Monday, May 21, 2007

Muddling Through

I spent the weekend playing catch up. I had a midterm and paper due today, and I've been procrastinating for about half of the quarter. As a result, I was way behind.

This is quite unlike me. I am normally the Hermione of every class. I do not want an A. I certainly can't deal with an A-. What I'm striving for is an A+. Preferably the highest grade in the class, but I'll settle for a 97% or higher. No, a high A isn't worth any more than a middle A, GPA wise. At least not at my particular university. But I like to have a cushion. A few points for wiggle room, just in case I have an off day. A 96 is so close to a 95, which is practically a 94, which is frighteningly close to a 93, which as an A MINUS.

I realize that as I get closer to graduation, my classes will begin to get much more difficult and my perspective may become a tad unrealistic, and need to change. But so far, this has been my attitude. Until now.

This quarter, I'd describe myself as a B+ student. I can't get over it, myself. When I haven't been having panic attacks about it, it's been very liberating. I just feel unmotivated to pursue excellence. Good enough sounds... good enough. And, although I find my economics and accounting textbooks very interesting (I'm not being sarcastic here), I have to make myself keep up with the reading. And, well, I have never been the kind of person who is good at making myself do the things I don't want to do. And we all know life is full of those things! So this tendency has been problematic for me. It's called discipline. And I lack it. It affects every area of my life.

This Includes my quiet time with the Lord. This morning I slept in and didn't get to my Bible reading until Nicknack was awake. Have you ever noticed that it is very difficult to concentrate on Exodus with Sesame Street on in the background? I found myself paying more attention to monsters singing "Fuzzy and Blue" (one of my favorites) than to The Priestly Garments and Conscecration of Priests.

Also, my lack of discipline means I weigh approximately the same as the day I delivered Nicknack. It's why I have a second pudding. And just one more slice of pizza. And pretend I don't notice the monstrously large (and unsightly) treadmill that sits in our living room. It's why I don't go grocery shopping until I've run out of eggs, I sometimes wash whites because I'm wearing my last pair of clean socks, and why I've started a "household binder" about sixteen times, but haven't finished. It's also the reason I wait until the last minute to do everything, which sometimes affects the people I love. "Oh, here's another gift certificate for your birthday, ________ (fill in the blank). I meant to shop for the perfect present, wrap it with love, and get it sent to you in time, but..." I guess I had more important things to do? Hardly.

From time to time I've prayed about this subject, but, guess what. I don't even have the discipline to regularly pray for discipline! Jeesh!

So, as a result of what is probably my greatest flaw (among MANY, so you know it's a problem), I spent yesterday locked in my bedroom, cramming for my exam and finishing my paper. I was in there for twelve hours, minus the thirty minute break I took to visit with Nicknack. I wasn't really THAT far behind, but getting through a textbook chapter takes me a looooong time. Like many of you, I sometimes read a for-fun book in one day or over a weekend. But when it comes to textbooks, I lose my mind.

As a child and teenager, I was diagnosed with ADD. They told my parents I would probably grow out of it. I don't know about that, but I have adapted and learned to work around some of the things that are typically associated with this diagnosis. My natural tendency is to start reading a chapter and then suddenly find myself, thirty minutes later, lost in thought about something totally unrelated. Arg. Start over. Then I read a page or two and realize I haven't actually taken in anything on the pages. Arg. Start over. I find that if I read aloud, that helps. But it slows me down. The other thing I do is take notes. Lots of them. At least ten pages per chapter. So that really takes time. The final thing I often try, which is the most time consuming, is to read every chapter twice. Usually I'll read each section, then repeat, then move on.

So that's why it took me the entire day to catch up. Perfectionism is a necessity, if I intend to absorb any of the material.

Penn is just the most supportive husband a person could ask for. He is so encouraging. He spent the day with Nicknack, and I have no doubt that he would make a much better stay at home parent. In addition to endlessly entertaining our little man, he made me a special breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When he was delivering one of many diet cherry Cokes he joked, "I think I had my kids too far apart!" I asked him what he meant. "Well, I have a baby to take care of AND a college kid to look after. Keep up the good work, college girl." Cheesy wink. When I finally emerged from my room after nine in the evening, the house was clean. It hadn't been messy, but it hadn't been super clean either.

I sometimes struggle with a defensive nature. My first thought, upon realizing that the house was spotless, wasn't pretty. This fleeting thought popped into my head: "I guess he's trying to show me how easy my job is." Like all his acts of service throughout the day, including bringing three meals to my bedside, where just to say, "See? This is what you should be able to accomplish every day, regardless of the baby."

I immediately recognized how silly these thoughts were. Penn is sooooo not like that. He's a very accepting person and, at least claims, that as long as I'm happy and the baby is happy, he is happy. Would he love to come home to a hot meal and freshly baked cookies each night? Of course. Does a spotless house improve both of our moods and outlooks? Most definitely. But that wasn't the message he intended to send yesterday. I know because I asked him, "You really are better at all this than I am, aren't you?" He rolled his eyes and pointed out that doing my job for one day isn't the same as around the clock, day in and day out. "That's true." I agreed.

