There she stands, a formidable tower of might and discipline, looming large over cubicle-girl turned housekeeper-businesswoman. Let’s zoom in. What’s that in her hands? Looks like a hefty to-do list in one hand, and a heavy duty scourge in the other. She stands poised, ready to call the girl to account at any moment for the myriad of unfinished duties. She cracks the whip for effect and cubicle-girl scurries into a corner.
Let’s zoom in a little closer. Cubicle-girl looks quite familiar. Oooh, perhaps because it’s me. Zoom out a bit and see if we can catch a glimpse of that task mistress. Ugh. That looks like me too. Oh no! There’s something horribly wrong with this picture!
Can you recognize yourself in the above scenario or am I the only one who tortures myself like this? I am “off” this week – a vacation of sorts. Last Friday was my last day in cubicle-land. I have carved out a place for myself somewhere between homemaking and starting my own business. Most of the time, vacations have signaled the need for major house projects and tackling those endless to-do lists. All well and good, unless you’re me. I have realized I can be quite mean to myself! And do I really want to work for this kind of person? Yikes.
So the to-do list has been set aside this week, as have hopes for that perfectly organized home. And I’ve been practicing the art of being gentle to myself. With the exception of rising at 6:30 am to pack my husband’s lunch – a habit I will continue since I’m an early riser anyways, I have been largely and intentionally unproductive this week. Instead I’ve been trying to listen (a luxury, I realize, since my dog is generally the only noisemaker here during the day) to myself. I’m noticing my prime work times and what motivates me. The projects I’ve tackled have been ones I really wanted to do (yes, even cleaning out some closets), ones that have brought me joy and peace and clarity.
Gee, when I’m not living fearfully in the shadow of that whip-cracking, task-oriented woman, I’m so much more productive. And when I am relaxed and fully engaged in each moment, I can actually hear myself think clearly and even creatively. Instead of checking my watch and worrying about Mike getting home and what’s not done yet I’m finding myself praying instead. I can see gratitude becoming a welcome substitute for guilt.
How is it that we understand the exhortation to be gentle and kind to one another, but being gentle to ourselves escapes us? Do we really need those towering task wardens to keep us in line or might God’s spirit within us be all we need to listen to? May we all practice the art of gentleness this week, beginning with ourselves.