July 11, 2008

Satisfaction

Here is something that surprises me again and again, no matter how many times it happens: how much less I get done than I intend to get done.

I have such excellent and reasonable intentions. "This summer," I think to myself in the spring, "I will gradually clean up some trouble areas in the house. Nothing dramatic, no no no: it won't be days and days of all-day cleaning while the children care for themselves like little savages. No, I will tackle it reasonably: ten or fifteen minutes a day will really add up."

And here we are nearly halfway through July, and what has my progress been? Well, I did put away a few things that were stacked on the dining room table. That was the first day, when motivation ran hot through my veins. And I've managed to be consistent on another summer goal, which was to have the older two kids do some reading and some writing each weekday. But day after day goes by, and the house is not gradually improving as I'd imagined it would.

This makes me think of a question CP asked recently. She wanted to know how I fit all this in: all the blogs! the Facebook! the Twitter! the baking! Plus, of course, the five squalling children.

This is the most FA of all the Q I get, and so for all of you who are wondering the same thing, I'd like to refer you to All & Sundry for what I consider to be the Perfect Answer to This Question (it comes from this Q&A post):
I kind of want to be all Superwoman on this question and say, oh, I just set my alarm for 4 AM, but truthfully, I make time for the things I love. Which is to say I don’t always make time for cooking, cleaning, or scooping dog crap. Also, Riley goes to bed at–thank you, Jebus–6:45 nearly every night. That leaves quite a bit of time for ignoring the laundry while I sit, clackety-clacking, at my laptop.

Time, like money, is currency: everyone has a certain amount of it to spend. I think it's EASY to make time for writing and reading, because I LOVE writing and reading. I get huge rewards in terms of satisfaction and personal happiness from the give-and-take communication of blogging---and, by extension, from things like Facebook and Twitter, which give me more of that. When I see time, I pounce eagerly: I grab those gleaming coins and shove them into the slot.

When I feel strapped for time is when I think about all the photos I need to label and put into albums. Or when I think of all the movies I haven't seen, all the TV shows I would like to have seen so I'd know what everyone is talking about. All the albums I haven't listened to. All the books I haven't read yet, with more being published every second. The vet appointments I should be making. The craft projects I could be doing with the kids. The ripped shorts I should be sewing. The recipes I could be trying. The volunteer work I could be doing. The clutter I should be purging. "Where oh where do you find the TIME?," I might say to you, if I saw your clean basement and your kids' cool artwork.

Except I would NOT say that, because I understand about time. And about how we give spending priority not to what's "fun," necessarily, but to what gives us satisfaction, and to what we think is important.

32 comments:

Beth said...

I'm COMPLETELY on board with that! We do what we love, and we take/make time for it. Period. One of the big satisfactions in my life is being stupidly organized and tidy. I secretly LOVE keeping my house all tidy and free of clutter, all the pictures labled and in albums, closets organized with color coded hangers (yes, this is my psychotic stress relief, and I LOVE it)...but, writing? meh. Cooking? Whatever. And I HATE, HATE, HATE actual cleaning...

So, while my house "looks" great - don't eat off my floors...I don't remember th last time I swept, never mind the mildew in the shower, and know that we eat frozen pizzas more than once a week! We all have different love. Different passions. Great, isn't it? :)

the new girl said...

I believe in this, Swistle. Very much.

I also think that sometimes people do NOT have very reasonable expectations about how much can get done in an allotted amount of time *cough*myhusband*cough*

For him, there is NEVER enough time to complete anything because he is too busy STARTING NEW THINGS to do.

/end rant.

fairydogmother said...

I've had the same goal about gradually taking care of clutter around here this summer, and what is worse is that the progress I made on the dining room table a few weeks ago has already been undone. And I have exactly zero children and one misbehaving dog clamoring for my attention.

However, I am also spending quite a bit of time looking for a new job and have managed to make it to assorted farmers markets several times this summer, so I suppose it will all work out in the end somehow. Perhaps rainy fall weekends are better for clutter busting anyway. Either that, or I am an amazing procrastinator!

moo said...

My son's birthday invitations to his party (THREE. WEEKS. AWAY.) have been mournfully berating me every day for the three weeks I have had them. They are all written out. They simply need addresses and stamps. I have stamps. So why have they not been sent?

Because I prefer, at 9 pm, to sit with my husband and watch TV. And blog. And twitter. And generally not DO something that brings me No Joy.

Sometimes, laundry doesn't get put away for days on end. Sometimes, we eat take out. I let a LOT of things go. And you know what? At the end of my life ... I am going to be OK with that.

Jess said...