But I'm not so sure. I think he and I both know that he really would make a great househusband. And I'm not the best homemaker in the world. I always thought that the second I gave birth I would be immediately transformed into the kind of mother who does everything perfectly. I imagined I'd be a better wife. And basically a perfect human being. You know, a "Mom." So it's been pretty disappointing to find that I'm still the same old me. Still naturally messy with a tendency to overcompensate with my label maker. Still bound to leave any social situation feeling that I've said the wrong thing. Still struggling to keep my temper in check over the little things. Still barely able to watch the evening news without sinking into the depths of despair. Still a waster of time. Still an unaccomplished chef, at best. And, above all, still undisciplined!

But one thing that I'm doing differently these days, now that I'm a mom? Not taking things to heart so much. I'm quicker to recognize flaws and keep moving. I've already grieved over all my shortcoming, as a mother and homemaker. I don't need to keep doing so every time I rediscover this about myself. Apparently many new mothers struggle with perfectionism. The most comforting words my mother has ever spoken to me were when she advised me to just "muddle through." She claims that is what she always did, and I certainly never noticed anything lacking in her mothering skills. I can only hope that Nicknack is as blind to my bumbling as I was to my own mother's.

I'm okay with the fact that my husband runs rings around me as a parent, spouse, chef, housekeeper, and launderer. God still gave the stay-at-home gig to me. All I can do is give it the old college try and assume that whatever I have to give is enough, and that God will make up the difference.

I accept the fact, barring a miracle, my gpa is going to take a minor hit. Oh well.

I'm still praying for discipline. But I'm reminded of something my uncle once told my mother. He said that religion is like antidepressants. Some people need it/them and some people don't. Only the weak need to believe in God, he said. To that I say, HALLELUJAH! Of course, I know that we are all weak and need God, but I'm hallelujah-ing the fact that He went out of His way to make sure I was extra lost without Him. I'm a hopeless mess! I don't see how I could ever get a big head, with all my flaws always biting me in the bee-hind. There is no way I could ever delude myself into thinking I don't need Him. That I could lean on my own understanding. Praise God for imperfections. Which, I guess, includes muddling mothering skills, haphazard homemaking, and B-pluses.

Now, what I want to know is why every time I sit down to write a two paragraph post about my day, it turns into an essay? In addition to discipline, I clearly lack brevity. So add that to the list.


ginny said...

You could've written almost that entire post about me :)

I agree, praise the Lord for imperfections! And, praise the Lord that I got the stay-at-home gig too!

JennaG said...

I think it's wonderful that you have been able to loosen up some. I never cared a lot about my grades--B's were fine--until I got married. Then, I was all about the 4.0--don't know what changed.

Amanda's got Baby Bangs said...

Judging by this post, we could seriously be twins. I was thinking me too, ME TOO the whole time.

Alana said...

I have to agree with the others, I thought you were reading my mind or something as you wrote that! I had the a similar experience with my husband this week. He is a college professor so he is off for the summer now. He took the boys to their activities on Monday and made their lunch to take with them. I was like, "okay, what a loser am I for driving through McDonald's?".

connorcolesmom said...

great post!!
I relate to soo much of what you wrote!! I too struggle with perfectionism and I think regardless of a diagnosis every mom has ADD :) I feel so ADD all the time!!
The first few years of marriage I tried to be the perfect everything and now 2 boys later I know that each day is truly an adventure. Some days are so fun and pretty easy and other days I barely make it through!! I have given myself the "out" to just get by which means on the bad days no laundry duty, no cooking dinner, no homework, a dirty house and lots of tv!!
I know that we have so much fun on the other days and that is what matters. God grace is suffient for us so we need to take that grace and apply it to our own thinking!!
By the way, I do love having mud puddle boys!! It makes for a lot of laundry but it is so hilarious to see them covered from head to toe in mud laughing their heads off!!
Thanks for visiting my blog.
God bless!!

toni said...

I used to be very intense. I went back to college (nursing school) at age 29 and set the curve in Chemistry as my first course taken (against the advice of the guidance counselor, of course). I continued on my "A" plan until I came to a place of wanting more balance. Suddenly, some B's became very honorable, lol.

I too remember being locked in my room for hours on end to study. And I also took LOTS of notes. Actually, I wrote my notes in question/answer form, basically writing tests as I went. Oy vey! Yes, it helped alot. Yes, it was over the top. And yet I felt a need to do it.

Fast forward and now I'm a homeschooling SAHM in a completely different season of life. And I had to learn how to BE that as well. And it wasn't an easy lesson. But God was faithful to guide me and not give up on me. And I'm needing His guidance and patience every single day, still.