Chapter 3 - Calm in the Chaos

I’ve done a really poor job lately of focusing on my book that I introduced to you girls a few months ago. A quick update, it is alive and well. As I said a few months ago, it is fully completed and I am just in the tedious and time consuming period of trying to find an agent or publisher that might be interested in it. It’s a painstakingly slow process, but the last couple of months, my focus wasn’t on it as strong as work got pretty crazy for me, which is fine, life happens. But now i’m back at it and trying to make it happen. Thought I would share Chapter 3 here with you girls. If you haven’t read the first 2 chapters and want to catch up, just head over to www.mamafitlife.com and you’ll find them there. Enjoy!

Chapter 3: Calm in the Chaos

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”

Isiah 43:2

            Do you ever just feel out of control?  Like things are whirling around you at a rapid pace and you have no ability to slow them down or make sense of them?  Do you ever feel like the to-do list is just piling up with one task after the other yet your ability to check them off is few and far between?  Do the mountains of laundry seem like they are over taking your house and if your husband asks for a pair of clean underwear you might blow a gasket? 

Does your body feel like it has a mind of its own and even with the best of intentions you can’t seem to get the weight off or keep it off?  Do you sometimes eat an entire bag of jalapeno kettle chips and wonder what has happened to any sense of self control?  Ok woah…that last one hit really close to home for me!

            But seriously.  I think it’s probably safe to say that there are moments, days, weeks or even months where you feel like life is just taking the reins and moving at a pace that you can’t keep up with.  Have you ever been there?  Like you’re running and running but never seem to make any progress?

            Well you aren’t alone.  Let’s start there. 

As women we have a lot on our plates.  Some of us work full time outside of the home at fast paced jobs and careers while others are the household CEO full time and stay home with kiddos (which if you ask me is by far the harder of those two jobs…I bow my head to all of you stay at home mama’s out there…I don’t know how you do it….aka unicorn quality)

Some of you have one, two, or many kids to take care of on a daily basis while others may be dog moms that shuttle furry friends back and forth to doggy daycare on their way to work.

Some of us are married and have a husband to care for….because yes, we all know we do a lot of “caring for” our husbands, am I right girls?  And others are single and focused on themselves and figuring out their path and plan for life or looking for Mr. Right.

We have dinners to cook, homes to clean, places to go, work to get done.  Some have kids to bathe, or nurse or rock to sleep.  Some have late nights at the office or work two jobs just to make ends meet. 

We all have a lot going on right?  No matter what your situation is and what your station in life is right now, there is a lot going on all the time.  Not to mention the constant bombardment of technology that makes the things going on almost never ending.  There is a lot to juggle and accomplish and check off the list and many times it can be downright overwhelming and discouraging. 

When things are chaotic and feel out of control, I think we can all agree we aren’t at our best.  When you’re racing around just trying to keep up, you miss things.  You overlook things.  Or sometimes you just plain ignore them out of sheer exhaustion. 

For me, I have to make it a point to have structure and routine in my life.  I operate best in an environment that is based around some sort of routine.  Now, I’m not saying that I plan every second of my day or that I’m the least spontaneous person ever….though if I’m in my pajamas on Saturday night starting Netflix and you ask me to come next door and have a glass of wine you’ve rocked my world.  I mean clearly, I already have plans.

But seriously, I thrive on structure and routine.  I attribute that to the fact that I’m fairly certain I have some level of OCD going on.  For example, at night, just before I go to bed I do the exact same things.  Literally every night.  I fold all the blankets on the couch in the living room that have gotten thrown around during the day and I put them in the same spot each time.  I place all of the throw pillows in the exact same spot.  I turn on the two same lights each night, one upstairs and one in the kitchen, that I leave on so the kids can see if they wake in the middle of the night with a bad dream and have to make their way to our room downstairs.  Then I go to our back door to the garage….and this is where it gets good.  Even though I’m 100% sure that we closed the garage door hours ago, I open the back door each night and peak out to make sure it really is closed.  Then I close it, lock it, set the alarm, and head to my bedroom.  Every single night. 

Now that might not sound all that weird (or it may totally freak you out and that’s ok too), but that’s not why I feel like I might have a little OCD going on. 

A few times I’ve noticed myself doing these things and thought to myself, could I just go to bed and not worry with this stuff?  Would it bother me?  Which has led me on multiple occasions to test that and try not to do those things and to just go to bed.  To walk by the strewn about pillows or blankets or just be at peace in the confidence of knowing I shut the garage door already and simply go to bed. 

Not. A. Chance. 

