I can't do it all.
I realize that's no surprise to anyone, but sometimes I have to remind myself of that simple fact because, to be honest, I start thinking and acting like I should be able to do it all...or, at the very least, do MORE than what I'm currently doing. And then discouragement and self-condemnation start to set in as I see all my failures and shortcomings, which tells me that it's time for a little talk with myself.
"Self, you can't do it all."
There. That settles it. ;-)
As I was thinking about this recently, I tried to objectively assess what I do accomplish, not just what gets left by the wayside; and here's what I realized.
1. I take care of people needs in my immediate family. I spend time with them, I read to my kids, I hug and kiss them, I bandage their wounds, I listen to their thoughts, I'm with them. I am not, however, very good at picking up the phone to call a far-off friend or good at keeping up with email. But where my own little family is concerned, I make it a priority to meet their needs and pour myself out for them.
2. I spend a considerable amount of time educating my children. During the homeschool year, it's a given that hours of my day will be funneled towards educational activities (thereby depriving other worthy pursuits of that time). This is not to say that I spend as much time as I should teaching the boys--I feel like we never get around to covering everything that I'd like to teach them--but in general, I make their schooling a priority and feel good about that.
3. I get people where they need to go when they need to be there...and if I don't take them, I make sure they get there somehow. Whether it be choir, violin, gymnastics, the library, what have you...we are faithful to get there, almost always on time, and even wearing the proper clothing! ;-)
4. I cook for my family. Almost every evening, the nine of us sit down to a home-cooked, tasty (I hope!) meal. It might not be fancy or lavish, but it's cheaper and healthier than buying already-prepared food. What's more, it's made with love. :)
5. As far as laundry goes, I give myself a barely-passing grade. Most of the time, I stay a step ahead of the hordes who regularly require fresh clothing! :) But there are still too many times when it's a scramble to make sure everyone has clean underwear or socks...or that one choir shirt that HAS to be worn on a certain day. There is always--literally, always--a huge pile of laundry waiting to be washed. I'd like to get better at this so that rather than being just one step ahead, I could be a mile in front!
6. That brings me to cleaning. Ugh. This is where I feel like the biggest failure. This is, in the hierarchy of how I spend my time, the bottom of the totem pole. It's not that I hate cleaning--as a matter of fact, I rather enjoy wielding a mop or a vacuum and doing something in which I can SEE instant results!--but dear me, how to find the time?
I'm sure other people's hierarchies stack up a little differently than mine. Maybe the mom down the street takes more shortcuts when it comes to food, but does a whole lot better at keeping a clean house, and that's fine! My point in writing this is not to say that this is how it should be, but simply that this is how it seems to always turn out for me. I don't particularly like it, but I haven't figured out how to change it yet, so I'm a little stuck with it! :)
On top of all of that come along these wonderful special projects: these goals that keep popping up on my to-do list but never actually get finished and crossed off. And I berate myself and think, "Why can't I seem to find the time to actually complete one of these projects??"
At times like that, I need to have another conversation with myself.
"Self, you have a hard time finishing those projects because--guess what--your life is already full! It's not like you're sitting around, doing nothing, being lazy. You're busy already, so it's tough to find the extra time to complete anything else!"
True enough, but it is soooooo discouraging to have some of these things hanging over my head and feeling like I can't make a bit of progress on them. But recently I was reminded (especially by this blog post from Anna, a blogger I respect very much) to take "little bites" and not fret at how long the process takes. If I keep at it, the task will get done; and, as she says, "finishing creates its own energy!" So it does!
I felt that energy earlier this week when I--lo and behold--actually completed one of those always-on-my-to-do-list-but-never-done projects.
I completely organized my homeschool closet!!! :) :) :)
When I think about my homeschool closet, I first feel gratitude to even have one. A whole area devoted to educational materials? How wonderful! I am really grateful that when my parents lived here, they got this closet and put it on our glassed-in porch...and grateful that when they moved down the hill, they didn't have room to take this with them. ;-) It has really come in handy for us!a post from a few years ago, showing what is, sadly, the usual state of this closet: books and materials piled here and there, everything in disarray. But now, after lots of "little bites" during the past several weeks, the closet looks totally different.
While I'm enjoying the sense of accomplishment that comes from completion, I'm eager to tackle more of those lingering projects. At the same time, I'm trying to give myself grace and be patient when I don't find the time to make progress on those extras. After all, much of the time I feel like I can't even keep up with the normal demands of each day, much less add anything on top of that. The circle comes around, and I'm left with the thought with which I began this post:
I can't do it all.
But after that I hear a tiny whisper saying, "But maybe you can find an extra minute or two today. It's time to take another little bite."