When You Feel Stuck

 I'm not sure what it says about me and my life right now that finding the energy/motivation to write this post has taken me much longer than I care to admit, but here we are. Laziness is the mother of necessity or something, right? (I know that's not what the saying is. Let me live.) 

The last few months have been weird, and I'm not just talking about Covid weirdness (because nothing is weirder than that). I have had two different job opportunities unexpectedly open up and then even more unexpectedly fall through, leaving me with feelings ranging from disappointment to a full-on existential crisis that had me convinced I was a failure at pretty much everything. (To quote Father of the Bride: "Why would I overreact?? NOBODY IN MY FAMILY OVERREACTS!") 

The dizzying ups and downs of considering full-time employment and all that would mean for me and my family, especially with a new baby, back to deciding it would be okay to be home, then considering it again, and then not... ugh, let me off, please. It was basically a two-month long roller coaster and the person running it was one of those carnies that keeps the ride spinning for way too long and laughs maniacally when you pass by looking green (ask me how I know those people exist. Thank you, Cumming Fair). 

So, there was the whole "will they or won't they" situation, which is sometimes charming as a plot device in a sitcom but rarely in a possible career move. Then, in addition to belatedly adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom to two thanks to the pandemic, I have suddenly found myself with not only no prospect of a job but also with the same nagging, low-level anxiety I've felt for months and months... the kind that shows up when I'm not writing. 

Clearly the only person feeling stuck here is Amy Jane. 

Overall, I've just felt stuck in a lot of ways. How do I use my gifts to do more than write an occasional Instagram caption that really connects with someone? How do I take the years of input (all my reading) and figure out a useful way to turn it into output (helping others with these resources)? Most of my "stuck" feeling is work or creativity-related, but any parent who has had both or all of their offspring screaming at them within the space of a few moments has also felt that "I'm about to run away and never come back" mental crisis that, even if it only lasts for a few minutes, has you mentally calculating the cost of a plane ticket to ANYWHERE ELSE. (I know it's not just me.) 

Obviously, I feel guilty about this. I love my girls and at the end of the day, I know I'm supposed to be with them. I've been making plans for homeschool, I'm trying to enjoy Amy Jane's tiny-ness while I can, and overall we have a jolly time. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that over the last few months (as we all have, thanks to quarantine) I haven't felt stuck emotionally, mentally, and even physically (hello, postpartum self).

What to do about this? SURPRISE! There are several books I'm about to share that have helped me and that I have returned to frequently. But the first one I want to talk about contains what I consider the key to the rest of the advice. It's The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi, and here's how it will change your life:

Name what matters

That seems so simple, but it has been profoundly effective for me. I've practically been chanting it about everything under the sun. And not only is it the foundation for all the other principles in Kendra's book (which you need to order immediately) but also it WORKS. Naming what matters forces me to actually dig into why I care (or don't) about something, whether it's meal planning (don't) or reading (do) or preschool or a relationship. It makes me see that I can make space for what actually matters to me (because let's face it, I do have lots of time, screaming children notwithstanding) and I can, as the subtitle says, "ditch what doesn't." 

I love that the book is not a "rock on, girlfriend" kind of woo-woo thing, although I think Kendra would certainly encourage me to rock on. (ha!) It's also not a "I do this so you must also do this." It's so applicable to every life stage and situation and I honestly don't know a woman who couldn't benefit from reading it. (Men too, really.) It is endlessly practical and gives actual actions you can take, which is great for people like me saying (in my best The Kid voice), "But what do I doooo?"

When I'm stuck, naming what matters is really clarifying. FOR EXAMPLE. Today Alice was, um, "challenging my authority." I could feel myself going crazy, and while Alice raged in one room and Amy Jane raged on her play mat (why all the rage, my children? why?) I was for SURE feeling stuck. More like trapped. Like Chilean miner trapped (too much? okay). Anyway. In that moment, even though I don't even think I consciously used the phrase, I named what mattered by reminding myself that what matters to me is to be a calm and kind parent. (I was feeling neither calm nor kind because of all the rage.) But I pulled myself out of that kind of instant "EXCUSE ME?' mode that we can go into when our children are being disrespectful and steam is pouring from our heads like a fog machine. (Again, just me?) 

That sounds like a small thing, and to be honest, it was a fairly brief moment of the day (it felt like an eternity, but that's neither here nor there). The point is, this principle helped pull me out of it. It also helped me get myself in gear and write this post, since what matters to me is to be writing more often and losing the yucky, shame-y feeling I get when that doesn't happen. 

SO. The Lazy Genius Way. In the words of Woody, "If you don't have one, GET ONE." He was talking about moving buddies but truthfully this book would be an excellent buddy for moving through life (see what I did there?) and I can't recommend it enough. 

Here are a few more books to help if you're feeling stuck:

-The Next Right Thing by Emily P. Freeman. Fun fact: Emily and Kendra are BFFs in real life! Honestly, consider this book included on every book list of mine forever and ever, amen. (A bonus EPF pick, especially for those who want to create but feel stuck: A Million Little Ways. SO GOOD.)

-Do Over by Jon Acuff. This is definitely one to read if you're wanting to switch careers, start a side hustle, or otherwise shake things up in your career. I'm a long-time fan of Jon Acuff and this is so helpful and practical. 

-Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer. The subtitle is "listening for the voice of vocation" and it has so many good thoughts about your calling and purpose in life. I read it in January and still think about it often.

Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons. The four rhythms are Rest, Restore, Connect, and Create, and I still think about what she says about input/output all the time. 

Your Blue Flame by Jennifer Fulwiler. Jen has become one of my favorite authors in the last couple of years. She is a little crazy and truly unique but in such a good way. This is a great book on finding and strengthening your gifts.

Walking on Water by Madeleine L'Engle. I think so many people could benefit from reading these "reflection on life and art." Plus I find that Madeleine's words have a way of dusting off the cobwebs of my mind somehow. She always offers a new perspective, even from decades ago.

Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Goodness gracious, this book! I need to reread it at least once a quarter. =) It is such a powerful reminder that we can take ownership of our lives, find joy in Christ, and truly thrive despite the big and small difficulties of raising children in this crazy world. 

There you go! I hope one or all of these can help you make some progress, feel less weird (by 2020 standards), and name what matters. May we only be as stuck as the current Covid circumstances require us to be! 

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