See, and not to be a downer, but this is why I find it offensive when somebody says they were too busy to call. Like, too busy to call on a given day, maybe. But during a period of a week or a month? What they really mean is that they didn't feel like MAKING THE TIME to call. Because you can always make time, at least a little bit of it, for the things that really matter.

Bird said...

I completely get this. It explains why MY house is a complete mess.

Tessie said...

I remember that post by Linda, and I, too, think of it OFTEN.

People always wonder how I have time to post as often as I do, and work, and read, and watch tv, and exercise, and and AND. But there are plenty of things I DON'T do instead. I don't spend an hour getting ready in the morning. I don't have family obligations on the weekends. I hire someone to mow my lawn and clean my pool. And so on.

Plus, I am very good at not trying to do too much, and at underestimating the number of things I CAN get done.

Nowheymama said...

Well said. And thanks for getting The Stones song stuck in my head.

Also, The New Girl--HA!!

Pickles & Dimes said...

Oh yes, I am the Queen of thinking, "Sure, it's totally feasible for me to do 137 things in 4 hours."

I make time for things I love because 1) If I don't, I get super bitchy to all of humankind, and 2) I am super organized, so it makes it easier.

HollyLynne said...

so true.

this is exactly why last night i made a nice dinner for the boy and myself, made three pieces of jewelry for my etsy shop and one for myself, and finished off by making cupcakes from scratch for a friend's birthday.

also, explains why i haven't washed my car in OVER A YEAR.

Whimsy said...

I love this, and you're totally on target to identify the difference between the things that are just fun and the things that truly give us satisfaction. I think it says a lot about each one of us to look at those things that we make time for, again and again.

Mommy Daisy said...

Yep, yep. *nodding head in agreement*

If I think about all the things I should be doing/want to get done, I get so overwhelmed (which I have been for the last ... uh... month). But I am better off doing many things I love and just getting by with those other things that I don't like.

Joanne said...

I can always get done what I want to get done. I always (almost) read the blogs I want to, write what I want to, and post pictures of my darling children. BUT I have not figured out how to be in two places at once and that's what scourges me. Like when I'm nursing the baby and I hear BOOM! CRASH! AHHH! in the next room and I think hmmmm. How do I handle this one? That is the ability I wish I had the most - to be two people at once. Like in the nursing example, or if I were two people one of me could go to bed right after the kids at 7:00 and one of me could have marital relations with my husband.

Fiona Picklebottom said...

I, too, manage to get done the things that have an actual deadline (like paying bills) and the things that I REALLY WANT TO DO. The other things can wait and usually do.

I have the de-clutter aspirations EVERY TIME there is any kind of change in routine. Season change? Ooh, I can de-clutter. Kid going out of town? De-clutter time! Husband working later than usual? I can use the time to de-clutter! RARELY, IF EVER, comes to fruition.

THE ONLY THING that makes me spend three days cleaning house from top to bottom? Hosting a family get-together. That's it.

d e v a n said...

Very good answer. I only wish I had enough time for the things I want to do and the things dh feels I should do and the things I feel I should do and the things that need to be done, but I don't do. heee

d e v a n said...

Also, I agree with Jess Loolu about making time to call or email, etc. I HATE when my hubby says "I didn't have time to do xyz for you" when we both know that he could have made the time if it was important. hmph

Angie said...

Very well put! I had a very similar post to this about a month ago and finally denounced the term "wasted time". It's not wasted just because someone else doesn't find your use of it to be correct or right. :-)

desperate housewife said...

I think I actually want to post about this myself today, SO STRONGLY do I agree with the sentiments of this post. People (at least around here) spend a LOT of time judging what other people choose to do or not do with their lives. Don't do craft projects with your kids? Bad mom! Don't have a perfectly clean house? Bad housekeeper! Don't wear lingerie at least once a week? Bad wife! And so on.
IT'S PRIORITIES, people. No one can do all the things we think we should do. So we do the things that matter the most TO US. Basically, everyone does what they want, when it comes right down to it. Some of just like to get all self righteous about the things we choose to prioritize.

Stimey said...

Really well said. Somehow I always have time to do the things I want to do. Okay, not always, but usually.

Meredith said...

Thanks, Swistle.

I am working on making sure that one of the things that "gets done" is quality time with my toddler. I find the whole day a practice in keeping her occupied, but sometimes, I realize that in the process, I haven't actually gotten down on the floor and PLAYED with her.

I would love to read a post about sleep in your family. Are all of your darlings sleeping all night? Do you remember the first night that happened? Do they have early or late bedtimes? Sleep is my obsession and part of what scares me about having a large family (although I LOVE kids and I know I will have a large family eventually).

