It’s been a weird week. After a busy school year, tutoring, teaching and creating a course for homeschool moms and launching it, everything seemed to end all at once. My boys finished finals at our local high school, my daughter finished her homeschool year, and all my tutoring students said goodbye until Fall. Exhaustion set in along with a strange feeling of wondering who I am and what I’m doing with my life. At first, the mean girl in my head began taunting me, “What are you going to do for work this summer? How are you going to make an income to support your family now? Why don’t you know who you are? Do you even belong here?” And on and on….
Does that ever happen to you? Do you hit weeks when your mood is a bit low, when you feel unmoored, frozen, or a bit lost? I knew that I had a decision to make and I’m old enough to know that my energy level and mood is often cyclical. As a woman whose hormonal cycle affected mood and energy all through the child-bearing years, I grew accustomed to paying attention and keeping records. In my 30’s I would write on the calendar ahead of time the likely emotions I might feel in a given week so I could prepare my mindset. One week would be confident/energized, another anxious/sensitive, one week read angry/ impatient and another joyful/relaxed. My mother had always advised, “Don’t think too hard when you’re tired or hormonal. it will pass.” In other words, don’t measure who you are by any one set of hard days.
So I knew, earlier this week, when I felt so blah that it was likely a cyclical thing. I needed to wait it out and trust that my current mood and productivity was not all of who I am or would be. We learn in our culture to measure our worth by our productivity and to hit summer with no income felt irresponsible and scary for this single mama. I had worked hard all year, but I hadn’t yet figured out what I was doing for the summer. I had pre-planned several ventures, but none had come together yet. On Monday morning I made a choice. Instead of beating myself up or trying to push myself into action with anxiety and criticism, I would give myself grace. I would trust that God knows me, my cycle, and my situation. I would wait - for my own body and mind to be ready for the next action and I would busy myself in that waiting with something else. That something else was housework - some much needed organization - which would serve us well in the future and lay a clean slate upon which to create new business ventures or go through needed transitions. I set to work cleaning out the papers and clutter that had accumulated in our home all year while I was working so hard on other projects. Was that income-producing activity? No. But I decided to…
1) Give myself grace in the low energy, trusting that a new cycle of energy would come.
2) Trust God to provide for our family - to bring the right focus, work, and ideas in His time.
There is no point arguing with your cycle, ladies! Kate Northrup, in her recent book, “Do Less: A Revolutionary Approach to Time Management for Busy Moms” talks about productivity and women. We expect to be productive every day because popular ideas about accomplishment are based on male energy which runs in 24 hour cycles. Because of this, I expect myself to get my act together at some point EVERY DAY. But, guess what? Women cycle over 28 DAYS!!! Y’all, let’s just pause there - every TWENTY EIGHT DAYS!! This is why there are weeks when we are energetic and confident and others when we want to retreat from the world. We don’t do ourselves any good when we expect visible productivity every day. It’s more realistic to see that I can accomplish just as much if I understand and accept my real cycle of energy and mood. It’s like when you’re sick and you start to think you’ll never feel better again. You start to believe that it’s who you are but, when you give it a few days, you’re back to normal, right? And often, that book you read while laid up in bed gives you new ideas; the podcast you listened to while resting shifted your mindset on a topic because you slowed down long enough to really think.
I took Kate Northrup’s explanation and actually put the weeks on my calendar so I would know where I am energy-wise. She describes 4 different stages (the words in quotes are what I put on my calendar).
1) Ovulation - peak energy, manifesting, magnetism I call this week “Show up and Shine”
2) Luteal Phase - wind down, slow down, finish, detail work - I call this week “Organize”
3) Menstrual - rest, hang out in the unknown, re-evaluate, pause - I call this week “Slow Down and Think”
4) Follicular - excitement, new ideas, inspiration, brainstorming - I call this week “Plan and start”
So what if you gave yourself grace on the days that look and feel less productive, knowing that one week is not the measure of you? How would if feel to let the less impressive weeks serve their purpose too? Whatever you are working on this summer, try to fit the elements of that project or goal into your cycle so you can benefit from the riches of each phase. Most of all, give yourself grace. You are doing your best, mama! You are precious and gifted and you are just what your children need you to be.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pick up all the papers littered across my family room before my “Organize” week ends.