Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Chance for Introspection

I was hunting around for some suitably serious topics, ones that would match my mood during the nine days. No earth shattering subjects presented themselves, but I did happen to think about the following.

So much of blogging is about what goes on in the outside world. We spend a lot of time looking at communal habits, and there is nothing wrong with that. We are, after all, members of the community and what others do can affect us. But my thoughts this week are turning in rather than out.

I start every summer with a "to do" list of things I need/want to get done. I make that list very official looking, all typed up with headings and estimated timetables for completion. I'm somehow very gung ho in the first few days after I compile the list; I like seeing the Xs after the completed items. But a week or two into the summer my enthusiasm starts flagging.

"Did I really think that I could do all of this in only two months," I think. I start making excuses about why I'm not going to do some of the things on the list, or why I'll mark them as a maybe. Some of those excuses are legitimate; just because I've put things on a list doesn't mean that other things won't arise that will take precedence. Some of the things on that list have been there for so many summers already that I don't know why I'm still bothering with including them; maybe because hope springs eternal. Maybe this is the summer I'll actually do them. Or maybe not.

Sometimes I beat myself up about that list. "I must be the world's laziest person," I yell at myself. "Anyone else could have finished all this in a snap," I chastise myself. And then sometimes, like this week, I look at myself openly and honestly and ask: "Who was I kidding with this list?"

We're all of us like that sometimes. We set ourselves goals, worthwhile goals, without any recognition of our limitations. We pack too much to do into a time period and then are angry at ourselves, or disappointed sometimes, if we don't get everything done. Sometimes we are doing this to ourselves; other times we are trying to meet other people's expectations of what we should be doing. Either way, we may be setting ourselves up for failure.

A lot of my regular activities come to a halt during the nine days and I find it a good time to take stock of myself. Yes, it's a time to chide myself a little bit about having put off a few things that really must get done, and done this summer. And I also begin to forgive myself for being human, for taking on more than could be done in two months. I allow that I had good intentions but poor foresight. I look at what I did instead of the things I didn't do that are still on the list and assure myself that those things were worthwhile too.

What are you mad at yourself about right now? What would it take to forgive yourself? This week I'm going to take that original list and revise it. This time I'm going to be realistic about what I'm really going to accomplish in what remains of the summer. I'm going to forgive myself for being human and go on from there.

This week I'm going to cut back on posting because even a little introspection shows me that I can't be upstairs sorting picture albums while I'm downstairs posting. And I want to sort those albums.

I hope that all of you readers might be inspired to spend some time with yourselves, asking yourselves the questions of what do you really want to do, really need to do, and figuring out how to make that possible. Now if you all will excuse me, I've a list that needs shredding.


Anonymous said...

I have that same summer list that never seems to get done. I finally figured out that two items on there I never do because I'm resentful that a mess created by everyone in the house is always my responsibility to clean up. This summer I gave over the responsibility for those two items to my kids and husband and told them that if they don't do them they won't get done, and I stuck to my word. One item, the toy and game storage area, has already been taken care of. The other? I think everyone else is waiting to see if I cave in and do it anyway. Not going to happen.

Anonymous said...

About three months ago, I started a job that requires me to commute three days a week. The commute is an hour-and-a-half, door to door. With two little ones (2 and almost 5) at home, this has been quite a transition for us. Yes, the job is worth the commute, in terms of money, benefits, and career advancement. And, no, I wouldn't have taken it if they didnt allow for two days of telecommuting each week. But I've noticed that its taken a bit longer for all of us to adjust to this change (I've always worked fulltime, but have always been close enough to the kids to be the "primary parent" 24/7. The good news is that DH has really steped up and I've noticed a stark contrast in the relationship between him and the bots, particularly the little one. They've grown closer and Abba is not offer "qualified" to do things only I was once allowed to do (like tie shoes).

Another change that has happened is that DH and I have had to set more realistic guidlines to our To Do lists. We have a long list and we each take on one thing each week. This week, I shopped around for car insurance and he took care of his passport. Next week, he has some shelves to hang and Im going to finish the shoping the school supply list for the boys.

Could we more? Sure. But at the expense of other things, like spending valuable and already limited time with our boys. So by lowering our own expectations, we've achieved a bit more shalom in our household while steadly (and slowely) X-ing things off our ever-growing To Do list.


Anonymous said...

Looking at an entire list used to depress me before I ever started. Now I write one job per slip of paper, put them into a tin with a cover (so I can't see how many slips still remain) and pull out only one thing to do. When that is done I pull out another. I may be fooling myself but psychologically I'm not busy worrying about everything else that there is still left to do.

Bas~Melech said...

Yes, the summer is DEFINITELY too short. ;-)

But I did manage to accomplish many of the less glamorous but more necessary things on my list. And there's still some time left...

A Living Nadneyda said...

I prioritize the list: Absolutely Must Do, Really Important But Not Timely, Wouldn't It Be Nice If... (i.e. bonus points). That way it's all clear what leaves no room for excuses, and what doesn't.

Can't say it always works, but it's less overwhelming, and more accurate, than one big long list.

Good luck, and remember to pat yourself on the back when you cross something off.


Anonymous said...

I used to divide my to do list by must do, maybe do and I still wasn't happy with the results. Now I divide the list into I absolutely hate to do, I can tolerate doing and I like doing. The first thing I do is to get rid of all the I hate to do this items. This way what is left is at least something I get some pleasure from and I don't wake up so cranky in the mornings.

Gila said...

I do my list each year at Rosh Hashana (which is also where my b-day falls). It is actually more along the lines of an annual plan. Each year, it gets shorter and more realistic.

Even so, recently I have been having problems getting myself to do things I "need" to do. (sigh....)