Looking at my elephant (as in : to-do list) got overwhelming these last few weeks. In an effort to cope, I caught myself wishing time would go by faster. At work, many times you hear people counting down the hours to shift change. In fact, in residency we would sometimes chant, "You can turn up the pain, but you can't stop the clock." Residency is over. And life is (usually) beautiful, so, this is no way to live. After all, a day gone by only brings you one day closer to death!
Noticing the thought creeping more and more into my head, a stat turnaround was required. I don't want the days to be over. I just want to enjoy them. And although I have been actively working on dwindling down my home responsibilities as much as possible to focus on spending time with my children, husband (especially the devoted husband - who is sitting next me making me add that), and medicine, sometimes "The List" is so very long, that the only solution that would seem to bring relief is for it to be over.
A few weeks ago, Isabel, my seven year old, asked for help with a piano piece she was trying to learn. "I'll never get it. It's too hard and it's too long." I had to tell her about the elephant. "Ew, that's gross. Why would I eat an elephant?" I had to elaborate, "Let's do hands separately, measure by measure, so it's not so overwhelming." The universe had sent a reminder.
I made an executive decision to start cutting up the elephant instead of dreading eating it whole. Instead of waking up each day and looking at the list of things for the day, week, next several weeks, I focused just on what was coming up in the hours before work. Instead of stressing about what was required of me the rest of the day, I needed to refocus on enjoying sipping coffee while my babies had their hot chocolate, on watching them earn their quarters taking turns making sandwiches for lunch, and on having the blessing of a true hour of family time before the day even starts.
The last two weeks or so, despite an incredibly over packed schedule, I have amazingly felt organized and calm. There is a family activity carefully included into everyday. This actually is awesome for combating mommy guilt. It feels so much worse when it doesn't happen and then I'm even more stressed out! This weekend, the girls each planted 150 seeds, both vegetables and flowers, which are critical to attract fairies. We are on a daily look out for seedlings. All members of the family get turns with one on one time. For example, Maddie, my six year old, and I, recently went swimming at the YMCA and had chocolate milk shakes after while she told me about how she likes it when boys chase her on the playground. It took an hour, at the end of which, I got a "Mommy, this was the best day ever." Totally worth it! Had I not changed my way of thinking, I might be confused that I don't have time for these activities right now, as there are more important things on "The List." Really, though, the end of childhood is coming, and fast. What is more important then that?
The elephant theory of course applies to work, as well. There are many responsibilities to juggle. Sometimes, I forget I actually enjoy juggling them and would be otherwise bored! It seems there is so much to be done, it has to all happen simultaneously if I will ever finish. This has changed, too. One piece at a time, each agenda is tackled. Amazingly, I have discovered, there aren't that many things that are emergencies. In fact, it is unclear why it was stressing me out in the first place. Only after one task is completed have I been moving on to the next. So sane, so logical. How did I not think of it before?
So, take a breath. It's going to be okay. Prioritize tasks in small increments of time. Work on one thing at a time. Always make time for the people in your life that are, well, your life. And never wish days away.