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I heard something kind of life-changing this week:
If you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, step back and cut out everything that isn’t a necessity. ~ Crystal Paine
I wasn’t looking for this piece of advice. I found it in the course of doing my job.
And to be clear, this advice goes directly against everything that I’ve believed in for a very long time.
Because the only answer to exhaustion and overwhelm is to make a list, and do everything on it as quickly as possible. Duh.
That’s what I’ve always done. For years.
As a student.
In my career.
As a busy homeschooling mama.
Do. Do. Do.
And then do some more. (Because plate clearing and task-tackling is the only way to get things back under control, right?)
I mean the idea that what you really need is to stop? And then do less?
And then I’ll fly my diamond-encrusted jet to Turks and Caicos for the weekend.
But something about those words really struck me. Like a soul song.
Like in that moment, those words were just for me, and at any second they could disappear forever, so I better grab hold …
And so, I considered things, and slowly, it occurred to me that technically, I had completed my necessary work for that day.
There was still plenty to be done. Deadlines were approaching. Someone should probably throw in some laundry.
But nothing needed to be finished at that exact moment.
And so …
And so I got a cup of tea and crumpet and I went back to bed.
My daughter quickly joined me with her knitting needles.
My son picked out a movie for us.
I looked at the stack of books by my bed, a stack that has been waiting for a rainy day, and I piled them right next to me.
This is really happening, I thought, and a little thrill coursed through me.
How little could I do in one day?
I will tell you. For reference:
- I made a frozen pizza.
- I finished two books
- I snuggled with my kids
- I let our new puppy out 17 times
- I cleaned up after our new puppy 18 times
- I did one load of dishes and cleaned the counters
- I cleaned the cat box
- I read with my kids
- I made baked potatoes and prepped toppings for a salad bar dinner, and when one of the hard-boiled eggs was being a pain in the neck and was peeled down to a tiny annoying bit of almost nothing, I gave up and pitched it to the dog
- I ate two crumpets and drank 7 cups of tea
It felt luxurious. It felt indulgent. I went to bed in a state of calmness previously only achieved after …. Almost never.
The next day, I awoke at 5 a.m. I sat down to write, and a project I had been really struggling with came together in about an hour.
And so, I moved on to my other work and finished that. And it was still only 7 a.m.
And so …
And so I made another cup of tea and another crumpet and I went back to bed.
My kids woke up late and came to snuggle with me.
“What do you guys want to do today?” I asked.
“Mama, can we stay at home today? Like yesterday? Can we have another slow day?”
And so I started to think about what we really needed to do that day.
We needed to homeschool. We had taken a day off yesterday (I’d decided to classify it as a Soul Fever Day, which we usually reserve for when kids are feeling off, not the mama).
We needed to get back on track.
Instead of making a list and just jumping right in, I decided to ask myself: What are the absolute necessities for an easy homeschool day?
How could I make this day like yesterday, while incorporating a bit more intentional learning?
I will tell you. For reference:
- We did a bit of math.
- We read together a lot.
- My son did some programming.
- My daughter made me a beautiful bracelet.
- I started a knitted hat for a baby on the way.
- We snuggled close together, and when everyone felt up to it, we went outside and played with our pup and talked about our garden.
We didn’t plant our garden, because that didn’t need to be done.
It will eventually.
By me? I don’t know.
Because the truth is, I have been feeling really exhausted and overwhelmed lately, and I didn’t realize it until I stopped.
The thing is, you’ve probably noticed, that homeschooling and parenting and homemaking are not easy ventures. They don’t stop because it’s Friday night. We don’t get to quit like Fred Flintstone when the toucan roars.
Because if you’re anything like me, even when you’re not teaching math or scrubbing the tub or talking to your kids about online safety, you’re thinking about those kinds of things.
You’re maybe worrying just a little.
So today, I wanted to share with you the beauty of the full stop. The pleasure of the Soul Fever Day. The absolute transformative power of doing nothing but what you absolutely need to do, even if it’s just for an hour or two.
Because sometimes, we need to push. It’s true.
And other times, what we need most is to breathe.
At those times, I recommend tea and crumpets and a stack of good books.
I think you’ll find that a break full of nothing may give you the energy you need to move ahead once more.
Probably even stronger than before.