I Could be Writing
Do you ever feel like you are not where you should be? Like every time you are doing one thing you should be doing another? Like you’re always a step, or twelve, behind where you should be?
Yeah, me too.
You are not alone. I think it is easy for parents, especially, to feel this way because our children get most of our time. Which only means, we are being good parents. It is easy to watch our plans melt down into never-happeneds and to quickly feel like we have failed before we even started. But there is a cure for this overwhelming feeling that seems to consume some of the best moments of our lives.
For me the thing I feel I am always behind on is writing. I am making dinner and thinking, “I could be writing.” I am playing ponies with my daughter or cars with my son and thinking, “I could be writing.” I am working out with my husband and I am thinking, “I could be writing.” I am literally doing anything that isn’t writing and I am thinking, “I could be writing.”
Let’s start by talking about why this mentality is destructive to our psyche:
You are denying yourself enjoyment.
These thoughts do not only invade our minds when we are doing things we don’t like. They do so when we are relaxing, spending quality time with our children, spouse, friends and family, even when we are taking care of other priorities that we enjoy, like cooking a meal for our family. Healthy self-esteem requires that you allow yourself to take pleasure in doing things that you enjoy. In order to do that effectively you must be mentally present. When you are doing one thing and thinking about something else, you are not present.
You are denying your child, spouse, self, etc., your presence.
Your children deserve your undivided attention while you are playing with them. Your spouse deserves your undivided attention while you are spending time with them. You deserve your undivided attention during your personal time. When you are thinking about other things while you are doing something else, you are not present. When you are not present with your child, or anyone else, you are not able to appreciate the experience you are having. The other night, thoughts of times I had been mentally distracted when I should have been immersed in play swallowed up my heart. I couldn’t escape the sadness that those choices had caused my children in the past and myself at present. Remember, you will always regret the love you didn’t show to those you care about.
You loose productivity.
When you are mentally focused on something else while you are doing whatever you are doing, you ultimately loose productivity. If I am trying to read a book but thoughts of my children wanting more of my time keep invading my mind, then chances are I will not read as many pages as if I were to accept that I chose to read my book. If I am playing with my children but I am on autopilot because I am thinking about the next article I am going to write, then chances are my child will not feel like they are getting quality time with me. If I am day dreaming about laying on a warm beach with my husband while I am doing the dishes, then chances are those dishes are going to take me a few extra minutes. This can add to the overwhelming feeling that we are always a few steps behind, because when we are not present in the moment, we kind of are several steps behind.
So, what can we do about this?
I developed an easy three step thought process to help you become more present in your everyday life:
1) Get a Planner.
(Like this one.)
Start writing out the main tasks you want to get accomplished throughout each day. The more productive you are the more you become mentally motivated continue doing what you’re doing. I know everyday that I want to write for at least an hour, work out for an hour, read for at least half an hour, etc. That doesn’t mean that I will do everything every single day but it helps to see it written down somewhere where I can visualize it. Then mark off the task once it is finished. This also comes in handy for planning all the things you want to get done around appointments, meetings, dates and other events.
2) Rethink what you are doing.
One thing you have to realize is thinking about other priorities isn’t supposed to be a vice; it is supposed to be a strength that leads to productivity. So, the next time your brain starts to tell you to do something else, take a minute to reassess what you have going on. Maybe your anxious it’s-time-to-get-on-this feeling is right. Maybe you’re messing around on social media instead of spending time with your children. Maybe you have spent the whole day playing with your children and you need to be doing some work. Maybe your anxious feeling is wrong. Maybe you haven’t given your children nearly enough of your time. Maybe you and your spouse haven’t had alone time in far too long. Maybe that book you’re reading is helping you work through something. Maybe you need to cook dinner for your family so they don’t, you know, starve. Either way, a simple reassessment can calm your uneasy feelings. If your feeling was right, go do whatever it is that you think is a better use of your time. If your feeling was wrong, be present in what you are doing now.
3) Accept your choice.
Finally you must accept what you are choosing to do. Whether your anxious feeling was right or wrong, you must accept that you have chosen to spend your time how you are spending it. No one is forcing you to spend time with your children, be creative in some way, work out, go to work (maybe hungry mouths, but ya know that’s life), get on social media, watch TV, etc. You made a choice and you owe it to yourself and any others involved to be present in what you are doing. Remind yourself that you will get to what you are thinking about but until then you will be focused on what you are currently doing.
Someday they won’t want to do a sticker book with you anymore. Someday you won’t have to cook as big of meals. Someday your house will be a little bit more quite. Someday you can spend your days reminiscing sweet moments with your daughter, silly times with your son, romantic days with your husband, accomplished goals, etc., but only if you allow yourself to be in the present.
Here’s to living in the moment for yourself and for your family!