We're moms. We've all been there. Completely, utterly, totally....depleted. But this is good! In terms of our Mindful Mama practice, we can learn something in this space. I had just put my twin toddlers down for naps (thank goodness, at age 3, they still do this) and put my 4 year old in her room for her own alone time when I collapsed on the couch. I knew I was tired when I quickly abandoned my feeble attempt to reach the remote to catch up on a couple missed episodes of Giuliana & Bill. All I could muster the energy to do was stare blindly at the ceiling and breathe.
“So…how are you doing? How’s everything going over there,” Ronelle asked. She knows me well. This girl can correctly identify my overall emotional state from a one word text message. She also knows major changes are headed my way. In light of my husband’s new job, we're uprooting our family and moving to a brand new city, a new home, and a new life several states away. That means more chaos, more messes, and more work on top of the already rather chaotic, messy workload of being home full time with three kids age 4 and under.
“I think I just have to lower my expectations,” I sighed, defeated.
It’s only till I get completely run-down and exhausted that I realize how high my everyday operating expectations are for myself. Essentially what I was saying to Ronelle was, “I can’t spend a hour every day giving each child one-on-one attention with educational activities...," “I can’t make every single meal...,” “I can’t meet everyone’s demands the minute they want them met...,” and “I can’t keep the bathrooms spick and span, the kitchen floor gleaming, and the dust from forming a thick layer on the entertainment center...” without losing my mind!
Step one was becoming AWARE of my slightly lofty expectations. I’ve noticed that it’s these self-imposed, rigid “shoulds” that I unconsciously attach to on a day to day basis.
Then came step two-- SURRENDER (which is much easier when exhausted, am I right?). This is the lesson exhaustion teaches us. Surrender. Wave the white flag. Throw in the towel, what have you. The moment we surrender, we release the grip our “shoulds” have on us. We let go of our expectations. We detach from thinking we have to do all the extra crap we think must do in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. The act of surrendering that comes so naturally when exhausted allows us to cease clinging to what “needs” to happen and allow what is happening to actually happen…without judgment.
“Fatigue is a gift. Like many of the gifts that come to mothers, it is not one you would choose...Fatigue helps you forget. When you are tired, you let go. You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again. You slow down. You grow quiet. You take comfort. You appreciate the smallest things. You stop fighting.”
(Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen)
You drop what you no longer need and you do not pick it up again.
What you do let go of when you are so tired you can barely muster the energy to brush your teeth? Pay attention next time (or maybe that time is now). Pay attention to the standards, things, events, ideals, or activities you let go of. Then ask yourself if you really need to ever pick those up again.
As for me, I am not suggesting that I’m not going “pick up”spending one-on-one time with my girls, meeting my family’s needs, or cooking/ cleaning (wait…I’d actually love to not pick up cleaning again!). Rather, what I won’t pick up is my unhealthy attachment to my thoughts about doing these things.
A Mindful Mama is sometimes just too darn tired to label, judge, or react. This is surrender! This is acceptance! When you are too tired to strive to make the moment any different than it is, you’ve just embodied mindfulness to its fullest extent. Make this your practice. Practice this mindset when you are exhausted and then practice it when you are functioning at full speed. You might just find that when you fully embrace not forcing things to be a certain way or pushing yourself so hard, you spend a lot less time being exhausted in the first place.
When you are tired, let go. Changes are pretty good that you won’t let go of anything worth fighting for.