Productivity does NOT Equal Fulfillmet

I don’t get a lot done these days. To do list items sit for weeks that used to easily get checked off in a day. I have to be very intentional when thinking about where I want to put any extra time or energy I might have, and some days that gets me down. But something happened that reminded me of the perspective I should be having about this time…

My son threw up all over my room this morning. I know, that’s a strange thing to prompt reflection and possibly even TMI for some of my readers, but it put things into perspective for a couple reasons.

The first is the most immediate which is GRATITUDE that I am no longer throwing up every day like I was for most of my pregnancy with my daughter. The misery on my poor kid’s face was enough to bring back acute memories of feeling that misery for nine months. Then another wave of gratitude came when two hours passed and he hadn’t thrown up again, didn’t have a fever, and instead of laying on the couch like I told him he was doing the hot dog dance and singing along with Mickey Mouse and friends- I’m fairly confident at this point he just ate something that didn’t sit well and I don’t have to worry about a stomach virus bringing utter chaos to our household. THANK YOU LORD!

From a year ago exactly…. this is my son trying to hide his dad’s suitcase because he didn’t want him to leave again…

The other thought this event triggered is the reason I’m writing this post instead of the one I’d planned to write today- It reminded me that the last time my kiddo threw up (on me nonetheless- ah motherhood…) was a year ago when he DID have a stomach bug and passed it to me. And what I remembered was not being sick together, it was being sick the two of us alone. My husband was out of town for his job. He had been gone except on weekends for almost a month, and I was pretty miserable.

I was also insanely productive. Those of you in a relationship can probably relate to how easy it is to just want to sit and BE with your partner when you get time together at the end of a day. Or do something relaxing like watch Netflix or enjoy a glass of wine or take a leisurely walk. Sure, you have a drive to keep up the day to day chores of the house so the morning isn’t miserable, but odds are good you aren’t doing those long term to-do list items or big, energy consuming goals unless you’ve really made a commitment to do them in a certain timeframe. Well, without my partner home and having only one kid who, though an early riser, slept through the night and went down at 7:45 each night… I had a lot of time while he slept to get things done. OH, did I mention I wasn’t sleeping because I hated sleeping alone again after almost four years of having my husband next to me? I think my body literally forgot how to fall asleep without him.

I may have bags under my eyes, but my smile is genuine now and my heart so full.

So here I was trying really hard to stay positive and keep my mind off of the things that were getting me down and an insomniac to boot what did I do? I did projects. Projects that, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I accomplished, but projects that did not help with the fact that I was really, really sad. And also kind of angry. And super tired for no good reason. I was on the go constantly though. I wanted to take my son to do ALL THE THINGS to distract from how upset he was that his dad wasn’t coming home most nights and ironically I felt like we spent more quality time together a few months later when I was too sick to leave the house and we just had to sit and color and read books. I was doing all these things to feel fulfilled, and yet I am infinitely more fulfilled and happy neglecting my to do list and spending extra time nursing my new baby or marveling at the seedlings I’m tending with my toddler.

There’s a saying I learned in grad school: “Work is never wasted.” I still believe that and really love it. But I also believe that not all work is equal to getting you towards your goal. And the more I start to rethink what good goal setting is (thank you Cultivate What Matters Shop for helping me intentionally think about this!) the more obvious it becomes that just as in graduate school having one hundred sources for your paper doesn’t make your argument any good without a thesis you come back to, so my work on day to day life isn’t any good without core priorities to center that work.

I’m glad I did things like sort through all my photos last year in hopes of getting them out and into scrapbooks for my kids to enjoy in the future, but when I was working on that I wasn’t really doing it with that purpose in mind. I was just distracting myself. I was (and sometimes still am) addicted to work and accomplishments the way some people are addicted to exercise or alcohol or binge watching Netflix series.

One of the only coping mechanisms from last year that had real core intention behind it- taking a trip to San Diego to see a dear high school friend and taking my son to the ocean just the two of us.

I am SO MUCH HAPPIER doing less and doing it well and with gratitude and intention. I’m so thankful for this time I’ve had with my family, even when it hurt to say no to things I really wanted to do in the meantime. I’m so thankful that now my sleepless nights are due to continuing to grow and take care of a little person who means the world to me instead of indulging in self pity and doing mindless work that dulled some pain.

(But… I’ll still be even more grateful if we can go a month without someone throwing up in this house… so I’ll take all good thoughts and prayers for that!) I wish you a Wednesday less messy than mine, and work be rooted in purpose.


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