Before you get your tiaras in a twist, or start fluffing a giant ballgown, I’m not talking about your typical Prince Charming rescue scenario here. Unless Prince Charming is willing to vacuum, wash dishes and do laundry, among the many other never-finished tasks that consume the day of a typical adult. This is more my personal point of view on the part of the story where Cinderella is desperately trying to find time to mend her dress allowing her to fulfill her fantasy of dancing at the royal ball, but alas cannot, because her wicked stepmother and stepsisters continue to load more and more chores on top of her. The stepmother promises Cinderella a chance to go “If” and then another”If” and yet another, compiling a list as long as a line at the DMV. So she never gets around to fixing her sad little dress therefore is stuck at home with the mice.
As I was hunched over picking up endless armfuls of 6 year old treasures strewn across the floor of my home, I was stricken with these thoughts of Cinderella, along with a new kind of empathy. Yes, I am the mother of a 6 year old girl, so occasionally relating to fairy tale characters is something I have just learned to own and accept. Not that I am comparing my daughter to a wicked anyone, but the concept of finding time is always lurking about. I realize that too often my own list of daily to do’s is unrealistically long, leaving me in a constant feeling of playing catch up. So in the one corner is Cinderella, washing clothes and dishes, scrubbing floors, feeding everyone, mending this and that, etc. etc., all the while remaining cheerful and rosy cheeked enough to still sing a few tunes to her bird and mice companions (who by the way she also managed to sew clothes and create accessories for).
Meanwhile, in the other corner is me, and I imagine most adults, especially parents; not so rosy cheeked, tuneful or always cheerful, but I do try. In addition to Cinderella’s list of to do’s, I also have a child to keep healthy, clean, entertained, get to school on time, do homework with, glue the aforementioned breakable treasures back together for, etc. etc., all the while thinking that “If” I could add just a few more hours to the day I could read that book, paint the canvas, or anything really that isn’t on a list or sticky note somewhere.
So the all too often asked question: How did we become this society of doers who never feel like we’ve accomplished enough in a day, or like we have to do just a few more chores before we’re allowed to go to our grand gala? Blame whom you will, but I have decided to blame myself. Yep, me. While I was making beds, washing dishes, prepping next week’s meal plan, adding notes to my planner and thinking about what new kind of project I should start ASAP, I realized that I was making the choice not to fix my crummy old dress.
Apparently, somewhere deeply ingrained in my psyche, is a ridiculing neuron firing off signals that give me anxiety when I look at an unmade bed or a sink full of dishes. I could let those things go for a few hours and read a chapter of a new book, or even just sit outside and doodle a picture, just take a break from the everyday mundane. I could work on that pitiful dress and make it something to get excited about. Instead, I keep listening to that wicked stepmother of a neuron that tells me it’s not okay to do something just for fun when I could be doing something “productive”. Then those stepsisters chime in with ideas about how clean and tidy so and so’s house probably is, with more nagging about what I could get done instead of what I want to do.
I’m by no means suggesting we become a society of lazy, underachievers. But for those of us who do push ourselves into pools of anxiety and stress just to “get things done”, I’m saying that it’s really okay to take a breather. It’s also healthy as many of us know but try to ignore. How many times have we heard health care professionals push the idea of rest and getting enough sleep at night to keep our bodies and minds tip top? But despite any legitimate justifications, ultimately the stepmothers in our minds have convinced us that we will never deserve to go to the ball.
So I have decided to approach this whole dilemma from a different angle. I am choosing to challenge myself. There is a lot to be said for semantics, and in my mind “challenging myself” to change a habit clicks a lot better than if I “just don’t make the beds”. So as one of my goals for the upcoming year I am challenging myself to do one thing once a week that is relaxing, new, fun, perhaps frivolous and only for me; breaking the habit of being a chore martyr in a Queendom where vacuums and dish soap reign supreme. I imagine that doing an activity will be the easy part, the challenge will be to embrace it without guilt or distracted thoughts of what I have to do when I finish my fun. The challenge is to convince myself that I deserve to mend my dress, get fancy and go shake my tush at the dance. As with all challenges and goals the key to success is taking the first step and then keep going. So starting in the first week of this new year, I will take at least one hour to do something simply because I want to, and it’s not allowed to be on a list pad or sticky note anywhere. I think an hour is a good start- baby steps. 😉
If this is a concept that rings true with you, and you are planning to join the challenge with me, please comment and share what your fun activities will be.