Re: focus

A few weeks ago, I failed to post on a Wednesday. This was a bit upsetting, since I’d been working hard to post every week since September 2020. I rank it as a personal achievement to have gotten this far with returning to blogging. (In fact, I am writing this now to try and keep ahead of my own posting goals, so that missing a week does not happen again for a while.)

The lapse in posting (and its resulting feelings of failure) led me to consider whether I was doing too much (yet again). I have an unfortunate habit of taking on too much and expecting too much of myself, as those close to me often remind me. My response has been to make my expectations more reasonable, but it’s still a work in progress. Still, the idea of settling for a slower pace in exchange for a more sustainable rate does not come naturally to me.

I thrive on short-term projects and throwing my whole self into endeavours, ignoring pretty much everyone and everything at a time. The projects I’ve completed with the most joy in all my life as a student were the ones where I locked myself in a room away for hours or days. An art project for a second-year poetry course was approximately 3-4 days of nonstop work and little conversation save for that online. (My breaks were spent reading 20th Century Boys and Monster in that same span of time). Most essays were completed with approximately three weeks of readings and notes (pretty relaxed), and then nonstop writing (approximately 1 hour per page of writing). I just work best when my brain is filled with ingredients and given time to simmer. When I was in the last days of my honours thesis, I opted to sleep under the desk that I worked, rather than going upstairs to bed, And so on.

This way of work is pretty unsustainable given my current stage of life, i.e. with a toddler who wants to be with me at every moment. I can’t sleep under the work I want to finish (she’ll come find me and probably lick my face and laugh. That’s been a new development). I feel called to volunteer because I have a number of ideas but already I’m realizing that ideas without action are utterly frustrating if I think too long about it. I can’t lock myself in a room (she’s well-versed in turning doorknobs and has started learning to use keys). I can’t ignore everyone. How could I justify ignoring someone so precious who doesn’t understand the need for personal space? (I mean, my husband’s precious, too, but he can deal with my cocooning better than the toddler).

Yet if I “fail” in one area, such as not posting for the week, or not being able to finish meal planning, or not getting something done that I had set my mind to do, I am overtaken with feelings of inadequacy and the need to get something done. This is unhealthy. I know it’s unhealthy. Such circumstances are more likely to happen when: 1) I don’t spend time with God (perspective does so much!), 2) I am tired (duh), 3) I need a shower (double duh), or 4) I need fresh air (the longest I have gone indoors is 9 days and I do not want to break that record again). Such is the list that I must refer to mentally, having reduced myself to the same level as my toddler. “Oh, the need for tears? Is this just tiredness? A need to shower? Etc.”

Now this thought-process might sound awful, but I see many benefits in this new self-understanding. Whereas before I would curl up on the bed until a journal and pen found its way to my hands, I have the capacity to run down the aforementioned checklist, and that keeps me from feeling total gloom. That I’m learning to adjust my expectations on the fly is invaluable, since expectations almost always drive perspective. And finally, I may not be able to push everything aside for a single project, but I am learning that the projects with my toddler are, after all, memories I treasure. I don’t say that flippantly. She’s a new person so often that I am working to remember at least one thing from each day, so that I can say before God that I treasured well the radiance of her eyes and her chubby handhold.

Motherhood is not all bad; in fact, it’s a different type of joy that I never thought of experiencing. Finding a new balance and routine to life has been relatively stressful (I mean, relative to my before-life of not worrying about much anything else besides work), but I am thankful. In fact, I am glad to be exactly where I am, and though I may not have been able to say that so confidently a year ago, I am thankful for the changes that God is working in my life today.

EDIT: Not two hours after I finished writing this post, I was completing my BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) homework and the focus was on God’s constancy amidst life’s constant change. The ending notes read:

God’s perfect character never changes, and He can be trusted completely no matter what your day or year holds… How will this truth about God help steady your life through not just a season of change, but also the reality of constant change in your daily life? (p. 168)

Bible Study Fellowship. (2011). A study of Genesis.

How good God is, that so soon after I finish this post, that he should remind me of His unchanging goodness. I pray and look forward to, with a steadily growing joy, the ways in which God will refine and mature me.

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