struggling more deeply with my mental illness, trying to keep up with work and family with a newborn + two young kids, maintaining a facade of perfectionism, struggling in my relationship with God...I mean, really gasping. Air was in short supply. I was depressed, anxious, and giving in (a lot) to OCD obsessions and compulsions. I functioned okay on the outside, but I was suffocating on the inside.
Something had to give.
My Oxygen Tank
My life needed a major overhaul. The chaos was more than I could handle, and I was in desperate need of learning what it meant to just breathe like Jonny Diaz sings in his song of that same name ("Just Breathe" - it's worth a listen). But learning to breathe wasn't going to just happen on its own. I needed an oxygen tank - an arsenal of things in my life that would make breathing just a little easier. Here are some of the things that fill my oxygen tank.
The Ability to Say "No"
The American culture seems to measure success by how busy we are. We can be involved in a lot of good things, but as a result we can totally miss the best things - relationships, personal health, spiritual growth - due to being busy. Church involvement, Classical Conversations, and homeschooling seem to be enough for us right now.
I over complicated homeschooling at first. It became stressful and overwhelming and didn't go so well. Then I read The Importance of Being Little by Erika Christakis (I highly recommend it). The overall point of the book is that kids in preschool and kindergarten most need is to spend time doing things with people who love them. Their environment - whatever it happens to be - is their curriculum.
My son is now in kindergarten. We do have formal school time, but I'm learning that life is a great curriculum in addition to working on literacy and math. Here are some recent real life experiences that we turned in to learning opportunities:
- Cooking dinner - we made salsa and learned how to bake chicken
- Buying things with cash - The boys brought their own money to the grocery store. We talked about what items they could afford and how to read the price signs. After choosing sour gummy worms, they took their item to the cash register, got money out of their wallets, paid the cashier, and got change and a receipt back.
- Authentic writing - my kindergartener wrote a list of things he wants to take on vacation (we leave Monday) and a birthday card to a friend.
Simple, Unemotional Discipline
Kids are hard. Our oldest son was recently exhibiting behaviors that left unchecked would make life very difficult for him (and us!) in the future. I read The Well-Behaved Child by John Rosemond. I don't agree with everything in the book, but based on the information found in it, we have made some major simplifications to what we are doing to help our son with his behavior:
- Identified target misbehaviors to focus on
- Communicated clear and simple consequences for when he exhibits one of the target misbehaviors
- Followed through on the consequences
- Stopped saying "okay?" at the end of a directive...for example, "don't hit your brother, okay?" I'm making a statement that he must obey, not asking for his permission.
- Acted as a referee without emotion instead of becoming angry at the drop of a hat...for example, "You did _____________, and the consequence is ______________. It's too bad you made that decision."
OCD has greatly affected my relationship with God. I've struggled with obsessions of making God angry and compulsions of asking for forgiveness for my sins over and over and over. Now, instead of asking for God's forgiveness over and over, I thank Him for forgiving me for all of my sins. I'm still working through what it means to confess, repent, and be forgiven, but simplifying my prayer life has been a good start.
I have a problem with disorganization. I know this flies in the face of what people usually think of when they think of someone with OCD, but it's true. We have too much stuff. And it's easy for it to take over our lives. I've been sorting, donating, selling, and organizing so our lives can be enhanced by our stuff - not enslaved by it.
School Room before:
School Room after:
This method of organizing tasks and information seems to be growing in popularity. A bullet journal is nothing fancy. Mine is a blank notebook that I use to keep track of whatever I need to write down. Here's the current content of my bullet journal:
- My ongoing to do list
- An old grocery list
- Notes from a phone call to the pediatrician's office
- Bullet points of things to talk to my sister-in-law about as we prep for a family vacation
- The name and author of a book I should read
- A vacation packing list
- Daily to do lists
- A catalog of items I donated this week to write off on our taxes
Routines and Processes
Simple Morning and Evening Routine
Morning: Feed my daughter, read my Bible/pray, drink coffee, fold laundry/straighten up, boys get up
Evening: Fix and eat dinner, start a load of dishes and a load of laundry
These simple routines help the rest of our day run smoothly, and everyone is well taken care of.
Ideally (which is another way of saying that it has never once been perfectly done), our money management process looks like this. My husband gets paid, I immediately tithe and pay all bills due in the next two weeks. We then know exactly how much money we have left to buy groceries, gas, clothes, etc. We use Dave Ramsey's budgeting software, EveryDollar, and that has been very helpful.
- Make a list of meals for the week (I use my bullet journal) based on ingredients we already have and what is on sale.
- Write out ingredients and amounts needed for each meal, and a place to mark whether or not we already have each one.
- Make a grocery list of only ingredients we need.
- Buy everything that I can at Aldi.
The result of using my oxygen tank has been huge. I no longer feel hurried and frazzled most of the time. My brain feels more at peace. I feel SO MUCH MORE relaxed. I'm enjoying my family. My efforts are focused on caring for the people around me instead of feeling divided and spread too thin among different commitments. We are spending time around the dinner table eating good food. The house is still a mess (I don't have a good process for that yet!), but there is lots of love under this roof.
I'm able to...breathe. And that has made all the difference.
What are some things that you do to help you breathe freely? I'd love to hear about them!
P.S. If you're interested in hearing more about the need to slow down and rest, take a listen to an interview on the God-Centered Mom podcast with Shauna Niequist, author of Present Over Perfect.