Friday, March 4, 2011

Overload

The washing machine couldn't possibly hold another pair of jeans but I am jamming them in anyway - so I can avoid washing another load. I shove the clothes deeper, feel the ridiculous density of all this denim packed around the agitator, and suddenly the metaphor of what I'm doing strikes me as funny.

This is so my life!

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Not everything is going to get clean this way but if I can just fit them in, it will be alright... won't it?

Oh man. I put the cart ahead of the horse (again). The downey ball is still at the bottom of the washer. I fish around for it - water filling, Tide already poured in - but no luck. I give up and pull a dryer sheet out of the box so I won't forget to toss it in later.

My life this week (and the past several weeks) has been in Overload. (Yes, Overload with a capital O. I restrained myself from typing in caps.) If I haven't blogged in over a week you can know I am stretched beyond thin (because I actually find great satisfaction in writing and connecting with you.)

Several months ago I wrote about Restoring Margin and the concept of overload. Remember the principle at work? You can only sustain overload for so long before something has to give - some of your precious resources begin to suffer - at least for a time. Well, I have been noticing the subtle unravel, and it doesn't feel good.

Sometimes I say yes to things that seem doable in the moment. I anticipate chipping away at them here and there - one deadline this week, another at the end of the month. I tell myself it can work, but who knew all these things would end up falling into the same week?

This week it was play group (at our house), teaching Joy School twice (at our house), driving carpool to dance (half hour each way and a babysitter required for kids at home), editing deadlines, article deadlines, and events planned for last month that were rescheduled (no surprise) for this week. It's been plumb crazy!

Tuesday night I responded to an editing friend regarding a piece we are working on together and I wrote, "I'm sorry. Hoping to finish this up tonight. I haven't had the luxury of sitting down for two days." And when I looked back over the last 48 hours, it was no exaggeration. I slept for a few hours but I did not sit down.

I was prepping for Joy School, doing the grocery shopping at 10PM, bathing and putting kids to bed, cleaning up after meals, picking up the living room (our second playroom), picking up the real playroom, and then folding laundry. No wonder my feet were plaintive. I could hear them begging, "Please! Please! JUST SIT DOWN!"

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This is how the living room looked ten minutes ago. Not unusual. And the culprits just vacated the premises to build a "princess and the pea" bed in the girls' bedroom.

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I try to be careful - minimize the schedule, do less, but I still find myself in periods of overload. The boys will be two this summer and I keep thinking we ought to be past the stage of insane intensity. But, after a week like this, I realize, we're not. And I need to cut back, plan better, say no to a few more things, and build in even larger margins.

I am so much happier when I'm not cramming one more piece of denim into the washing machine. It's time to slow down, build up reserves, and focus on the essentials.

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I want to sit on the floor and fold laundry while watching a movie. I want to climb into bed early with a book on my lap and read for more than five minutes. I want to go to lunch with my mother. I want to take each of my girls on a fun outing - just the two of us. I want to talk with Doug about politics, the world, and tell him all the funny and frustrating moments of the day before 10PM (this may have to wait until after tax season).

These kind of things are rising to the top of my list. But right now we're off to the doctor. Ali and Sami are due for shots and I'm bracing myself for the drama.

The silver lining? I'm wearing a clean pair of jeans.

What about you? Is it hard to avoid overload? When are you the happiest?

15 comments:

  1. Gee, your living room looks exactly like ours -- stuffed with all the toys, the cushions having been tossed around... Sometimes it gets on my nerves -- but most of the times that's exactly how I want it. When I was little, we kids weren't welcome in the "living room" -- that was for our parents, we had what we "needed" in our bedrooms, including TV-sets. I hated it so much. So a living room with toys lying around is like a symbol of the room being a _family_ room.

    As far as folding laundry while watching a movie is concerned: whenever I want the living room to myself _during_ the day, all I have to do is pop in "Love Actually...". The kids will come and see what I am watching, even try to switch the channel -- but after five minutes at the most decide that they'd rather go to their rooms than watch _that_ movie, ;-).

