Friday, October 19, 2012

A Precious Commodity

One of the hardest challenges for me these days is, quite simply, finding enough time.
  • Time to get things done.
  • Time to have fun as a family.
  • Time to do the h/school prep that I need to continue to do to keep learning fresh and myself current.
  • Time to actually get done the schooling that I have outlined for our school year.
  • Time to clear off that stupid kitchen counter and desk that never, ever seem to get fully cleared off from the paper crap that accumulates the second I turn my back.  I could have named about a dozen additional surfaces here, too.
  • Time to bake muffins and loaves so that our snacks stay healthier than when I don't have time to bake.
  • Time to finish re-organizing the school room, which I started five weeks ago and haven't completed.
  • Time to phone those friends I want so badly to catch up with.
  • Time to clear our last year's clothes from the kids' closets and dressers and the storage room...well, I did get this done last week.
  • Time to menu plan and grocery shop.
  • Time to clean and do a general tidy up.
  • Time to return emails and make phonecalls.
  • Time to make those healthy meals I have planned for.
  • Time to research, online and through the library system, the things that quite desperately need to get done in order to continue to stay ahead of the game for h/schooling.
  • Time for myself.
  • Time to wait (and wait) on the kids to finish their tasks without growing impatient.
  • Time to pray and write in my gratitude journal.
  • Time to blog.
  • Time to read that pile of books that is increasingly of interest to me.
  • Time to get the van in for servicing and to get Matthew's glasses fixed .
  • Time to fold the baskets of laundry waiting, clean, in the family room.
  • Time to have people over more often.  Other than my parents and occasional playdates here, I haven't entertained for a while now...which is sad because I love having people over.
  • Time to clothes shop for the kids.
  • Time to just be with the kids, and to spend that last hour before Matthew's bedtime playing a game or talking or reading instead of cleaning up.

You get the idea.  I could add a thousand things to this list.  And I am no different than you in struggling with time issues, I know.

My house is usually a bit (or a lot) of a mess because my kids (all three for different reasons) just function soo much better in life if I give them my time and my attention as much as possible.  I (usually) love that I get to spend so much time with my kids and think it a blessing.  And at a theoretical level, I think it's great that I choose more often than not to spend time with them instead of doing chores.  But beyond the theory is also reality and that's the struggle which requires a constant balancing act - because I know when I'm with them that there are a zillion things not getting done.

I am quite an efficient person - I don't waste a lot of time when I'm working on a task, and I'm often fairly quick at getting things done.  I'm not quite as good a multi-tasker as I used to be (maybe this is an aging thing but I've also wondered if my brain just can't hold any more...which may also be an aging thing!) but I can still work on a couple of tasks at a time...just not three or four or five like in the 'old days.'

I could get everything on my list consistently done if I had more discipline:  Specifically the discipline to spend five evenings every week from 9pm (when the kids are all in bed) until about 11:00/11:30pm working at my to-do list, doing some clean-up stuff, and organizing myself for the next day(s).  Not seven nights per week; just five.  The thing is that it's usually only about two evenings a week that I can push through the wall and keep plugging away at tasks post bedtime routines, and those nights make a tangible difference in how smoothly our lives run.

It's me that's the ultimate challenge, I suppose.  Because by the time the kids are all in bed, I've spent fifteen hours hours with them non-stop and I feel quite desperately that I need a break.

I spent about ten minutes in someone's office on Monday and, just as I was leaving, the person I was speaking with apologized for the hammering and construction noises overhead.  I stopped for a moment to listen and, sure enough, there were hammering noises going on up there; I had automatically raised my voice level to accommodate the noise but hadn't even noticed the actual volume until that moment.  I looked at the person I was speaking with and started to laugh.  And laugh and laugh.  I'm sure he thought I was a little on the cuckoo side.  Finally I was able to speak.

"No need to apologize," I said.  "I hadn't even noticed.  You have no idea the noise decibel that I live in every day!"

Once I get into a task during an evening, I can keep myself going for quite a length of time.  The house is finally quiet and I have time and capacity to think about things while I'm puttering away.  But if, for just a second, I sit down to relax after the kids are in bed, I'm done; I simply can't motivate myself to work any more in that scenario.  I might do some of the 'fun' things on my list, such as blog or write (which is time by myself, I suppose, so cross those things off the list); I might watch part of a movie on my computer; but the other stuff gets pushed by the wayside and there's a reasonable chance that I will end the evening living with a little bit of regret over what didn't get done.

I need to stop the regret, though.  Surely it can't be good for me.  Maybe the three evenings/week that I'm not pushing through the wall to get work done is simply the price we pay for having an otherwise cohesive life.  Maybe those three evenings/week are my measure of sanity.  It's not like things are getting accomplished anyway on those evenings, so maybe I just need to say "ok" and be ok with it.  Maybe I just need to reconcile myself to this being a season of life and that it's ok.  Maybe it's ok that I'm not quite a type-A personality and that I'm more of a wanna-be-type-A personality.  Maybe it's just about accepting reality for what it is, and for accepting myself for who I am (not the most organized person in the world), knowing that I won't ever get everything done.  Maybe it's about not fighting myself any more and just letting be what is.  Maybe it's ok as long as our heads are actually above water.

Because even now, as I prepare to wind down this post, I'm thinking that instead of putting bread into the toaster for this morning's breakfast, maybe today we'll take a little more time over the first meal of the day.  Maybe we'll make waffles together and start school a little later.  So what if that means that our whole day backs up a bit?  So what if it means I might not get the breakfast dishes done until it's time to do the supper dishes?

Maybe making waffles together means that something else won't get done today because we've used some of our precious time to have precious time.  And maybe, just maybe, it'll sink in to my thick skull this morning that this is the very best way for us to use a commodity in such short supply.

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