When Seizing the Day is Too Hard

I have a friend who often jokes that he eats – and enjoys – every meal like it might be his last. And my mom ingrained in me throughout my childhood to “just try” – in other words, try to use the bathroom every chance you get.

Now as anyone who’s met any member of my family will tell you, my mom’s advice was based more on the desire to be prepared than to seize the day. And one look at my Weight Watchers record is all the reminder I need to never [again] eat a meal like its my last.

Still, everywhere I turn, the Advice of the Day seems to be “live in the moment” or “the years are short” or “you’re gonna miss this” or “act like tomorrow might never come.” And it’s true. Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come.

But I’m only human. And my days only have 24 hours in them. And sometimes carping the diem is too much, too hard. When it takes everything I’ve got to make it through the day, seizing it is about the last thing I want to do.

I’ve had a lot of those days lately – and by “lately,” I mean over the past nine months. Going back to work has wrecked any semblance of order my life had . . . and it didn’t have a whole lot to start with!

A question we ask often at my church is, “What are your challenges?” Mine has been, consistently since starting to work for that same church, balance. Time management. Figuring out – and sticking to – my priorities. Dealing with the fact that I’ve taken on too much but am stubbornly unwilling to give up any of it.

This challenge was most apparent over the holidays. Even after taking a three-week break from this blog, I struggled to find time to do the things that were most important to me and to my family, because it seemed every waking moment was filled with the things that were most urgent. Or, if I’m honest about my mediocre-at-best time management skills, avoiding or feeling guilty about the things that were most urgent.

During a season that’s supposed to be filled with family and fun and experience-sharing and memory-making, I felt good when, day after day, I fed my family and moved the laundry and told my kiddo I loved her.

We didn’t bake cookies.
We didn’t drive around to look at Christmas lights.
We didn’t do Truth in the Tinsel, and I ate all the candy I put in our advent boxes.
We didn’t work through a list of random acts of kindness or even fill a shoebox.
We didn’t carve pumpkins or decorate for fall or tear links off a countdown chain.

I know life isn’t about the things we do or parties we throw or the craft projects we complete. It’s not about checking things off a list, and you can’t prove your love with homemade cookies or elegantly wrapped gifts. But sometimes, when I can’t check a single thing off my list or give a single homemade gift all season, it feels bad . . . and makes me want to tell Robin Williams (or the latest unlucky person to offer the advice) where to shove his “carpe diem.”

But even though a rough year and a less-than-festive holiday season brings out my worst perfectionist, pessimistic tendencies, I decided not to lose any more sleep over it this time.

That’s why, over the past few months, I finally had to accept that this year? This year wasn’t going to be the best in terms of projects and parties and field trips and road trips. This year, we were going to be content to be together. Because we’d learned in new, hard ways that tomorrow might not come and things change and sometimes life stinks. And being together is a big deal. And even though we want to live in the moment, I just have to believe that there will be another Christmas.

Wait, what?

I know. It doesn’t make sense. How can I say in one breath that we aren’t promised tomorrow while, in the next, lean on the belief that I’ll get another chance at festive holidays? I’m not sure how it works. Logically, I suppose it doesn’t. But as my family came to the close of a darned difficult year, it was the best I could do.

And you know what? We made it. We made it through the holidays, and on Christmas day, as I lay on the couch and my husband crashed on our bed, both of us sick with an awful sinus infection, my daughter played with her new toys (most of which I’d bought at Walmart on Christmas Eve, no joke) and declared, “Mommy, this is The Best Christmas Ever!”

I couldn’t help it. I asked her why. She informed me it was the best because she’d gotten her very own sleeping bag, and I suspect the mix tape CD I made her with a Justin Bieber song (among others, thankyouverymuch) didn’t hurt.

Yeah, she’s the same kid who, two months later, is reminding me that we never carved a pumpkin. And I’m not sure I’m forgiven yet for the advent box debacle (more the fact that I ate the Hershey’s kisses than the fact that we didn’t make nativity ornaments, but still). But what really matters is what we DID do, not what we didn’t – and doing it together matters most of all.

Have you ever felt like seizing the day was too hard? Have you felt the tension between living in the moment and letting yourself off the hook for a season? Have you struggled with putting the important over the urgent – or vice versa?

Comments

  1. Don’t beat yourself up; Annalyn said it best! Our kids don’t need as much as we feel pressured to do for them–they’re happy with the little things, and we should be too.

    I’m right there with you! Love ya!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Kids do know better sometimes, don’t they? Maybe one of these days I’ll be as smart as my kiddo…right? That’s possible? ;)

  2. So sorry your year was so hard. Praying for a much better 2013, dear Mary. (And for the record, my December sounded much like yours. I couldn’t wait for it all to end.)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      So far, 2013 is WAY better than the last part (and of course, other parts) of 2012. So thankful for fresh mercies and new starts and blank slates!