Each and every time it’s like a twisting in my stomach and it’s all I can think about.  It overtakes my brain completely.  I’ll even go so far as to settle comfortably into bed, only to get up after a few minutes and go and do each of the things.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with my nightly routine.  Or yours.  But it’s my routine.  And I need it.  When I tidy the living room up before going to bed, not only does it give me a sense that things are in order before I head off to sleep, but it’s nice to wake up and walk into a room that isn’t in shambles from the day before.  It’s calming to me to start the day that way. 

So why are we talking about my nightly routine and what does that have to do with being calm in the chaos as this chapter was titled? 

Well, I’ll tell you.  I firmly believe that structure and routine can help everyone to have better control.  To feel calmer and more prepared.  I think there is something to knowing what to expect and what’s expected of you. 

I’m sure you’ve read or heard someone talk about how kids thrive with routines right?  How it’s great to create structure and routine for your kids around things like bedtime or morning time or going to church or whatever the occasion or event is.  Kids need to understand what’s coming.  They need to understand what they are supposed to do and what your expectations are of them, otherwise how do they know how to act and what to do? 

I don’t believe that we are any different as adults.  I think when we give ourselves structure and routine that it only enables us more.  It makes us feel in control about what’s happening.  We feel prepared and ready instead of blindsided and overwhelmed. 

Now of course you can’t plan everything out and you shouldn’t.  Life is going to happen, things won’t always go how you planned or thought they would and that’s ok.  I’m not saying you should adopt some sort of crazy regimen that allows for no improvisations or changes.  But that’s the thing, when you feel in control and are used to that feeling more often than not, I actually think it better equips you to make those on the fly decisions when something comes at you that you weren’t expecting….as long as your setting the right expectations.  The expectations that while structure and routine are great, you need to be open to change and the unexpected and also be prepared to deal with that as well.

We started this chapter talking about how we aren’t our best when we feel out of control and overwhelmed.  It’s hard to focus on yourself or others or be more intentional or thoughtful, or much of anything quite frankly if all your doing is trying to keep up. 

So when we think about this in the context of finding your inner unicorn, I think we can agree that if your living life feeling overwhelmed and out of control, it will be difficult for you to be able to focus on identifying the things that make you uniquely you and how you can best use them to fulfill your purpose in life…Gods purpose for your life. 

Often times when we are in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and out of control, those are the times when we are most critical of ourselves.  We feel like we are behind or not doing a good enough job at whatever it is – work, school, parenting, adulting, being a wife – so we beat ourselves up.  In those times we can easily remind ourselves of how poorly we are doing or how much better someone else is doing it, but it’s so incredibly hard to see the things we are doing well.  To feel good about anything that we are doing.

So, the key here is to figure out some ways to bring calm into the chaos.  To get yourself into a better state of being where you can stop focusing on the negativity and seeing only the things you think you’re failing at, but instead focus on seeing your strengths.  Focus on feeling in control.  That you’re prepared and ready to take on the day or week or situation. 

For me personally, a big part of how I put that structure into my life is my morning routine.  First thing in the morning is my calm before the chaos. It’s the time that I have come to welcome as time to listen, to learn, to pray, and to focus on myself.   

During the week my alarm goes off at 4:45am each day.  I snooze it once, and then I’m out of bed 6 minutes later.  I throw on my workout clothes and head into the living room where I grab my phone and bible and sit on the couch.  For the next 25 minutes or so I spend time reading a devotional….which varies on topic all the time but I love to use YouVersion on my phone for all sorts of handy quick options….and I pray.  I pray at the start to ask God to open and prepare my heart for whatever he wants to tell me or show me that morning.  I think of things that I am thankful for and I thank him for them.  I ask for help if there is something on my mind or heart.  After the devotional I pray again.  If I had a takeaway from the devotional or felt like God told me something I write it down.  I pray for help with whatever he showed me and I pray for the day ahead.  For my attitude and my patience and my perspective.  Then I sweat it out. 

That morning routine has been life for me lately.  To the point that now I absolutely crave it each and every day, despite the fact that it means a 4:45am wake up call.

Now has it always been that way? Not at all.  For one thing, in the past working out in the morning…or really just the thought of working out in the morning…made me want to vomit.  I swore I could never do it.  Then I had kids and things changed.  Things evolved and I had to adjust. 

For another thing, being intentional and consistent with my daily quiet time with God has been an ongoing struggle for me.  I would have the best of intentions, but it has always been a struggle for me to be able to do it with any sort of consistency.  But one day I had a bit of an epiphany.  I was fresh off of some personal struggles that I had been going through and I realized that in times of pain or struggle or difficulty I am so quick to go to God.  And I would spend all day focusing on him, talking to him, asking him for his help.  Asking him to make it better or to fix things.  Asking him why this was happening.  Asking him to make it end. Asking for help.  Asking, asking, asking.  Then, as life does, things would change, and the season or situation would pass, and life would go back to normal.  I would thank God for his work in fixing the situation and then what do you think I did?  Stay in constant communication with him each day and lean further into him?  Nope.  I just went back to life as normal.  Trying to remember to say my prayers before bed and go to church on Sunday. 

