Life in the Middle – A New Definition of Achievement
Confession: I am an achievement junkie.
What I would like to say is that I am a recovering achievement junkie. I get a high from accomplishing tasks, crossing things off my to-do list, getting all my errands done, and completing projects. A tidied house with an empty sink and all the laundry washed, folded, and put away is satisfaction to my soul. The problem is, I rarely enjoy the fruits of my labor, because I’m off chasing that high of finishing the next item on my agenda. Another problem is I’m realizing that everything is never truly going to be done. And finally, this isn’t what I want to get my kicks from either.
Since my son was born, it has become obvious to me how this speed of living takes its toll on me. I am left utterly exhausted by “doing all the things” and taking care of a baby. And since I fully enjoy my time with him and want to be present with him, I cram all my projects into nap time. This means that he wakes from a nap rejuvenated and ready to play, and I am either worn out from all the rushing around, or I am somewhat anxious to get back to my project that is now half-way done. As I type this, I hear myself sounding a little crazy… So, here’s to me being honest with myself, hoping that I find common ground from others with this same complex, and urgently trying to inspire change in myself and perhaps in you.
While I might feel the “high” from achievement, it’s really a fallacy. Or at least not the type of high I want out of life. I’m slowly realizing that everything is not going to be “done,” and when it is, I’m not satisfied. It’s not the things that need to be changed, but rather my heart toward them. This is a difficult place for me, because it’s not something I strive for, but rather something that comes naturally. I’ve always been that Type A over-achiever. If you saw my son’s recent birthday party, you might mistake how “put together” it was for my desire to impress, when really it was what I felt was the only way. Having a creative vision come to life feels as good as that first sip of coffee, but now I wonder at what cost?
Today we set out to enjoy our holiday with a whimsical breakfast and a morning stroll. While walking, the beauty of the day dawned on me like the morning sun slowly and gracefully rising over the water to brighten the day with its light and promise. The air was fresh, the holiday decorations were festive, the neighborhood was waking up, and my family was at peace. The walk allowed me to reflect back on how breakfast was pleasantly interrupted by a kind man asking us about our car (Team Subaru!), and how our conversation allowed me time to be thankful that the two car accidents involving my family last month weren’t serious or fatal. I realized that if I had gone into our favorite coffee shop with an agenda for how I wanted our breakfast to be, this conversation might not have been welcomed, and the gravity of my gratitude may not have sunk in.
I realized that I liked life in the middle. That this is where life really is. Life isn’t in an accomplishment, a tidy home, or folded laundry. While those things feel nice, they don’t hold a candle to my son’s laugh, the way he makes me stop for a hug, or the way he constantly reminds me that all he ever wants me “to do”… is to just be.
So, here I am, still trying to figure it out, still trying to swap my sense of achievement to an appreciation for chaos. Here I am trying to realize that an overflowing laundry basket with 18 month clothes means that I have a growing child.
Here I am trying to change my vision from an untidy room to a room ready for a child to play. Here I am trying to erase the yearning for a house free of dog hair to a delight toward my older birthday girls. For one day my house will be quiet and calm, but my heart will ache for the mess, for the squeals of joy coming from banging toys, and for the warm furry paws that ask my arm for one more belly rub.
Have you experienced this same shift in perspective? Do you have any tips for me on how to remain focused on life in the middle? Please leave a comment below so we can continue this conversation and so I can remind myself to stay here!