  3. Oh, Mary! This really speaks to my heart. Thank you for writing this! <3

  4. YES! We bought pumpkins, and did not carve them. We made candy to give out as Christmas gifts….and they are in navvies on top of my trudge…and the Christmas cards we made ..are in the drawer still waiting to be mailed. We did have a memorable Christmas season in our own way. Hot chocolate and The Polar Express movie on Christmas eve. Since so many things just didn’t work out for me in 2012, I’m working on my list of priorities for this year.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Yes, our Christmas was memorable in its own way, too. This year may not have fit into my definition of “festive family fun,” but it was still meaningful. Glad yours was, too!

  5. So glad I’m not alone.. We had a rough holiday season as well, but after a separation and a reconciliation, we were all glad to just be together as a family.. And yes, there are other years to do all the little things we “missed” this time.. And a positive outlook is just a start to a better year.. :)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Hear, hear! Starting this year with a positive outlook is just what the doctor (or a challenging 2012) ordered!

  6. Oh Mary, this speaks right to me. I have struggled for months now {maybe even a year} on finding a balance between seizing the day and letting things go. I feel like I am constantly bombarded with stories of how other people seized the day in the most impossible of ways and it makes me feel about * that big. I have to believe that there will be another Christmas, otherwise at the rate I’m going, my failures are stacked way higher than my victories.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Yes, that’s it – believing we have time to “rack up” some more victories to outweigh our failures. But, now that I think about it, maybe that’s not the right perspective either. Maybe we should reframe our REAL lives and accept that ignoring a bucket list isn’t actually a failure. Hmmm…now I’m thinking…again… ;)

  7. Oh friend, I’m so sorry this year was such a hard one for you and your family! But I’m so thankful that you are where you’re at and realizing too that ultimately togetherness is so much more important than all those other “doing” things. You did the best you could with what you had as far as strength, energy, time, etc. Annalyn will remember later in life your love for her & time you spent with her much more than a randomly missed pumpkin carving.

    I’ve definitely had those hard “seize the day” times too. It’s a good slogan to live by, but sometimes the pressure is just too much and you have to just survive the moments. You don’t do it every day or all the time, but seasons of life are just like that. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and keep striving. Me? I’m going to lay on the couch the moment I get home from work. Oy. T.i.r.e.d….

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Girl, you definitely need to lay on the couch and rest up! I like how you put that, too – living in the moment compared to surviving the moments. Sometimes one is possible, while sometimes the other is necessary!

  8. This was my first year doing any Christmas baking – and it all had to be gluten free! And often! For all those many moments that our kids were going to get a Christmas cookie offered to them! And I mostly kept up, but it wasn’t pretty or cute or very special. And we got sick! (not from the cookies, thank you very much! ;) ) And, well, you know I didn’t get the cards out on time either! :) But that’s what making a plan for next year is for, right? The first year you do anything, it’s not going to be great. But that’s good. Otherwise there would be no challenge in life!

    Here’s to you having a less stressful, much less traumatic year ahead!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Yes – here’s to all of having a less [bad in whatever way] year! And you are awesome for attempting (and accomplishing) gluten-free Christmas cookies! Who cares if they’re not super cute – as my husband says, it all tastes the same. ;)

  9. I had a lot of plans for the Christmas season, but we didn’t do any of them. Our advent activities and acts of kindness and craft kits all stayed undone. I didn’t really realize until it was over that I hadn’t done anything I had planned. But we were calm and we were quiet and we were together. I’m sorry this was a hard year for year, but I hope you don’t look back on this Christmas as a fail. If your daughter thought it was the best ever, you couldn’t really have done better.

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Calm, quiet and together is a big deal – and way more important in the long run than a holiday bucket list, right?!

  10. I can’t help but feel that I am some of the cause of this. :) Never-the-less, I know what you mean by carping the diem. This inspires me to still try and live in the moment–but with less expectations. Thanks!

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      No, no, I take full responsibility for the state of my insanity. :) I like how you put that, though: living in the moment with less expectations. I might borrow that wording…!

  11. This was just fabulous, Mary! It makes me feel better for those days when I just want to get through it instead of embracing it and living every moment of it.

    I’m sharing it on my blog this weekend. :)

    • Mary @ Giving Up on Perfect says:

      Thanks, Angie. I think it’s okay, sometimes, to just get through it! (Honestly, sometimes, just getting through it feels like a huge accomplishment!)

  12. Needed and timely reminder, Mary. Thank you!

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