lower your expectations and get more done

by rebecca on October 16, 2012

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It was tempting for me to blame my house for why I couldn’t get any traction in life. The counters were a disaster. I had half-finished projects everywhere I looked. In every corner there were big reminders “You don’t finish what you start.”

But my house was merely a reflection of me. It wasn’t the reason.

This newsflash was both disheartening and hopeful.

If I could clean it up, could I change my habits and finish things?

I wanted clean horizontal surfaces. I wanted every room to be free of stuff. I wanted to make lovely, wholesome meals for my family on a nightly basis. I made lists, I created deadlines, I began with a 9-hour session of hurricane activity and the next day I couldn’t get off the couch.

This pattern repeated itself in my life in one form or another about 80 kagillion times.

I lowered my expectations.

My list got shorter. “Clean off the kitchen island.”  “Make 3 nice dinners a week instead of trying to make 6.”

But it all still felt like a chore.

Back and forth I went on this sea-saw of hurricane activity and leaden stillness in my bones as I recovered.

Why can’t I finish anything? I hollered at my stuff.

Everything I believe about altared spaces answered me in that moment. Every post-it note rose up from the counter, every dirty dish in the sink waved at me. All the meals I hadn’t cooked called out to answer my question.

“Because you don’t give yourself time to finish.”

There it was. The answer plain as day. I’m not a loser. I’m not a slob. I simply was starting so many things that I didn’t give myself time to finish.

It makes sense. I love the energy in starting. I’m an idea girl. Get up and go? I’ve got plenty. Clean up and finish? I’m busy generating ideas, thank you very much.

So I surrendered into the gift of time and finishing.

What could I finish? My island? Gorgeous dinners? My body answered no each time. Too demanding. A clean kitchen? A made bed? No again.

Then, in sarcastic frustration, I screamed, “Well I could put these reading glasses away each day. That would be uber helpful!”

My body sung with pleasure.

Oh. joy.

I’m so excited about how clean my kitchen will look when those glasses get put away.

But that was the only thing about which I could get a resounding YES!

I’d broken about 80 kagillion promises to myself throughout the years. “I’m gonna make certain that kitchen never has a dirty dish in it.” “I’m going to be the mother with cupcakes and whole food dinners.” I broke every promise. Every. Single. One.

My body didn’t believe me anymore. However, when I mentioned the reading glasses like it was some kind of feat, even my body thought I could probably handle that, so it said YES!

I put those glasses away for days that turned to weeks that turned to months. During that time my body watched and noticed and began to believe me when I made a promise. My body also listened when I told people I wouldn’t promise to have a clean kitchen but they could come over anyhow.

By keeping that sacred promise of putting those glasses away I was creating a bridge to someone my body longed for – a most authentic me. “Of course I can put my reading glasses away!” Who couldn’t do that!

And now I have a room of my own. It’s my office, where I get to spend my days! I found it as I kept wrangling with the things on my island, the dishes in my sink and cooking dinner. I kept finding one more sacred promise I could keep until I realized what I really wanted were purple walls to cocoon that precious body of mine that told me the truth about a pair of reading glasses.

No, my island is not ever perfectly clear, but it happens weekly. My kitchen houses a few dirty dishes – the amount that begs for 10 minutes while I’m on a phone call. Dinner at our home? It’s a team effort, and that is pretty nourishing in itself. All of this was born from those purple walls I’ve been wanting all my life.

Keeping promises to myself has been profound, one pair of glasses at a time.

Have you ever made a promise to yourself you didn’t honor? What’s on your kitchen counter? What color would the walls be if you had a room of your own?

With the realization that I have trouble finishing, I was able to identify a pattern in my life I wanted to cleanse. Identify is the first step in my 4-step philosophy in Soulful Cleansing.
I am participating in 31-days of Soulful Cleansing. This project is the collaborative brainchild of The Nester. Join her here and see all the other 31-day projects.

If you are looking for more help identifying the color of your walls, a room of your own or other paths you might take, enjoy this piece by Amy Kessel at Tiny Buddha.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon October 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm

I love your space! We all need a little space of our own! Like you I’ve always had trouble finishing. Your perspective gives me new inspiration.

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rebecca October 17, 2012 at 1:36 am

So glad to know I’m not the only one who has trouble finishing, Shannon!

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suzicate October 16, 2012 at 4:28 pm

I am all about starting things. Yes, finishing is another story. I usually get back to projects…eventually…like years later! Love your space. I just turned my son’s old bedroom into a study for me, but I’m having a difficult time working in there. Maybe I should START another project by doing a bit more to the room!

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rebecca October 17, 2012 at 1:35 am

Ha! Isn’t that something that you’ve been able to change the room, but can’t quite move in to your son’s space? I totally get that. Before my daughter left for college, I thought I’d use her room, but now….it feels so much like hers.

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Kristen @ Motherese October 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm

There is so much joy in your purple walls and your purple reading glasses resting on their orange bed. I am so glad and grateful that you had this revelation about low expectations. It is wisdom that is continuing to help shape me into a gentler, easier version of myself. xo

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rebecca October 17, 2012 at 1:33 am

Joy is exactly what it is, thanks for naming it that. Who knew low expectations would be the thing that would set me free? I’m going to have to think about this as a parenting philosophy. 🙂

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Becky October 17, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I have so many unfinished projects, so many little messes all over the place. I fully concur that baby steps and keeping it simple is the only way to approach any of it.
Today’s goal? Dinner. If anything else is accomplished, then fantastic.

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rebecca October 24, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Dinner is often the biggest goal. Sometimes peanut butter and jelly is enough so that I can attend to something else. Thanks for taking little steps with me, Becky.

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