Finding rest

Phew. The holidays are over. Not gonna lie to you, friends: this year, the season was hard for me. Maybe it was the unseasonably cold weather in Minnesota. Maybe it was the first year celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas without my parents around (they moved South in mid-November and didn’t come home for the holidays). Maybe it was just the general holiday blahs that, despite decorations and presents and parties, tend to creep in uninvited.

Or maybe it was more than that. I’ve been pushing it hard this year. Stretching myself way beyond comfort, and spreading myself way too thin. Wake up, coffee, laundry, kids to school, work, kids from school, drive to and from practices, dinner, laundry, homework, bedtime routine, work, laundry, bed. Falling onto my pillow at night exhausted, and waking up even more so. Carving out time for friends? Too busy. Date night with my hubs? Nope. Kids need us. Sit down and watch a movie? There’s just too much to do.

The holiday proclamations of “peace & joy” rang hollow for me. Any peace I’d felt earlier in the year had fled long before the temperature dropped in November. And really, I have no one to blame but myself. I did this to me. I filled my calendar with tasks and to-dos and didn’t schedule in any time for myself or self care, because who actually does that? Multi-tasking is the norm in our world.

I remember when the term “multi-tasking” became a thing, and I remember writing it proudly on resumes as a young 20-something fresh out of college. Yes, I could multi-task. I could toggle between web pages and Photoshop and take phone calls from clients and field questions from co-workers, and play solitaire in the background of my 1999 desktop computer. It was a skill all of us young Gen-Xers were proud of. Our world was expanding, and with it, our need for mental capacity and flexibility. The Internet was exploding with e-commerce, and dot-coms were sprouting up around every corner. Multi-tasking was a necessary skill if you were to survive in the brand new 21st century.

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When I had kids, multi-tasking became handy and necessary to my survival. My first two babies were 16 months apart, which meant two sets of diapers to change, two sets of bottles to prep, two sets of pacifiers…moms, you get it. It was a messy, busy time. Rest was a rare luxury. Adding two more kids to that mix over the next few years, and I found myself creating habits of work, work, work, sleep, with little to no time for rest scheduled in.

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But somewhere in the last 20 years, I lost my peace; I don’t really remember how to rest. Years of multi-tasking have made sitting on the couch and doing nothing feel weird, and it is SO hard to slow down.

And when I multi-task and split myself so many different ways, I don’t do anything well, I’m just checking things off and moving on to the next item out of sheer necessity. Mealtime+laundry+helping with homework+carpooling=rushed dinners/wrinkled clothing/absent-minded answers/checking my phone for texts while driving kids to practice.

The worst thing about all of it is that my kids are watching me. They’re developing their sense of “normal” while watching me spin and spin and spin until I fall down. What am I teaching them by having a never-ending to-do list?  When I’m crabby (because I’m tired) and snippy (because I don’t rest) I’m teaching them that doing is higher priority than being.

The truth is, if you’re a mom (or dad) the to-do list never really does end. As long as I’m blessed with breath in these lungs and kids in this house, there will always be laundry and meals and work to do. I’m racing towards a finish line that is perpetually out of reach. And for me, it has to stop. I have to CREATE space for it to stop.

And so, this year, I am making a promise to myself to find time for rest. To wear comfy clothes. To sit in front of the fire and read and journal. To say NO to doing the dishes and laundry right now so I can play a game with my kids instead. To sit with my husband and connect daily (a rarity in the last few years, honestly) and enjoy each other and just be.

Mostly, it’ll look like putting tasks and chores on the back burner for awhile, or at least until I make time to rest every day. Not every day will be perfect–there is still a fair amount of multi-tasking that honestly needs to be done (clothes and dishes don’t wash themselves, folks). But I know that when I prioritize rest over tasks, I’ll find my peace again. And that is something worthy of working towards.