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Girl at window, Edvard Munch

Girl at window, Edvard Munch

I haven’t been sleeping lately.

I’d like to think the blame for my latest bout of insomnia can be laid squarely at the tiny feet of my three year old. She knows she belongs with us and that knowledge never seems more certain than at around three each morning. I can always hear her coming. The soft pad of little feet, quick breath sucked through a pacifier and the light drag of her blankie behind her. A push at our door and then she’s at my side of the bed arms outstretched. The rest of night is spent in an earnest demonstration of how much space a little thing can take up in both my bed and my heart. She stretches out and curls in and claims both until I have lost any room I was saving for myself.

I could move her back to her bed after she falls asleep, I suppose. But then I think of how rare this kind of thing will be in her life. The ability to walk through the dark to a place where you are certain arms will reach out and lift you to a softer sphere. I’m not ready to make her wake up in her own bed yet. There’s time for that.

Too much time.

She didn’t come in this morning.

But I still woke up.

3am and listening for little footsteps. As my ears strained, my mind tripped over itself. Anxious and full of the past, present and imagined future. Old slights and new ones and maybe that hurt in my back means something more than a twinged nerve and don’t the kids need to go to the dentist and I’m not trying hard enough and I’ve tried so hard and maybe life really has been as difficult as I perceive and isn’t it a miracle I’ve stayed pasted so well together and maybe it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I think and isn’t that almost worse? The things I am too rational to think in the light, the things I am too afraid to spend time with in the day, stretched out and clawed in until I lost any room I had been saving for myself.

I’m afraid of this. Afraid of losing control. Afraid that maybe I would be waking up at 3am every morning even if those footsteps had never come down the hall. It occurs to me that perhaps my little girl has been keeping me company rather than the other way around. I like to think I’m stronger than this, but here I am. Apparently, all the intention and strength in the world can’t keep you from gasping awake in the dark.

Somewhere between the misperceived premonitions of oncoming doom and the regret that won’t make any sense around the breakfast table, I heard something in a familiar and soothing voice.

You may not be able to keep 3am at bay. It is not a matter of greater will or better exercised strength. Waking up poorly met by neuroses may become a matter of course. What you can do is decide how you will spend the hours that follow that first jolt of fear.

So I kissed Riley on the cheek and left our room. Looked in on our sleeping girls. Soft cheeks and softer breath. I breathed in and out with them.

Then I walked into the living room, turned on a light and began to write. 

List Making, Scheduling, Planners: You deserve to use them and here's why....

Sometimes I get anxious.

Take Sunday.

My little family was all lined up in a pew at church. Zuzu sat sullenly trying to get over the fact that I had the audacity to curl her hair that morning, Viola growled at the boy behind us and Riley held my hand while restraining said growler girl with the other arm. And I...I felt like I was being crushed beneath the shiny stiletto heels of a life I am not good enough to control. I had taken on too much, said yes too many times, had too many hopes and too little talent and on top of everything I felt very certainly that my lipstick was smudged.

The congregation began to sing but I couldn’t join in. I knew that if  tried to open my mouth a scream might leave it instead of melodious worship for our God in heaven.

So I prayed.

Please. Let me know what I am allowed to have. Please let me know what I am allowed to want. Please let me breathe. Please give me perspective. Please be merciful to this girl that is too inward looking. Please know I am ashamed of my problems, these tiny things others would pray to have as their only trials. Please know that intellectually I understand I can do this,it is just my heart that betrays that knowledge. Please let me be enough. Please let me know where to put my time. Please forgive me for not knowing. Please forgive me for my weakness. Please give me strength. Please help me.

Please.

I waited for the warmth, for the assurance I've felt at other times and it didn't come. So while the congregation sang and Viola’s growling grew louder, I took out paper and pen and began to write.

I thought I’d write my feelings, spill them outside of myself and remove the poison, but instead I began to make a calendar. Each day of the week and under every day the three sections of my waking hours. Morning, afternoon, night. Under each collection of hours I wrote the things I would accomplish in them. Homeschool, writing, playing, dinner making, cleaning, loving, service and one on one time with Riley. As I cataloged my week, I felt the warmth I had expected. And in the warmth I was given an answer.

I deserve to have control over my own life. What a revelation. List making, deliberate living, calendars and schedules are one way to show my life, my hopes, my family the respect they so fully require. I cannot have everything, but I can choose my dearest desires and throw my everything into turning them from candy colored dreams to tangible reality. There is purpose in choice. And direction in deliberateness. And hope in form. And my goodness, maybe, just maybe, I get to have what I want.

Did you ever think of such a thing? That maybe you get to be the person you always hoped you would be?

Starting today, I am going to give my life the respect it deserves. Yes, that means list making and goal setting. But those things don't really mean rigidity. They are a means to creating time to live in the moment.  Something I’ve lacked as my disorganized approach to the fullness of my existence has bounced me from disorganized day to chaotic night and back again. I am so tired of being too busy to live happily and freely and completely.

Will this new approach make me 5’10”, thin as Giselle, busty as Kate and rich as Oprah? No. But I don’t really want those things. What I want, with every aching part of my hobbit sized being, is to be the best version of myself. And I think, I hope, I pray, that this is the first step. One of many pushes forward that will keep me moving towards that better me I can see off in the distance if I squint my eyes just so.

Want to join me?

You deserve this, too.

Some of my favorite intentional living tools come from Tsh Oxenreider. This daily to do list is amazing. Her book, Organized Simplicity is phenomenal. Find all the (FREE) downloads here.