Quiet. I'm not sure what the dictionary definition is, but the mother's definition is as follows: 1) the condition of a home during which children take their nocturnal repast, which often ends as soon as maternal unit has decided to begin her nocturnal repast. 2) an eerie state which often drives the maternal unit to a state of suspicion and paranoia. 3) The alarming state in which a game of cops and robbers has inspired one child to bind and gag the others. 4) The glorious occasion which finds offspring across town at mother-in-law's house--until Sunday.
As you may have surmised, I am enjoying the latter definition. I love my children, but the wee sea-monkeys have been driving me crazy. Granted, my personal struggles over the past couple of weeks have only been exacerbated by their youthful energies, but I am thankful for a day and a half of stillness and tranquility to try to get myself back on track for next week.
Last night, I watched them drive away, did the Mad-Hatter jig in the living room, and promptly cranked on the hot water for a shower. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed an hour quite so utopian. The steam from a late cup of coffee, twisted into the the shower's vapor and and the soulful crooning of a Billy Holiday CD. By 7:00 the stage was well set for some peaceful self-evaluation.
Re-evaluation of life is an important part of everyone's mental well-being. Unfortunately, when your mind is already in a state of high alert, problem solving or re-arranging your life's spinning set of circumstances can be just another reason to go and hide under your covers.
Add to that, a busy toddler who has just learned to walk and who finds great pleasure in disassembling every organization device on the bottom two feet of your home; a four year old who asks the same question ten times before lunch when she's ON her pill; and a six year old who could really use a back yard instead of a 20 square foot balcony; and you may as well call the men in white and report the frazzled, un-showered woman who just ran down the sidewalk screaming.
Realizing this about myself, a while back I came up with an easy re-evaluation tool. This tool is always attached to me. This tool is familiar and will not change unless I have a severe accident while making salad. This tool is my hand.
We all need priorities. I'm the kind of person who thinks I should be able to do a little bit of everything, but I have learned that I JUST CAN'T. For me, LIMITING my priorities has been a key factor in keeping myself healthy and focused. Usually when I struggle with anxiety, I need to revisit the priorities. I have to speak to the hand.
The idea is never to have more priorities than you can account for on one hand--that's right, FIVE priorities. For me, the priorities are as follows--God, my husband, myself, my children, and a ministry. When I first came up with these priorities, MYSELF used to come at the end of the list, because I had always been taught that Jesus, Others, and You equals JOY. I still believe this whole-heartedly, but though unselfishness definitely has its place, I have discovered, if I don't take care of ME, I don't have anything left to offer the other people on the list.
Consequently, I got bumped up. My personal care priorities are my health--so diet, exercise, and rest--and my writing. These two areas are very key to me be the well, fulfilled person who tries to care for everyone around me.
In regards to the other priorities, God has to stay first. His Word offers answers to anything I'm going through. Talking to Him in prayer guarantees that I always have someone to talk to about what I'm going through and what I'm feeling. My personal relationship with Him will outlast everything else in my life.
My husband is my best friend and my next priority. I put him before myself, not only because my Bible tells me that should be the order of things, but also because it's healthy for everyone of us to have at least one person on this earth we put before ourselves. This exercise in unselfishness reminds us that though we are valuable before God, we are also not the center of the universe. Herein lies an important life system of checks and balances.
After myself, my kids are my priority. They are the next generation, the one's who will look out for me when I'm old (I hope), and all I can take with me into the next life. Their smiles are my joy in the morning. Their awe at the world keeps me young. Their unconditional love and trust challenge me to walk the line. And oh yeah, they make sure I never go to the bathroom and wonder if I'm alone in the world.
Finally, I enjoy being involved with my local church. I sing in the choir, I'm on the children's council, and I teach Sunday school. These interactions keep me connected with the big picture and constantly remind me of the world outside of my 3 bedroom apartment. They are the catalyst for fulfilling activities, relationships, and friendships.
So what are your priorities? Some of yours might be different from mine. Maybe you enjoy your church but can't get as involved as you'd like because your fifth priority is your full-time job. But maybe you don't have a husband and kids right now, and while you do have that full time job, you are feeling busy, but not bettered. Why not consider a church ministry, a charity, or mentoring a child?
Or maybe you're swamped. Maybe you've got more going on than you can count on two hands. My challenge to you would be to start prioritizing. Keep the essentials. Choose what's important. Don't be afraid to move yourself up on the list. Don't be afraid to say "NO." And when the world starts guilting you (or you start guilting yourself) for you new set of priorities, look life straight in the eye and say,
"Speak to the Hand!"