The Routine God

 

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I love the liturgies of daily life.  I scramble to bring order to my days and I sometimes think I’m nothing without my routine.  So when things come along to throw off my groove (and they do, routinely–see what I did there?), I feel lost.

I could lie and say this love of habit blossomed after I finally woke from a compressed and super-intense baby-producing phase in which I trust I was present but only have scrapbooks and stretch marks to prove it.  But, no.  I was making workable life plans for myself in second grade.

The thing is, I have seen daily disciplines work.  I have, in fact, used them to lose weight, to read through the entire Bible in a year, to play certain difficult pieces on the cello, to learn to speak Hindi, to write a novel.  I also know that the slapdash, open-ended ways of a creative often hinder her from getting actual stuff done.  The Muse visits the writer whose bum is already in the chair, etc, etc, etc.

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But the workable routine always wants to become my god.  It promises to save me from sloth and chaos and irrelevance.  Or that’s what I hear it say, anyway.  And then the real God, the One who helps us even when we didn’t ask him to, castrates the fake god by letting mess happen, instead.  Not because routines are bad–they’re helpful–but because they aren’t more important than life, or God himself.

All of that is to say that I haven’t written in a week and I feel crazy.  I’m working on a project with a deadline I made up because it helps me accomplish more when I pretend disaster is looming.  But, like I said, life happened this week and I ended up thinking instead of doing.  My teenagers needed me and so did some friends.  And after that I just wanted to watch Netflix and read books that have nothing to do with the one I’m writing.  I wanted to go limp.

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So now I’m trying to get back to my former routine (again!) without loving it too much. Oh,  how I hate getting back into something instead of already being in the middle of it.  I also hate confronting the fear that fills the vacuum my ruined routine leaves in my psyche.  On the other hand, I want to grow trusting and flexible enough that I can ride these longterm contractions with quiet confidence that God knows what’s best for me, that I can trust him with all the things–including my writing habits and my time.  That I can get back to work eventually.

I should be working on my novel.  But I’m blogging instead.  Baby steps.

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On Bearing Burdens

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I woke up this morning with a whirling mind and bruised heart so that it felt like I hadn’t slept at all last night.

My mood further plummeted when it dawned on me that I wouldn’t be able to mull over what’s burdening me in order to mentally work it out.  I’m a writer and a teacher and I have to be emotionally present and alert to do my job(s) well.  And these weighty thoughts are like mental sludge in my brain pipes.

So what will I do in the next eighteen hours?

I’ll pray every time the heavy thoughts come up today.  Like a ninja.  My problems are beyond me, but not God.

I’ll make a list of the things I have to accomplish in the next several hours.

I’ll follow that list, checking things off as I get them done without trying to decide in the moment what  comes next.

I’ll listen to music when I’m not teaching or writing.  Few things focus my mind more than hearing songs and lyrics I love.

I’ll exercise at some point, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

I’ll remind myself that today will last for exactly 24 hours like its ancestors before it.  It’ll pass.  It has to.

Finally, I’ll get on with life because that’s what mothers do.

How do you cope with burdens you can’t seem to permanently offload? 

The Bare Minimum is Better Than Nothing

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It’s March.  February was…well, I’m just going to leave it there.  March is shaping up to be no less insane since I’m heading to South America for ten days–without the family.  When things get nutty (and they have recently) and nothing goes as planned (it kind-of hasn’t for a while), I hunker down and try to accomplish what I call The Bare Minimum.

Everyone has his or her own idea of what constitutes ‘bare minimum’, of course.  In truly awful circumstances, it probably consists of making sure you and your loved ones are eating and wearing clothes.  But in most non-life-threatening situations, it’s a list of the most basic things a person needs to accomplish to keep moving forward when things aren’t quite normal.

I’ve been adhering my own Bare Minimum list for weeks now…

  • Bible reading (sometimes only a handful of verses) and prayer
  • Helping the kids with their schoolwork (but basically math and writing when things are especially ridiculous)
  • Writing 500 words a day, except on weekends (even if they’re stupid words, and they sometimes are since I feel like I’m shoving them into a tight schedule)
  • Basic tidying up around the house (the kids are helping out so that it doesn’t all fall on my shoulders)
  • Keeping food on the table (easy meals like Crock Pot chicken fajitas)
  • Drinking water (I buy the flavored, sparkling kind and drink can after can.  Hey, at least it keeps me hydrated and is better than soda)
  • Sleeping (more than usual, if I can)

I can’t handle any more than what’s on that list these days.  I know things will settle down eventually but, for now, I keep reminding myself that accomplishing The Bare Minimum is, indeed, better than nothing.

What’s on your bare minimum list?