Back Off With Your If Onlys

The dishwasher is whirring.  Bubba is (hopefully) down for the count after two marathon feedings in a row.  My brain tells my feet, “Head to the dining room to start unpacking all of those grocery bags from vacation.”

My feet apparently decide to ignore my brain because they have found their way onto the couch in the basement.  Brain is not surprised.  This is what happens every night at this hour, followed by the nightly declaration of, “If I can only make it through….”

Tonight Brain thinks, “If I can only make it through tomorrow, then my house will be clean.  Then all will be right in the world, and I can really enjoy my summer.”

Now first off, this is ridiculous.  Sure, I have talked Jay into sequestering both kids in Nana’s house for the day.  This means I can clean in peace without any cling-ons to slow me down.  I will have a super productive hour after they leave.  Then I will reward myself with a few minutes of vegging, which will accidentally turn into 45 minutes.  Then I’ll clean for ten more minutes until I’m distracted by an old magazine, or my neglected running shoes, or a stray chin hair that just appeared.  And it will all of a sudden be lunch time, which of course should be followed by a nap, and then whadayaknow?  The cling-ons and a very tired Jay are back.  Clean house?  Yeah…not going to happen.

But secondly, more importantly, I’ve caught on to this pattern that my worn out brain has established.  You see every single day I think that if I can only make it to (fill in the blank), then life will be better.

If only I can make it to Spring Break, then I can relax.

I can’t wait until I get this huge stack of papers graded.  Then there will be no stress.

When this fifth grade play is finally finished, life will be good.

School is out in three more days.  I can already taste the freedom!

When Jay gets back from his trip, then summer can really start.

Once the power comes back on, we are going to have so much fun.

One more week until vacation.  No stress there!

So here’s the deal…I did make it to and through all those moments, but I don’t remember soaking in any of that relief my brain thought it would feel.  Instead I skipped right over the “phew” feeling and on to the next “if only”.

Listen up, Brain.  I’m tired of this rhythm.  You’ve fooled me one too many times.  I realize that we’ve got just two ways we can think about your crazy cycle:

1)  That peace that you describe will never come.  There’s always something else to do, some other deadline, or some nagging mess to clean up.  The only things that will change are the severity and the urgency of your stress.

2)  Find some way to experience joy now, right now.

Brain, I’m choosing #2.  I’m on a mission to find joy, so back off with your if onlys.

Check back tomorrow.  I hope to let you know how the search is going….and how many grocery bags I actually get unpacked.

6 thoughts on “Back Off With Your If Onlys

  1. I’m almost 55 years old…and I go to be and wake up everyday saying tomorrow will be different, better, etc. Some days it is, most days it isn’t. Really wish I could help you with this one…but haven’t figured it out myself. I’ll check back tomorrow. :o)

    • I hope you won’t feel that I’ve tampered with your equilibrium when I say that telling ourselves that tomorrow’s going to be a better day is in my opinion just the way we get those average days to keep on coming steadily and strongly, without too many really horrible days thrown in. I’ve begun to spy on myself and my formulae like chica does herself, you see!

  2. Tracy,
    You really have a gift for this. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts this summer. This one in particular spoke volumes to me. I really needed to hear this word of truth right now. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hope your mission is a success. I’m going to go on one of my own.

  3. No kids, I’m only 27, and this “If Only” pattern is my life. I think my problem is that I have all these plans and ideas and never know where to start. So, instead of doing ANYTHING, I allow myself to be distracted by HGTV (where most of the ideas are from in the first place) and do NOTHING.

    That said, lists help 🙂


  4. Pingback: Learning Joy (Plus the Splinter and the Weasel) | chica and bubba

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