Sophie will never sleep through the night."  Now becomes: "Sophie and I are both learning about how bedtime works."

We've got naptime covered.

I can't say that I'll knock this out immediately, but I can tell you that I'm already feeling less stressed.  Sometimes I am too driven, and I end up driving myself into the ground (and then backing up and running over myself).  I'm resolved to do better, if not for myself then definitely for Sophie.  She deserves to have a Mommy who is present and healthy-minded, not strung-out and wild-eyed with the stress of trying to live up to some impossible, self-imposed standard.  All my righteousness is as filthy rags anyway, so I may as well embrace the fact that I cannot (nor can anyone else) ever be perfect.

So that's where we were this weekend -- at my beautiful friend Jenn's wedding, where I took too many pictures and yet not enough at the same time -- and that's my Panera epiphany for you.  Now I'm off to bed, because I can never get enough sleep these days.

Wait.  I mean.... I sometimes get less sleep than I'd like these days....  I would often enjoy more sleep these days..... I will keep trying to obtain a healthy and reasonable amount of sleep these days....

Transformation of thought processes -- It's a work in progress.

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