So, last week felt like a rough, terrible week. However, the school checklists got done, the house hadn’t really fallen apart, and we’d had no major disasters. Really, it was a typical week. Why did it feel so bad?
This week has felt pretty good. Even though I am definitely not getting to everything I think should be (like exercising), still most of the school was done and the house hasn’t fallen apart.
In fact, if you compared the two weeks solely by snapshot and by checklists, they’d look pretty similar.
Why did I feel like a failure last week, while this week I feel like I’m ok and making progress?
Although we think we want to be productive, what we actually want is to feel productive.
Being productive while feeling crummy about it stinks. I don’t want a groundless feel-good, but neglecting the feel-good doesn’t work either. When productivity feels good, it feels energizing. That energy, in turn, helps us keep going. When productivity feels bad, it feels like walking dead, like the slow sapping of vitality with each check made on the stupid list.
So, here are a couple reminders I am jotting down for myself before heading into next week.
1. Sleep is a huge factor to the energy and feel-good equation.
It simply can’t be ignored or downplayed. And, right now, how much sleep I get at night is beyond my control. My job is to take care of the baby (and the others), even during the night. However, there are a few factors still in my control, and I have to make good choices if I want to be a good mother during the day and not be a weepy mess at night:
- No caffeine after lunch. If I have caffeine after lunch, I wake up more often during the night and have a harder time getting to sleep if woken. Everyone’s tolerance to caffeine is different, so pay attention to how much you have and when you have it, and make sure you aren’t sabotaging yourself.
- Get to bed before 10. Personally, about 9:30 is my ideal bedtime. I should start getting ready before that so I can actually be in bed by 9:30. This also means not getting sucked into mindless internet surfing or into a novel after the kids’ bedtime
- Be thankful for the sleep I am given rather than grabby about the sleep I didn’t get. If God providentially arranges all things, which He does, then I can rest assured I can do what He calls me to (not necessarily all I have listed) with the sleep and the endurance He provides.
It would be better to not get any schoolwork or housework done and let the kids read and run wild outside so I can interact with them peacefully while tired than to get everything checked off while biting the children’s heads off for simply being children.
2. Pay attention to the voice in my head.
A huge part of feeling bad last week and feeling fine this week was simply the story I was allowing to run wild in my head. Last week it was, “Yeah, you did sweep the floor, but look at what a huge pile you swept up. Clearly you are a train wreck if the pile on your floor is an inch tall.” and “Sure, you worked one-on-one with everyone in math today, but look at this child’s struggle and this one’s. If you were doing a better job the progress would not be so slow and difficult.” In other words, for every single positive thing that I really did do, my mind was spinning it into a negative.
No wonder I felt run down.
This week, with more sleep under my belt, my inner narrator simply accepted what I was able to do with a “Well, you did what you could. Good job.” and “Look at how the kids are getting along: We must be doing alright after all.” If I know that to help the children progress, I need to support their efforts with encouragement. Do I think I’m too good [or too bad] for that myself?
3. It’s better to stop, pause, and regroup than to push on in negativity.
Get a glass of ice water. Take a turn around the garden. Read a chapter in a book. Make a list. Pray.
Pray, not that God would magically take away the difficulty and make my life easier, but pray that God will grow me through it, that I will respond to this situation in faith and trust and not with a stiff neck. Because that’s a prayer He’s told us to pray. That’s a prayer He has promised to grant.
Heidelberg Question #116: Why do Christians need to pray?
A: Because prayer is the most important part of the thankfulness God requires of us. And also because God gives His grace and Holy Spirit only to those who pray continually and groan inwardly, asking God for these gifts and thanking Him for them.
Internal negative spiral is a response of the flesh and not a response of God’s Spirit and of faith. May we each have the courage, the willingness, the meekness to lay down our fleshly responses and to take the time and have the humility to pray rather than fret. God does give grace and strength. In fact, He gives love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The question is, do we actually want them enough to take them up when they are offered?
What makes a productive day?
We have things we do need to get done every day. We have people we need to build up. We have homes to manage. We have an education to provide. We have good works God has called us to walk in.
A productive day is one where we respond in trust, with steadfastness and faithfulness, to the circumstances God sends us. That is how He produces in us the fruit of His Spirit, which is the productivity He desires.