Is that anyway to treat your relationship with God?  To go to him only when you need something? Only when you’re asking for something?

Think about it this way.  What if your children only spoke to you or spent time with you when they needed something.  When they wanted money, or a ride to the mall, or a new toy.  And then once they got whatever it was, they stopped speaking to you again except for the occasional “hey mom” as they passed you in the hallway.  How would that make you feel?

That thought hit me pretty hard that day.   It also made me realize that when I chose to be intentional about spending more time talking with God or in his presence, asking for his direction, I was in such a better state of mind.  My attitude was better, even often times in the midst of hard times.  My perspective changed.  My mindset was more positive.  I was calmer.

So that led me to realize just how important that time is for me personally.  That starting my day seeking God, his direction for my day, and not only asking for things like guidance and patience but thanking him for being there for me.  Thanking him for my family and my job and my health.  It’s amazing what just starting your day by going through things you are thankful for can do for your mindset.

It’s also amazing what spending time focusing on yourself first thing in the morning can do for your day.  The other piece for me is focusing on myself and my health.  When you exercise you get your endorphins flowing big time – those are the feel good hormones.  So it makes perfect sense that exercising to start your day will have you off on a good feeling happy foot. 

Now, you might be thinking that working out and having a bible study to start your day sounds all fine and great and you would love to do that but there is no way you’re getting out of bed at 4:45am. 

Let me tell you two things. 

First, my routine doesn’t have to be yours.   My routine isn’t necessarily going to work for you.  And it may not even be what you need.  I’m just sharing with you what has helped me to bring some calm into my chaos.  Sharing what I do each day to feel more in control and ready for the day.  That doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. 

You will have to figure out for yourself where you need to bring the calm and how.  Maybe for you it’s first thing in the morning like me.  Maybe it’s right after lunch after spending the morning with screaming toddlers and not getting your laundry done.  Maybe it’s during your kid’s afternoon nap time or just before bed.  Maybe it’s on your lunchbreak at work.

And how you find the calm is just as unique to you as when you bring the calm.  For me it’s working out and bible study.  For you it might be 5 minutes of quiet meditation and prayer.  Or it could be a run or 10 minutes of yoga.  Or maybe it’s sitting in silence with a cup of coffee. 

Again, the what and the when are yours to decide, but the challenge is this.  Figure out something for yourself.  Something that will help you to stop and focus intentionally on being calm and in control.  Find a routine, no matter how small or short amount of time it may be, that you can stick to daily.  That you can come to know and look forward to because of the way it makes you feel.  Find time in your day to make this important and a requirement. 

And don’t fall into the trap of excuses.  We are going to talk about this way more in a later chapter, but don’t give in to excuses. 

I can’t, I don’t have time, I’ll just skip today because I’m busy.  All nonsense and completely untrue. 

Don’t make this more than it is.  Don’t make a mountain out of this mole hill.  I have an hour routine every morning that’s focused on me.  You may want that but think it’s unrealistic.  Well, if that’s the case, then you need to set some realistic goals and work your way up.  I haven’t always had that routine and my routine has evolved and changed over time.  The key is that you need to find something and start somewhere.  Even if it’s five minutes. 

Figure out a way to bring some calm and internal focus into your day each and every day.  Start small and gradually grow.  As you come to crave your calm time more and more, you’ll find more time for it.  Trust me.

I truly believe that by doing this, you will be enabling yourself to be more introspective.  To listen for opportunities to use your gifts and strengths.  To find the patience or guidance you need.  To hear from God and have him weigh in on your day or situation or life in general. 

I believe if you focus your intention during this time on positivity and personal growth that you will be better equipped to see your strengths.  To focus on your positives and not on beating yourself up about everything. 

I believe you will walk away from each of these times with more confidence and calmness.  With a better mindset and attitude.  It will be in these moments when you’ll have a realization of a job well done.  Where you’ll remember what a friend told you recently that she admired about you that at the time you brushed off.  A situation will come to mind where you’ll realize that while you didn’t see it at the time, you kinda crushed it. 

It takes moments of focus and quiet intention in order to see those things, but I assure you they are there.  Those moments, and conversations, and times where you rocked it – they are there, you just might be having trouble seeing them amidst all the chaos.