It is difficult to make my brain focus on much these days. Often it feels like a scattered blur inside my head able only to focus on whatever task is at hand - if even that. I am not sure how much of it is a result of my body struggling to sleep so much this past month (I am finally sleeping restfully more often, which is a wonderful thing!), or still adjusting to the restricted diet we are on, or some combination of hormones and supplements, or the fact that life itself has been genuinely scattered of late. Regardless, I do not like the feeling of sludge in my head and I am working on ways to clear it up.
Reading and writing are things that force me to think beyond the moment. They require enough focus that the cobwebs begin to scatter and my thoughts gain just a little bit more clarity. This is why I have done so little of it most of the last several years. I began this year resolved to read more - anything remotely edifying, as long as it was words on a page and was longer than a blog post. Simply because my brain needed to be exercised. I quit reading again through the Summer and now I am back to forcing myself to choose a book over another activity if I have some time on my hands. Technically, I have always loved reading, but reading really is work! Especially if it is anything of substance. The other day I listened to a podcast by Sally Clarkson where she talked about feeding our own minds and being in a state of continual growth ourselves in order to be able to teach our children well. Also, she referred to worshiping the Lord with our "mind, heart and soul" and that putting effort into keeping our minds active and fed is a part of doing that. It was the motivation I needed to continue following through on tasks and ideas which feed my mind and direct me toward the fullness of a life lived for Christ. Not just in my heart and soul, but in my mind also. They really do go hand in hand and if one of those areas are neglected it holds the other areas back as well.
So here I am typing away at whatever comes to mind in an effort to exercise my mental focus and communication. I think that is one of the areas where I have struggled most both with my chronic illnesses and being a parent. My brain just...stops. And I let it because it is easier that way. Easier, at least, until I get lost in the fog of life and I can hardly think straight enough to keep my days and weeks sorted out and moving in a moderately stable fashion. The daily rhythm of keeping children fed and alive, the perpetual choices of how much do I push myself before I crash and where, trying to tame the chaos of life...it keeps me spinning until I no longer know which way is up. I am choosing to learn (albeit slowly) to press the pause button and ask God which way really is up instead of guessing and increasing the speed of the spin cycle.
If you can at all relate to this struggle, here are some things I am doing lately to help clear the cobwebs:
- Listening to podcasts, as mentioned. Listening regularly to a series of podcasts is one of the best things because I don't necessarily stumble on trying to find a topic of interest. I simply listen to the next one in the series and usually find it holds my attention anyway. The fact that it makes doing housework more interesting is an added bonus.
My current favorites: At Home With Sally (this is seriously like having tea with a wise friend and a breath of fresh air all rolled into one), Focus on the Family and Family Life Today.
Picking up a paper and ink bible; there is something about reading the familiar, well-marked pages of my real bibles instead of a bible app on a screen.
Downloading free books as I see them on my Kindle app and choosing that over facebook in down time.
Purposefully opening the few books on our shelves that I have not yet read.
Frequently getting new children's books from the library so that I can enjoy and engage in reading aloud to the kids.
- Listening to worship music. Before I had kids, I listened to music AAAALLLL the time. Then once I began the life of perpetual multi-tasking that is parenting, I stopped almost entirely. It was too much to handle at the same time. Thankfully, my kids are now getting old enough that I now have frequent periods of time where I can handle the added stimulation of music and it is so refreshing to my heart and soul. My most frequented Pandora station is Lauren Daigle. The songs speak so much life!
- Refreshing old skills. For me that comes in the form of working a bit on the side again. Office work and some content writing. Sometimes it is hard to get my head in the game when I need to, but overall it has been refreshing to dust those parts of my brain and refresh my skills in these areas. I really do not want to let my skills stagnate to the point of one day being useless.
- Learning new skills. Confession: I watch a lot of cooking competition shows. I really do glean so much from them and I try to implement new things that I learn as I go. I would love to take a real cooking class one of these days to learn better techniques and improve my knowledge of flavors and seasonings.
- Organizing my life and getting some of the scattered areas out on paper. Making some simple goals for the week and planning a reasonable schedule instead of stumbling through it because everything is up in the air. Often lately it really is all up in the air and there is nothing I can do about that, but written lists can help sort and prioritize the chaos anyway.
- Last, but not least, writing. Facebook statuses killed my blogging years ago. Why write a whole blog when you can throw out your paragraph-sized thoughts at any time of the day or night? I am going to try to get better about saving some of those thoughts to develop into something worth writing. In the meantime, if I pull out the laptop and tell myself "Just start typing. ANYTHING." then I'll continue to manage to get some things out there. :)