It was noon and I was still in my pj's, which happened to be my running shorts and t-shirt that I never found the time to change out of from the previous day. I was rallying the kids for our weekly (daily??) room tidying and laundry sorting, hanging up endless piles of clean clothes, folding blankets, re-stacking books and toys on their proper shelves. After half an hour upstairs, we made our way back downstairs, where a sink of dishes and a full dishwasher blinking "Clean" awaited me. Again, I rallied the kids to pickup their toys and help sort silverware, as I scrubbed through piles of pots and pans and got the kitchen back to a useable state. After vacuuming breakfast crumbs, we were finally through our morning chores and ready to spend some time playing in the backyard together.
We played hard for an hour or more, until shoes were muddy, hair was sweaty and bellies were hungry. Making our way back inside for lunch, the kids took quick showers while I got our meal ready. Fed and cleaned - just two hours since our morning chores had been completed - I found myself with a sink full of dishes, a bathroom full of dirty clothes and a floor scattered with mud and grass, again.
If you've read a single post on this blog, it will be no surprise to you that I am rather addicted to making lists. As I type, I can look to the left and see a sticky note with book titles scrawled all over it in a variety of inks, a running reading list stuck to the bottom of my computer screen. To the right is a list I made last Fall of activities that are truly refreshing to me, a self-care list that I force myself to check in with from time-to-time. Front and center is my never-ending to-do list, currently filling a notebook piece of paper full of pink ink and lots of boxes awaiting their checkmarks of completion.
The morning I described above is typical of 90% of our mornings around here - a mixture of play and chores, and constantly cycling through laundry and dishes and vacuuming. I would assume some form of this cycle is typical of 90% of other families as well. It is the nature of life and living, of caring for ourselves and our families.
And yet, as my husband and I were plowing through yet another to-do list in preparation for out-of-town guests last weekend, a subtle reality dawned on me: I realized that I am constantly working toward a completed list, a life with all the boxes checked...a life which, by definition, does not exist. I realized that so much of my stress is falling into bed at night, exhausted from a day of doing, frustrated that I still have so much to do the next day. I think to myself, "When am I ever going to get all of this done?!" I focus on completion exclusively.
But, finally, this reality dawned on me: How can all the boxes always be checked off if life is still happening? Isn't life all wrapped up in the adventuring and the vacuuming, the cuddling and the cleaning? Won't every single chore cycle back, again and again and again, as long as I have life and breath? And isn't this good?
Brene Brown says in her book, Daring Greatly, "Perfectionism is self-destructive simply because perfection doesn't exist." I have said this very thing, seen it and meant it fully. And yet the truth of it continues to sink further and further into the depths of my life. The truth that life is cyclical, it is not a row of checked boxes. The truth that life is both work and wonder, both effort and enjoyment. The truth that having to wash dishes again tomorrow does not make me a failure or mean that I didn't get enough done today - it simply means that I am alive.
I don't know about you, friend, but I need reminded of these truths constantly. I need to know that even though the laundry will need done again tomorrow and that dinner will need cooked again tonight and that the floor will be filled with crumbs after every single meal - that incompletion does not equal insufficiency. That the cycle of chores that fills so much of my days can be a source of joy and celebration, rather than a source of constant stress, if I will just see the life behind it. If I will just see the gift of getting to live each and every part of this journey, chores and all.
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