I had a to-do list a mile long. My One Thing had turned into fifty. I’d carefully planned my day down to the minute and foolishly assumed nothing would go wrong. No traffic. No bad weather. No sick child. Today was the day I was Getting. Stuff. Done.
I popped in my car from my workout, checked my time, then messaged the next person I was scheduled to meet that I was on my way. Only 5 minutes behind my plan, not too bad for 2 pm!
“I’m going to be about 15 minutes late.” She replied. “I haven’t eaten today.”
I stopped and thought about it. When did I last eat? My stomach, I suddenly realized had been rumbling for a good hour. I was sweaty. Hungry. Tired. Thirsty.
And I really, really, really had to pee.
How ridiculous was it that my plan to be super productive came at the expense of my basic needs as a human? How often, I wondered, did I plan days like this where I didn’t allow myself to eat or even stop to rest for five full minutes?
I didn’t know the exact answer, but I knew I must do it often enough that I no longer even recognized the subtle queues my body was giving me. In fact, I was ignoring them until whispers became shouts. Why? So I was “productive?” To meet expectations that I had placed on myself?
Self Compassion Not Self Care
Like most moms today, I wear too many hats and take on too much. Some of it is self-inflicted (I don’t want to be a Girl Scout Leader, never did, but guess who said yes when asked?!). But most of it is just the business of being me. I’m a mom. I’m a writer. I have a job. So the reality is that all the “stuff” I’m going to do each day isn’t going anywhere. When I sit back and look at what I can reasonably get rid of, those are usually the things that give me, or my family, the most joy. No, I don’t want my daughter to drop the swim team so we have more weekends free. No, I’m not willing to spend less time volunteering at school. No, I’m not giving up scheduled coffee dates with friends who replenish my soul.
What I can do is slightly lower the expectations for how well I perform at said things, especially if my current expectation is BE PERFECT AT ALL THE THINGS. More specifically, instead of trying to be perfect, I am shifting into being more mindful. Which means shifting out of auto-pilot.
After my realization earlier in the year that I was spending far too much time focused on, and assigning too much value to, my weight I began to look into the practice of Intuitive Eating. While I haven’t put it 100% into practice, the idea of spending one meal entirely undistracted so I can focus on the taste, temperature and texture of my food is an appealing one.
But maybe I need to do more. Maybe I need to perform more of my tasks undistracted. Maybe, what I need, is intuitive living. I could be alone in this. I could be the only Mamma who has run herself ragged without even realizing it. But my guess is I have company. So armed with this idea, here are just a few ways I’m taking myself off auto-pilot and practicing a more mindful, intuitive life.
I’m Taking Myself off Auto-Pilot. I’m Paying Attention to my Body.
There is no reason in the world to “push through” intense fatigue. So the next time my body starts whispering “I’m tired” in a soft voice, I’m going to listen. Maybe I just need water or five minutes of downtime. Or maybe I need to say no to a few things (or not now) and spend a day resting. You’ve seen this meme, right?
But she was tired.
… so she rested & you know what?
The world went on & it was ok.
She knew she could try again tomorrow.
That list of things isn’t going anywhere, but we can’t accomplish anything on it if we are too tired or too hungry to see straight. And not stopping to go potty is a basic concept I’ve taught my children. It’s ridiculous I would ignore it.
I’m Taking Myself Off Auto-Pilot. I’m Placing a Higher Value on My Time
Sure, I can iron on a logo for both Pre-K class t-shirts! By next week? No problem!!! Even as I heard myself saying it I knew it was ridiculous. I enjoy crafting, but even a small, simple craft takes time. I wanted to help, but I could have easily volunteered to do a portion of them instead of all 40. My reasoning was that I could do it in the evenings while watching TV. That time meant I was distracted, so I didn’t get a proper recharge. I fell into bed exhausted and missed time with my husband. Our time has value, and that means we don’t have to fill every minute of it throughout the day just because we have it. Downtime should not only be enjoyed; it should be expected.
I’m Taking Myself Off Auto-Pilot. I’m Being Mindful When I Spend Money
The memes about milk costing $232 at Target are hilarious, and often true. But we’ve spent the better part of two years carefully monitoring our expenses so we can complete projects around the house. So when I casually grab clothes I don’t need or extra toys, I’m not only exercising my privilege but I’m cutting into funds allotted to something else. Often I do it without thinking, which is why I have three shirts in my closet that are an almost identical shade … and still complain I have nothing to wear. So I’m making lists when I am shopping and sticking to them. No matter how cute that dark green shirt is.
I’m Taking Myself Off Auto-Pilot. I’m Spending Less Time Online
When my friend posted about Stopping the Scroll last year I remember thinking I could never do it. I communicate with school groups online, work online and connect online. Some part of me believed that minimizing my online time would minimize my contact with the outside world.
But is every question and comment really so crucial that is has to be answered within 5 minutes? I didn’t realize that each time I took a moment to collect my thoughts while working or writing, I would jump to social media. The second I got stuck I refreshed, longing for distraction. Facebook had become the squirrel to my Doug and I was relying on it more and more often. Soon jumping on my phone was a habit so ingrained I did it without thinking. I was no longer facing hard thoughts or issues, I was ignoring them – and sometimes my friends and family.
It’s officially summer, which means by default a few of my external stressors (volunteer time, homework, last minute projects) are gone. So I have some time to engage this new mindful living philosophy. I’ve listed a few ways above, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the simple act of stopping and being mindful brings to my attention!