Last week, after a month of living with the pause button on, I made my re-entry to regular life. During July I didn't stress about my chore schedule, I didn't meal plan, I didn't write, I didn't develop or implement any organization systems.
Sometimes we ate at home; sometimes we got take out; sometimes we ate out. Sometimes I had a general idea in the morning of what I'd be cooking, but sometimes I was stopping by the grocery store at 4:00.
Sometimes the toys got picked up every night; sometimes we crashed and took care of it in the morning....or the next night.
Instead of doing laundry every Monday, I did laundry when either a) the baskets were full or b) someone in the family realized they had run out of dance tights or golf shorts or tennis clothes or bathing suits.
I did chores when I had time (or when the need was desperate) instead of following a daily and weekly schedule.
When I had an idea for a post, I jotted it down in my book instead of trying to carve out a few hours to write.
We've lived like this for a short while a few times over the past few years. Usually in the summer, but occasionally around the holidays, or anytime when life itself is enough for us. It doesn't come from being overwhelmed, but from a conscious decision to truly enjoy the slice of life we're living at that particular moment in time. Rather than trying to force us into a schedule, I relax, and we figure it out as we go. It's a great way to reset myself, relax for a bit, realize that I am not, in fact, the one who is truly in control of my life, and just go with the flow. And most importantly, realize that this isn't how I work best long term, and that the moment will come when it's time for re-entry.
And every time, re-entry feels tough. I get overwhelmed and decide that I like Pause Land and want to go back. Pause Land is a magical place where chores are secondary and feeding the family is open to interpretation. I want to go back to Pause Land. When I'm in Pause Land, I don't feel bad if I get behind or don't write because I'm not trying to do all the things. Pause Land is like vacation and coming home is so hard with the laundry and the routine and the bathtime and the planning dinner every night.
You might be thinking that, since coming out of Pause Land is so hard, that I should carry through with regular life and routine and skip hitting that button altogether. If you never go to Pause Land, it won't hurt to come back. But, like vacation, Pause Land is necessary to me. I just need to figure out the return. Usually, I make a grand plan and try to do it all at once. Monday is ok. Tuesday is less ok. By Wednesday I'm usually both horribly behind and feeling overwhelmed with a heaping dollop of guilt.
This time, I decided to re-enter in stages.
So far, it's working for me. Right now, my only re-entry point is coming back to writing. That's my focus. I happen to have a week where, for three days, I have two child-free hours in the morning while both girls are at camp. I'm spending all six of those hours at a computer with a coffee.
This weekend my parents are taking the girls for an overnight, and I plan to take that time to do the big organizational stuff. The fall schedule of activities. Madison's allowance/chore chart. Madison's school stuff (a big undertaking this year). My weekly routine/schedule. Our meal plan format and a solid catalog of options for weeknight meals. A list of what we need for September - fall clothes, new shoes, school supplies. I'm finishing up my nook (a project that had an unfortunate six week hiatus before completion) and I can get my paperwork organized there.
After that, we'll start implementing those systems - slowly. Rather than get overwhelmed and let something slip, we'll add one system at a time. Because although being organized and structured helps the Mommy part of my life, trying to do everything at once overwhelmed the Meredith part. And taking care of ME is important.
I can do that.