If my brain were a garden it would be wild and overgrown. It’s constantly growing ideas and grasping for things to do. I’ve always felt a real sense of satisfaction in doing things well and doing them efficiently. I didn’t identify this as a problem before I started a family and was regularly rattling through a to-do list. Giving myself little dopamine hits as I hacked down shoots as quickly as they grew. As a mother my time is no longer my own however, so whilst my brain is still racking up the tasks, I can’t simply rattle through them as easily.
And often when my brain identifies something that I ‘can’ do, it quickly turns it into something I ‘should’ do.
- I should clean the floor rather than hold my sleeping baby.
- I should write that post rather than sit and enjoy a programme with my husband.
- I should make dinner rather than play teachers with my little girl.
Before long, my brain is carried off into the future task list (which is never empty) and I’m not enjoying those precious baby snuggles, or husband cuddles or connecting with my little girl after school. I’ve stopped being in the present moment and I’m not available to those around me.
The word ‘should’ is also loaded with judgement. So when I either can’t or don’t achieve the things I ‘should’ be doing, negative mood sets in as I feel like I’m failing. I’m not doing the things I ‘should’ be doing and I’m not enjoying the things that I am doing either because I’m not actually present to experience them. It feels like my garden has become jungle full of thorns and I’m trapped without a way out.
As my mindful practice deepens and I put more space between me and my thoughts, I start to become aware more and more quickly of this tendency. I observe the thoughts saying ‘should’ and I explore the other possibilities.
- ‘I should clean the floor’ becomes ‘the floor can wait. I’m enjoying these baby snuggles.’
- ‘I should write that post’ becomes ‘I’ll jot down my ideas in a journal and return to them another day.’
- ‘I should make dinner’ becomes ‘dinner can wait 5 minutes while I play with my little girl.’
Everytime I choose to question a thought and look for alternatives, my jungle becomes a little more tame. The shoots a little less wild, a little less grasping, a little more yielding. I notice the small details I missed whilst I was trying to restrain all that was there. The love, the beauty, the nourishment of my family and friends. Not perfect, not tidy, but amazing all the same.
I think I will always have that inclination to plan and do and I have noticed more of these thoughts creeping in since starting this blog. My intention for this week is therefore to continue to observe my thoughts and allow myself to explore other possibilities when I come up against the lengthening to-do list and the ‘shoulds’. Practicing this mindset of equanimity and acceptance of what I experience, without expecting to feel good through achieving or doing. Being in the moment. Accepting what comes. Being grateful for what is here. Putting love first.
Sitting in my wild, beautiful garden and staring at the sky.