I’m making a last-minute (important) trip out of town this weekend, which means bumping up my daughter’s birthday party, which means rescheduling a meeting, which means canceling a slew of other plans I’d tentatively poked into the tiny fissures that are this week’s “free time.”
Ha! Free time. Once those two little words conjured images of reclining on the porch swing with a book, or sitting down for coffee with a friend. Now they define those elusive moments during which the tyranny of the intensely urgent momentarily ebbs, when I find space to suck a deep breath and dive head-first into the laundry pile or dirty dishes.
Free time is when I shave my legs, scrub the toilet, or slather lotion on my daughter’s dry skin. Somewhere along the way “free” time became “should-have-been-done-ages-ago” time. It only feels free because all other time is breakneck busy.
Am I the only one dealing with this? Please say no. Wait, scratch that, please say yes. Because I don’t wish this insanity on anyone else.
Part of it is the time of year. At some point the kids reached a certain age and POW! – May became December on steroids: busy, busy, busy. This year is worse than ever, because instead of homeschooling, our kids are farmed out to three different schools with three different schedules with three times the end-of-school activities, field trips, parties, ceremonies, etc., etc., etc.
(Oh, and did I mention the two root canals I managed to squeeze in this month? Joy.)
But enough complaining. What I’m laboriously getting around to saying is that some seasons are crazy busy, and there’s just no getting around it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of simplifying, protecting your margin, and building healthy rest into your routine. It’s counter-cultural to do that – to not let your kids play every sport, and not volunteer for every committee, and not work overtime just because everyone else is – but we need a little counter in our culture, yes?
Still, seasons will come when the perfect storm of opportunity and responsibility demand every second we have to give. Let us do all we can to keep those seasons brief, but while in the midst of them, how do we cope?
I’m by no means an expert here, but being in the throes of one such season, here are a few tricks I’m learning to help maintain my sanity and health:
1. Breathe in grace, breathe out praise.
A dear friend made this sign for me a few years ago, with lyrics from Matt Redman. Profound wisdom here. On the craziest days I try to grab seconds (minutes, when I can get them) to sit in a quiet place and breathe.
It often happens in my car, just after I’ve parked in the driveway and the kids have run inside, or in the shower if no one’s knocking on my bathroom door. I relax, close my eyes, and just breathe.
In…(His grace is sufficient)…Out…(He is faithful)…In…(He is my strength)…Out…(His strength never fails).
Rinse and repeat.
2. Be flexible.
News flash: young kids are no respecters of schedule. The have an annoying habit of needing to pee, eat, and move all at the worst possible moments. And as if the little buggers weren’t inconsiderate enough, there are these other people in the world who call me on the phone, pull in front of me on the road, or stop to chat when I’m clearly making a beeline for whatever appointment/meeting/errand I should have been at 2.7 minutes ago.
I’m finally learning to surrender to this reality and pray for different eyes – the kind that recognize when “distractions” and “inconveniences” should be bigger priorities than my to-do list. Know what? Not once have I regretted letting my agenda slide in favor of showing care to another human being. I’d rather collapse into bed at night with fewer checkmarks on my Wunderlist than with a heart heavy with regret and self-recrimination.
3. Sleep when sleep works best.
I’ve never been a late-night person, but I’ve never been an early bird, either. In this busy season, however, I just don’t have the option of lazing in bed (and by “lazing” I mean still being horizontal past 7 a.m.). I also can’t sacrifice sleep on a regular basis, or I turn into Mama Bear – the peeved grizzly version.
Thankfully, I made a discovery this month. More of a happy accident, really. As busyness grew, I was wearing out earlier in the evenings. Instead of forcing myself to stay up until my normal bedtime, I had the brilliant idea of listening to my body and climbing into bed when I was tired.
I won’t lie, I was down as early as 8 p.m. some days. But guess what? I started waking before sunrise. TO A QUIET HOUSE. And suddenly I discovered a new realm of time in which I was fresh-brained and unhindered. I doubt this new sleep schedule will work long-term, especially during the dark winter months, but in this season it’s been a lifesaver.
Your turn. How do you survive – or, preferably, thrive – during busy seasons of life? And how do you prevent those seasons from becoming the norm for your family? Please share your tricks of the trade in the comments below.