Do you ever have a to-do list circling around in your brain that makes you dizzy? As soon as you take 15 seconds to focus on one task that needs to be done, it inevitably branches into a chain of other related tasks, and the list grows longer. I don't know what to call it, but it's a state of deep sighs, overwhelming pressure, and overactive irritability.
Satan loves this phase. This is when my mind is ripe for any of his favorite mantras: You can't do this. There's no way. What were you thinking? You'll never meet expectations. You can't even control your own life; how can you be a good mother/wife/Visiting teacher/friend/volunteer/(insert role here)? You are incapable. You are failing.
The weird thing is how easy it is to forget who Satan really is. He is a liar. Pure and simple. An every-thing-he-says-is-not-the-way-things-REALLY-are liar.
I attended a meeting once where I asked Sister Julie Beck this question: I know there is good guilt and bad guilt, but what role should guilt play and what role should it not play?”
I took copious notes as she talked extensively about the unnecessary pressures that women put on themselves. Here are some of the points she touched on:
- Any thought that tells you “You are not good enough” is from Satan. If the thought tells you “You can do better, and I’ll help you,” it is from Heavenly Father.
- There will never be enough of you to do all your heart wants to do.
- Pray, eliminate your distractions, and follow the Spirit.
- We impose things on ourselves that the Lord would never impose.
- Be an example of joyful gospel living.
- Beg for miracles every morning. Recognize and give thanks for them every night.
- Navigate this experience you’ve been given with dignity, faith, hope and charity.
- She recommended making a three-column to-do list every day: Column #1) The essentials (short list of things that are eternally important: Pray, read scriptures, maybe some days the list will include temple or service or family time), Column #2) Should do (feed children, clean clothes, go to work, etc.), Column #3) Nice to do (wish list). Whatever you do, make sure the essentials happen, and work hard on your should-do list, and you’ll be surprised how often you get around to things on your “nice to do” list. She also said that women cannot work all three shifts in a day. We can do one well, one pretty well, and we need one shift to rest and take care of ourselves. She recommended deciding which shift was the most important time of the day when we need to be at our very best (for her it was the afternoon into the evening when kids came home from school and prepared for bed, etc.), and then use the other shifts to help us prepare for and get ready for the important shift (maybe prepare dinner in the morning, rest well at night, etc.).
Sister Beck is a genius. Truly inspired. Now I like to pretend that there is a switch in my brain that helps me distinguish between messages from my Heavenly Father and messages from the other guy (Satan) who pretends to be as cool and smart as Heavenly Father. Such a poser. When the message sounds anything like "You're not good enough," I just need to flip the switch. It's not an on-off switch, but more like a true-false switch, so I just need to make sure it's switched to the truth. Like Sister Beck promised, there's always hope that comes with truth-- a promise that everything important will get done, that it will all work out, and that I have help. If I turn to the source of that help-- my Heavenly Father-- clarity almost always follows. And clarity is SO much better than that discouraging, brain-spinning mode.
President Uctdorft was speaking specifically to women when he said,
"We know that sometimes it can be difficult to keep our heads above water. In fact, in our world of change, challenges, and checklists, sometimes it can seem nearly impossible to avoid feeling overwhelmed by emotions of suffering and sorrow. I am not suggesting that we can simply flip a switch and stop the negative feelings that distress us. This isn’t a pep talk or an attempt to encourage those sinking in quicksand to imagine instead they are relaxing on a beach. I recognize that in all of our lives there are real concerns."
He makes a good point about the light-switch theory; it's not quite as simple as that. I think it's because it depends too much upon ourselves. But when we literally switch our focus and our thoughts to the Lord and our eternal priorities, things seem more manageable because we are reminded of His willingness to help us. President Uctdorf concluded:
"I believe that as you are faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, as you draw closer to Him in faith, hope, and charity, things will work together for your good. I believe that as you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father . . . God will encircle you in the arms of His love. Discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment."
I believe him. And when I realize that the work of our Father that we should immerse ourselves in is as simple as covenant keeping, including serving my own family with love, the weariness is lifted. Because I can do that. I am capable. I am not failing at what matters most. And God will help me. Heaven knows I need the help. Just ask my brain.
Stephanie is a mom of three young and relentless children. Her interests include Latin music, naps, restaurants, writing, travel, teaching, housework denial and long showers. Stephanie seeks for the divinity in motherhood--- tries to share it when she finds it, and tries to laugh when she doesn't. She blogs for fun, posterity, and therapy. Her musings are chronicled at Diapers and Divinity.