Whitney in the NJ said...

Amen, Jess & Amen, Swistle! Really, how hard is it to make a phone call to a friend or family (o.k., so there are some family members this doesn't pertain to because I just don't feel like dealing with them no matter HOW much time I have)? I finally asked my husband to get another set of phones for the upstairs, so I could answer/make phone calls without running down a flight of stairs with my newborn. He kindly purchased a set of three (3!) phones that have a speaker phone setting on them and it's been wonderful. I can nurse & change my baby while making/catching up on important phone calls AT THE SAME TIME!

(I know the technology has been out there for a while, but I really thought I would be considered SuperMom if I tried to do everything with one hand.)

Kudos to my husband for going to Staples & buying more phones. Granted, now we have phones in just about every room of the house, but it's easier for me and sometimes, that's all that matters.

Happy me = happy everyone.

Erin said...

Amen.

I think we all have those things people ask "how do you find the time?" For me, it's running. But I sacrifice a lot of other things to get it in. It's important, just like you said, priority.

Maggie2 said...

Yes! Why do women seem to get this, and men do not? (At least, the man in my life!!) It's all about choices! He never "has time" for the things I want to do, but can spend HOURS online. It makes me feel like he only will spend face-to-face time with me as a last resort. And I refuse to beg/nag for his attention...
Anyway, this being your most excellent blog and not marital therapy, I will shut up now. Just wanted to say how right you are.

Omaha Mama said...

My sister and I had this very conversation today. I was asking why my house is chronically messy and some others I know have such tidy, tidy homes. My sister said because it must be important to them. I said that it must be important to me if I'm always fussing about it. She said that I only think it's important because of pressure I feel but not because it satisfies me personally. It was an aha! moment for me and I realize I may never have that tidy house...

houndrat said...

All you have to do is stop by my house briefly to see how totally on board I am. Our garage is a scary, scary place that hubby and I are constantly lamenting, and yet, despite our best intentions, the junk just seems to multiply.

Now, if cleaning the garage involved, say, eating ice cream and cookies, then you can bet it would have been spotless eons ago.

SLynnRo said...

Ditto Ditto Ditto.

There are so many house things I need to get done. And they never ever happen. But blogging does. I don't regret it.

Pann said...

Oh Swistle, SO VERY well put!

It IS the things that give us the most satisfaction that get the grease, to mix a metaphor.

I sometimes experience EPIC FAIL on doing really important stuff because something else just was too gratifying to ignore.

Your post is SPOT ON.

Pann said...

Ooooh, in response to JESS... about not having time to call.

It's not that it's not IMPORTANT to make that phone call, it's that the phone call doesn't offer the level of gratification or satisfaction.

Often I avoid the phone calls not because I don't realize how awful it to be expecting a return call and not getting it, but because I'm surrounded by things that are NOT COMPATIBLE with making the call. And usually the call is also laced with some level of anxiety / expected unpleasantness.

I happen to be terrible about returning phonecalls. I just had to respond....

CP said...

I'm feeling a bit like I caused a shit storm. I wasn't judging or even commenting on the time you spent on the computer- I was just honestly admiring you for how much you manage to get done every day. I'm sorry if my Twitter came across any different than that.

Swistle said...

CP- What? Oh! No! No no no! Not at all! No--I see what you mean! But no, that isn't how I meant it! I meant it like: (1) I never get as much done as I think I will; (2) that reminded me of the conversation you and I had; and (3) that reminded me of Sundry's thing; and (4) that made me think this further train of thought about the things that satisfy and the things that don't.

Ha ha! No, I see exactly how it looks like I'm all, "You're asking me this, and to that I say THIS!"--but that's just clumsy writing! I TOTALLY took our Twitter talk as a discussion of how super-awesome I am! I linked to you to give you credit for inspiring an interesting train of thought---not to, like, call you out.

CP said...

Whew! I actually texted Kim (she was sitting on the beach) and made her immediately read your post and she read it like you intended it. It was just when I followed reading your post by reading SDH's post (which probably/hopefully had NOTHING to do with me) that I let the crazy out and thought (b/c it's all about me) I had offended you. Whew! I honestly do admire you and I'm glad the "you're so awesome" part of my Twitter came through. And! Am very glad I can come back and read your blog again without feeling like a black sheep. :)

Kelsey said...

I really believe in this, it's part of the reason that I'm always reading something. It may take me a while to get through a book, but I've always got one going.

I'm having a hard time right now because the only way I get computer time (most days) is to be up very late at night.

I wish I didn't need to sleep -- then I'd be all set.