"Too much information, Mom" Alex told me yesterday, frustrated with my lengthy diatribe.
I don't know why I have to keep learning this, but my teenage son does not do any better, become any more productive, by the information I provide to him. If I remind him that it's critical he complete college applications right now, or that lack of scholarships and grants will keep him from getting to college, or that he needs to increase his GPA to get considered for scholarships, it's all "too much information" for him. Even if it's accurate info, even if it's all part of reality, it doesn't help to tell him any of these things. It doesn't motivate him. It just makes me feel like I've discharged my responsibility to tell him. It makes me feel like maybe I am somehow accomplishing something by telling him these things.
This last week as we have gotten closer to Christmas, I have fallen behind in accomplishing what I should be accomplishing: sticking to detailed lists, menu planning, shopping for gifts, getting a dress for a wedding we are going to, filing an overload of paper work and bills. (These are not tough things to do, but nor are they the only things I have to do). I know I have to do these things. But knowing what I have to do is not motivating me. Information, alone, does not help.
I'm convinced that's why these last number of years, stress is at an all time high for most people. We are consistently flooded with information, details, emails, and constant phone calls from every kind of hip device. Flooded with information and details.
What we're not flooded with is what we crave: hugs from loved ones telling us "it will be alright", laughter and joking with a friend as you paint your toe nails, long leisurely meals around a table laden with home cooked delights, evenings with good friends where you talk long into the night. Some of us are experiencing these things, occasionally, but I daresay, most of us are not. At least we're not experiencing these heart-boosters as much as we'd like.
Information supposedly helps us get things done. We run around and try to accomplish things, following sales fliers that point to the best sales, or getting email reminders of appointments we need to go to. If we're in motion, we think we are en route. Many of us are in motion, but not in a state of peace.
"It's important for us to separate motion from progress," writes Robert A. Schuller.
Progress, for me, would be to bake those Christmas cookies with my daughter and actually get to the part where we frost them, decorate them with lots of sprinkles and chocolate chips, while making a mess of the kitchen. Making the mess, not cleaning it up, would be progress. Progress would be me thinking about telling my son some instruction and then deciding, Nah, don't waste your time, Lauren. Let him figure it out. It would be me smiling at him, with the grin of a Cheshire cat, and my son wondering why I am not saying a single, blessed word.
Progress would be me turning off the computer promptly at 7pm. Defiantly turning off the flow of information. And then taking the time to boil water, make a pot of hot tea, set up a tray, and bring it to my bed where any family member can come by and have a cup of tea while cuddling with Harry, our dog- who is always lying on my bed. If you want quality time with him, you must adapt to his preferred location and posture.
I just have to get very purposeful about what I will not do. I will not do it all (that's for sure). I will not be super mom. I will not win awards for organization. And most of all, I will not handle it all.
Now, I realize some people need to take on a bit more responsibility, or get a bit more purposeful in their actions. But most of us tend to do too much, or at least deal with so much that we are thinking if we only do a bit more, somehow we will get to the "it's all done" state that we long for.
We will never get to the point where everything is neatly in place, settled permanently and perfectly. We might get to that beautiful state of inner peace and rest- but only if we survey the bit of mess around us and take that sip of tea while deciding that a little mess is appropriate. It signifies you- purposely living with imperfection- because you have to, in this life.