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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I Want to Be a Really Useful Engine

I said that to my husband today. Why? It's a combination of feeling creatively impotent, earning very little money (since I quit my full-time job over a year ago), and watching excessive amounts of Thomas & Friends episodes and movies with my train-obsessed toddler.

Sure, I feed and clothe and clean up after my two little guys (and myself, too, if I'm lucky). But if that's all I get done at the end of the day, I tend to feel a little deflated. Discouraged. I feel inefficient. Unproductive. And often, unmotivated to do anything to improve.

I hate that feeling. Type A person that I am, I need to feel like I'm getting stuff done. And I don't just mean, it makes me feel good when I accomplish things. (It does.) But I seriously NEED that feeling of accomplishment. It's a drug. Checking off those boxes on the to-do list. Getting that "productivity high." It's euphoric. A rush of relief. A validation of my worth. Demonstrable evidence that I'm not totally useless. In fact, when I get stuff done - really plow through my schedule, bang bang bang, like a sniper picking off targets - I can almost feel the pat on my back, almost hear the reassuring voice of approval... and lately it sounds a lot like a certain rotund top-hat-wearing gentleman.

As Sir Topham Hatt would say, "You're a really useful engine."

But then sometimes... okay, a lot of the time... I don't get stuff done. Sometimes it's because I literally have one or more children hanging off me, making even a 45-second solo bathroom break feel like a vacation. Other times I'm emotionally spent and have nothing left to give when I finally do have the free time available to actually accomplish something outside of the feed/bathe/clothe cycle of child-rearing chores.

And in those times, when I've gotten nothing done, when I can no longer feel the pat on my back, can no longer hear even a whisper of approval... that's when the Devil creeps into the void. And he glides his reptilian hand around my shoulder, comforting me with a false sense of entitlement and pride. And he drizzles my empty ears with all-too-logical lies... about how I've failed at last... about how my true self has been revealed... about how I'm really worthless after all, no good at anything, probably never was.

I know enough to recognize these as lies. I can even summon up the bright, clean words of Scripture to contradict them. But I'm shocked at how appealing it remains to believe the lie (even when I know it's totally untrue!) and wallow in the resulting despondency.

That happened today. And frankly, it made me feel like crap.

Tomorrow... here's my plan to do better.

  1. Hear a lie? Speak the truth! Don't just remember the verse haphazardly in the back of my head. Go open my Bible, find it, read it out loud, and for good measure, write it down! It's a lot harder to believe the lie when you're seeing, hearing, and writing the truth.
  2. One and done. Skip the to-do list. Instead, just pick one thing to get done - one and only one. I read somewhere that the ideal number of items for a to-do list is 3-4. More than that, and it becomes so discouraging/overwhelming that you give up halfway through. So rather than tempt fate, make it easy. Do just one thing. As a bonus, this should make it easier to do that one thing thoroughly and well, rather than racing through it on the way to the rest of the list.
  3. Be purposefully unproductive. By this I mean, be intentional about relaxing or "being lazy." If you plan it, rather than fall into it, you feel more in control... and less guilty about slacking off. That's the theory at least.
So, that's my plan to be a really useful engine. One that Sir Topham Hatt would be proud of. And hopefully one that can be proud of myself too.

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