This is Question 15 from my book Your Biz Your Way: How Can I Lessen the Feelings of Utter Chaos?
Towards the end of the summer term, a client of mine confessed to feeling “utterly chaotic”. Don’t all mothers feel like that at the end of term? Aren’t we all hanging on to get as much of our work done alongside all the other duties and responsibilities in our lives and businesses, especially if we know we are going to switch off for a couple of months to be with the kids?
Chaotic doesn’t feel nice, I know.
When I was an accountant, December was our chaotic month; not January, that’s for tax accountants in the UK. We had to do 31 days’ work in 21 days and go to all our clients’ Christmas parties as well, and cope with their disappointment if we couldn’t due to pressure of work. And, if we did make it to some or all of the clients’ Christmas shindigs and to all of our own parties as well, some of us would be turning up at work feeling either tired or hungover or both. That is one of the worst ways to start your own holidays I can recall, and we’d usually fall ill during our own eventual time off. The self-employed Christmas bug, I suspect you’ve had a visit or two from that one?
It was perfectly normal for my staff, the majority of whom were mothers, to be doing the Christmas payroll for our clients on Christmas Eve. And you know how important the December payroll is because it includes everyone’s Christmas bonuses and no-one can pay their bills for the festive season without their enhanced pay. Was it our fault we were working on Christmas Eve? Aren’t you thinking… “You, Judith? The great Morganiser? You couldn’t order things better than that? You had your staff working on the afternoon of 24th December?”
I, for instance, am the woman who did the payroll on 9/11 because 9th September was a Tuesday that year. And in 2001 we used to use BACS for paying salaries which took three days. And although the entirety of the rest of my client’s office staff was sitting in the boardroom watching the TV and processing their emotions, I was not. I was doing the payroll because I knew that, by Friday, they’d still all want their pay even if, and especially if, the world was coming to an end.
But the Christmas chaos was outside our control. It was the blankety-blank clients. Although we pestered and cajoled and encouraged them to get themselves organised ahead of time, they seemed unable to do that. And it felt utterly chaotic to us and for us. So this resonates, very much. The word chaos puts me in mind of it being created by another, outside my control. I am not one who creates her own chaos, generally speaking, though I have known people who do that, oh yes siree. God help us all.
But here’s how I think about it. Some times are chaotic and that’s OK because we know the chaos must and will soon end.
It’s chaos all the time which is utterly debilitating and must be ordered and organised so that you don’t dwell in chaos, ‘cos that’ll do for you faster than you can say knife. You’ll be living on adrenaline which inexorably leads to burnout. Don’t do that. Stop it immediately.
So allow for the fact that at times, for perfectly logical reasons, many of which are entirely outside your control, you will be and/or feel utterly chaotic. It gladdens my heart that you don’t like it because this will encourage you to do all you can to ensure it isn’t so bad next time, easier the time after that and eventually it doesn’t occur nearly so much, if at all.
As the kids grow up it becomes less chaotic in that way. Another form of chaos enters your life altogether but you have slightly more control over the degree to which you get sucked into teenage chaos than you do the chaos caused by tinies, who want you to watch their every sack race, nativity play and egg hunt. But aah! Why wouldn’t you want to be there anyway, despite the biz and other knock-on chaos it causes? And just think about those poor folks who have to ask for time off from a J.O.B. and may not even be able to attend at all.
We are so lucky in our choice of employing ourselves for money. Chaotic it may be at times, but is chaos mostly of our own choosing.
We can always (or nearly always) do something about the feelings we don’t like feeling, even if all we do is to change how we choose to think about such things.
This week an example of this occurred when I was doing my own accounts. My first thought was “Isn’t it a bummer that PayPal takes such a hefty chunk out of my income?” My second thought was “Isn’t it wonderful that I am able to trade with people all over the world with such effortless ease, so much so that money can come in while I am sleeping, thanks to PayPal?” And then it don’t seem so bad, as Julie Andrews might so easily say, or sing.
How can your utter chaos be OK and philosophically incorporated into a reasonably balanced life?
Well for starters, I’d be doing a lot more breathing. And a lot more planning. And then I’d be telling myself I’m so lucky to have such beautiful children and a great toptastic reason not to be working today and how these moments are so soon gone and turned into memories which fade. What’s important is Being There. Now. Fully present. Which means not looking at your mobile phone to see what’s going on at work because you’ve planned it thus and anyway, those grown-up children who are your clients can manage their own emotions while you stand proudly by on the edge of sports day or even, for all I know, take part in the Mothers’ Egg and Spoon. Go for it!
Honestly? Don’t bother going if you are just going to look at your mobile phone. Your kids know they don’t have your full attention and that feels just awful. Keeping your attention on just one thing is the fastest way I know to bring you out of chaos and into the joy of the present moment.
A therapist said something very useful to me once about feelings of chaos just before a holiday. She said: “You don’t need to organise your WHOLE life just because you are going on holiday” which is something those of us who love control tend to try and achieve. Impossible!
And then I found this gorgeous quote for you. There are so many gorgeous thoughts about chaos it was hard to choose – do spend a little time on that yourself to see if you can find your own personal favourite. Here, for now, is mine:
“You need chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” Friedrich Nietzsche
You are SO giving birth to your dancing star!