    In general I've become pretty good about just dropping things when I get the feeling that it's too much.

    Are you writing for a magazine? What kind of articles? I get to write for a local magazine, mostly short stories and book reports.

    So long,
    Corinna

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  2. That sounds a lot like my week too - just substitute things like speaking in church, Bishop Storehouse, RS Birthday Dinner and working at the school. I am hoping that I will get a short reprieve before the next round! And, since I folded a week's worth of laundry last night I can very much relate to the laundry analogy.

    I hope you get some time to recharge/rebalance!

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  3. Thanks for this. I feel a lot the same. Lately I have been feeling like I should be able to do more. I should be able to have play group at my house without it totally stressing me out. I should be able to clean up after 2 kids a dog and a man and still have time to read and blog and relax once in a while. I should be able to keep the house the car and the yard in ship shape. My kids should have clean underwear and matching socks. I should have time to shower and exersize and put on makeup (yeah right). What is wrong with me. Mom's with more kids and more stress than I have can do it. Why is it so hard for me. It is good to read posts like this, especially because you are such a good writer :) But also because it helps to read that I am not alone. Although I still think you are doing way more than me....and I still struggle. But we all have our strengths and our weaknesses....My strengths just must be eating subway sandwiches and drinking diet coke :)

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  5. Yeah, we have a "playroom" but our living room usually turns into the playroom by 9am. I can completely relate to you about been overloaded sometimes. Its almost like I can feel the balance shifting and I know I have to pull back. I am reading Mitten Strings for God, and it is really opening my eyes to my need for peace and quiet in my life and sometimes that means George stays home from school and we reconnect (we've only done that once, but it was totally worth it! We had a great memorable day!)

    What are your expectations for your children in terms of cleaning/chores, etc? I am trying to have them help as much as they can, but I don't like the arguement and negotiation and ensues at times. Any suggestions? I love your blog.....can't wait to see you again!

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  6. We always seem to overload our lives too!! I love the photo of the jeans...I always do this!

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  7. Thank you Catherine. You always help me find humor and joy in my own life...you make the stresses something I can smile about and look forward to another day. Your week sounds Crazy-good luck slowing down!

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  8. Corinna - I guess that's why it's called a living room - it ought to be lived in, right? As for writing, I've been working on a book with some other mothers from Power of Moms. We're hoping it will be out by Mother's Day. I write an article once a month for Meridian Magazine and blog once a month for Segullah - a literary journal that publishes LDS women's writings. You can link to all of these sites on my sidebar. How fabulous that you write for a local magazine. I'd love to read one of your short stories. Do send!

    Courtney - Sounds like you need a recharge just as much as I do! Wishing you a reprieve as well!

    Rachel - Subway Sandwiches and Diet Coke! Love that. It's so easy to look around and wonder why we aren't doing more. There's never a shortage of "should dos", but when I avoid the compare snare and simply asses my strengths and desires, I realize the "to do" list isn't so big. Being content with who we are and what we are able to do is so important - I think it's one of the keys to happiness. On a lighter note, my husband could probably give you a run for your money on Subway and Diet Coke. That was his lunch for a couple years - with no variation. He's branched out since then but our whole family still loves Subway. Thanks for keeping it real!

    Michelle - Chores/Jobs - that's a tough one. Especially with small children. I believe they need responsibility and freedoms as soon as they are ready (which is usually before we are). I recently found some great magnet job charts on Etsy. I'll post about them once they arrive. I'm hoping something visual will get them jazzed about helping. I expect my girls to make their beds, put away their clothes, pick up after themselves, and help with some family jobs like setting the table, dishwasher, etc. But believe me -the negotiation isn't easy. Sometimes I just can't get them going. They're nowhere near being able to clean a bathroom yet - maybe in five years. But it has helped me to just give in to the mess - be okay with them dumping out toy bins, pulling down all the puzzles, and taking off the couch cushions to build tunnels. That's what childhood is all about. What about you? You mother in such a gentle, intuitive way. I'd love to hear your ideas. And I can't wait to see you too. It's been too long.

