I wish I had a reset button, like those microscopic rubber buttons on the backs of alarm clocks and internet routers. I wish my belly button worked that way, that someone could poke me with a toothpick or the end of a bobby pin that’s missing the plastic bubble that keeps it from drawing blood on your scalp and I’d default back to ground zero, fresh and shiny.
But I don’t have a reset button, so I’m going to have to do this the old fashioned way.
I have a manuscript – A FOURTY FIVE THOUSAND WORD manuscript – due to my editor in less than two months. I have two more manuscripts due shortly after that, bringing my total to a whopping 135,000 words by November first. Not just regular words, not even blogging words. Book words.
I also have an infant that rests by taking 20 3-minute naps each day. He hasn’t slept more than 45 consecutive minutes in his entire existence. It is true that God makes babies cute so that we won’t eat our young; I believe that.
The convergence of these two realities, baby and book, have applied new stress to my life. I was adjusted for moving stress, small children stress, braille stress, blogging stress – I had routines and tricks and coping mechanisms for those. But baby and book, while arguably the two biggest, God-sized blessings in my life right now, didn’t slide effortlessly into the mix. This year my body and my wardrobe got a little wonky, my sleep schedule got a lot wonky, and the time I spent in front of my computer quadrupled. Did you know that carpel tunnel is a real thing? They’re not making that up.
This year I tried to tweak my habits, adjust my schedule, to function in this new life, but what I know is that you can’t build a brand new picture with the same old pieces. Tweaking and adding and shifting gave me juggling, balancing, and multi-tasking. And while juggling, balancing, and multi-tasking is a great way to survive, it’s no way to live. I am crafting a brand new picture that includes a beautiful, surprise baby and a beautiful, surprise writing career; I need new pieces.
I need a reset button.
A vacation won’t do. Neither will new apps, a new deadline, or more coffee. Those are tweaks; I need a fundamental change, a shift in the tectonic plates.
And the ancient secret to shifting one’s tectonic plates is radical self-discipline.
There is no tweaking your way back to your healthiest life, when your schedule looms over you and your own desires work against you. You must discipline yourself there with radical self-care.
The things that bring me back to center are: watering my plants, feeding the birds, flossing. Moisturizing every morning, stretching, feeding myself well. Prayer, conversation, and laughter. Doing these things every day: routines turned into rituals.
I need to eat clean enough that McDonald’s feels like a rock in the pit of my stomach. I need to abide closely enough that without my Bible I feel adrift and untethered. I need to recalibrate.
Here are the specific ways that I’m committing to care for myself in the coming week:
-Floss and moisturize every day.
-Be active. Sweat every day.
-Feed myself well. No eating out, no sugars, no preservatives, no white flour or leavened bread. No fake food, and for this week, no meat, dairy, or caffeine.
-No television or social media. Spend Henry’s feedings in prayer and meditation.
-Get outside, skin-to-sun, every day.
-Water my plants.
-Text a friend every day. To have a friend you must be a friend. Connect.
-Have date night.
-Sleep at least 6 hours of every 24. (If I didn’t have a hungry, hungry hippo of a newborn, I would specify “at night.”)
None of these tasks are radical in their own right, but when you put them together and drop them in the context of three kids kids and three books in three months it becomes downright outrageous. On a normal day, I can accomplish any four – five if I’m really bangin’ on all cylinders. (Please note that showering appears nowhere on this list.) But for one daring, outrageous week, I’m committing to do them all.
It will be hard, because not giving your body everything it wants is hard. But the hard is it’s own reward. To flex your muscles of self-control, to not do what you want to do (but instead what you’ll want to have done), is to choose thriving over surviving.
Last week Eugene Cho tweeted:
I care deeply about knowing and serving Jesus, about loving my husband well, and about my kids. I care deeply about this little space I live in and stewarding it in such a way that it shapes my days for the better. I care deeply about these books that I’m writing. Last week Glennon Melton wrote, “I don’t want to work hard and play hard. I mostly want to work medium and play my DVR.” This is exactly, precisely how I feel, and exactly, precisely why I need to apply some radical self-care. This life of empty fatigue will wear a person slap out. I am not aiming for perfection or for having it all; those are death-traps. I am aiming to grow in self-control, to find rules that work, so that as I step into this new season of life, I can trade multi-tasking for fully present. Surviving for thriving. And so that I can apply the exceptions to my rules with freedom and so. much. joy.
If, a year from now, there are books and I’m NOT resting in a medically induced coma this will have been a great success. I’ll keep you posted.
Kate Conner is an author, blogger, and a first generation southerner who spends her days mothering, writing, and adjusting to life in middle Georgia. She is married to a college pastor who sings often and terribly, and they have three children that God made extra cute, because they are extra crazy.
Kate authors a self-titled blog, where she writes about surviving parenthood, college students, and her twenties with her faith and sense of humor intact. She believes in bobby pins, spray paint, music, coffee, and prose – and in all the world, nothing has taken hold of her like Christ.
You can follow along at kateelizabethconner.com.
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