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  9. Deb - Did we grow up in the same house? ;) Mom - did you do this too?

    Meagen - So nice hearing from you. I'd love to know how your little ones are doing. "Learning to smile with the stressors" - phew - what a learning process!

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  10. Hang in there, Cath! Continue to seek that peace and rest in your soul, He always provides. and hopefully you can get a physical and mental break here and there, too... I am always in awe of you, the way you meet these precious and monumental responsibilities of yours.

    You are doing one amazing job!

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  11. I think that part of it is just the stage you're in--I remember when my triplets were babies and I thought I wasn't going to survive other mothers of triplets told me that it would get easier when they were 3 1/2. I didn't think I would live that long, but it really did happen that way. Before that stage things were just so much more volatile. I would feel like things were a bit calmer, and I'd add something back in. Then teething would happen or just needy cranky days, and I would feel so overwhelmed and have to cut back.

    I also am wondering if the whole cycle--making sure that there is margin in your life, slowly allowing that to erode away, figuring out again which things are ESSENTIAL and which things are merely nice (surely clean jeans are not ESSENTIAL?? :) ) is part of the life process...

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  12. Melissa - bless you. "He always provides." I love your faith and I know you're right.

    Cindy - you have a wise perspective. I was so glad to read your words. 3 1/2 huh? Well, with my girls just turning four, I can see what you mean. Things do change at this point. I'm glad to know you experienced the shuffle as well - of letting go, adding in, then having to cut back again. I think you are exactly right. All of this is part of the life process. It's how we figure out what is really important. I love your thoughts. Thank you.

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  13. You know what I was thinking about? When I had Ty, I cut EVERYTHING out of my life because I was having my first baby....no more work, just me and my baby. Then he got a little older, I added things back into my life....but when Gus came, I didn't cut any of it out again. I found I got use to being "overloaded" and don't know how to cut anything out because for some reason it feels like I would be giving up, or failing in some aspect. I did it before, I should still be able to do it all, right?
    Neil said tonight, "Why is it that our house only stays clean for 10 min?"
    It is what it is....
    I hope you find some rest soon. Maybe you don't have to fold clothes anymore - just lay them flat in their drawers. Or you can dig them out of a basket like I do...because I hardly ever get around to folding them before they are dirty again. Ahhhh...laundry!

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  14. I love your blog Cath!! I really do. I don't have nearly as much to do as you do but I also feel overwhelmed a lot. It's funny because every time I do I usually think about you and how you are such an amazing woman and always find time in the madness to appreciate what you have and enjoy the tender moments that seem to get lost in the chaos. I have found though that when I let myself and my list of things go even for a day (dishes, wiping counters, laundry...)I seem to be happier because at that point I'm able to really spend time with my kids and enjoy it. Otherwise I find myself hurrying through the precious time with them so that I can get to my own list of chores. Although I do notice that as I get the laundry done, the house straightened, etc that my children have suffered because of it and are always left longing for more time with me. Thanks for always reminding me that spending time with them is so important and is the key to true happiness!

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  15. Bec - I love your point that we can get "used" to living in a state of overload. It's good to recognize that in ourselves. I am learning (at least for me) less is better - for now. But it's so much harder to do than say! Maybe I should skip the folding and toss all the clean clothes into the kids drawers. They're a jumble within minutes anyhow!

    Lacey - thanks for you kind and honest comment. I relate completely. Moving through the chore list is usually the norm around here - but you're right, there are those times my kids need me to just quit what I'm doing and be present. Everyone is happier (including me) when I let things go. Yet, another part of me craves order - I think more clearly when the house is picked up. So choosing the right thing at the right time is the challenge. Sounds to me like you're aware, and your sense for what your children need is keen. Hope you're holding up during these last couple months of tax season!

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