I can’t remember the last time I crawled into bed feeling like I accomplished everything I set out to do that day. The lists are thick, the hours stretched thin, and I regularly turn out the lights on incomplete projects, unfinished tasks, and good intentions left untouched.
You know this feeling too, I’m sure. Unless you’re a supernatural being of the heavenly realms, of course.
And so every night when it comes time to lock the front door and switch off the lamps and leave all the things behind for the night we can respond in two ways: one is to keep the unmet goals and plans with us as we get into bed, letting the weight of it all press onto our chests as we drift into a restless sleep. Or we can decide we did the best we could with the day we had and leave the things undone to fend for themselves as we declare our efforts for the day good enough.
Author Tsh Oxenreider calls this the art of partial solutions.
I’d love to run for an hour four times a week, followed by thorough weight training sessions, and end each day in a half hour of yoga. But I’m a mere mortal with a life. So I run thirty minutes on the mornings I’m home, I do a dozen push-ups when I have a minute to spare. I throw out the yoga mat for ten minutes here and there. I walk whenever I can. It’s not the best work out regime I can think of, but it’s a partial solution.
I’d love to have weekly date nights with my husband in which we block out an entire evening to invest in each other’s lives with zero distractions. But between evening rehearsals and a slew of piano students, it isn’t realistic. So instead we chat as we fold laundry and enjoy laughing together over an episode of Parks and Rec with a bowl of spaghetti in our laps at ten p.m.
I’d love to eat a well-prepared side of fresh veggies with every meal. But sometimes bagged salads and frozen broccoli and spinach thrown into my smoothies is the best I can do.
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you can’t accomplish a goal thoroughly. It’s easy to think that because it can only be halfway done it is not even worth doing. It’s easy to go to bed and think about all the things you didn’t do and neglect to give credit to the partially completed tasks. It’s easy to think you should be able to do everything and not let yourself rest until you get there.
Sometimes the best you can do is not the ideal way of meeting a need, but it is a partial solution and that just might be good enough.
Partial Solutions in my right-now life:
- Short bursts of exercise when I don’t have time for the full workout
- Carrot sticks and snack bell peppers as a side when I don’t have time to make a full salad
- Canned chicken and tuna to ensure I get protein even if I don’t have time to grill a few chicken breasts or brown hamburger
- Two pages from a novel before I fall asleep even though I’d like to spend an hour or two curled on the couch reading
- Double (or triple) one meal at the beginning of the week and eat leftovers for the rest of the week when there’s not enough time for nightly home cooked meals.
- Playing a scale or few lines from a piano song I’ve already learned while waiting for piano students to arrive even though I miss hour long practice sessions.
- Texts throughout the week with friends when there’s not the space to arrange a full-length coffee date.
- Thirty minutes a day devoted to writing during naps and between classes even though I dream of entire days of sitting at the computer in the corner of a coffee shop
- An afternoon of rest incorporated into the week to temper the chaos of the rest of the week
- Not thoroughly cleaning my house every single week
- Ten minutes in the evening to do a few yoga stretches, light a candle, sip some water, and journal a sentence or two about the day even though ideally this routine would be an hour.
These partial solutions are saving my life right now. Literally. Because without them I think I’d let most of my days slip by waiting for the time that things are perfect instead of good enough. And when you let your days slip by you let your life slip by. So I’m choosing to embrace my right-now life by doing the best I can with what I have and being ok if it isn’t ideal.
There’s a saying I’ve passed back and forth with my friends that helps us accept our partial solutions: Let whatever you do today be enough. Queen Elsa says it this way: LET IT GO.
In case you need a cheat sheet for partial solutions as you pursue wholeness in your life I have JUST THE THING! Click here for 5 Minute Wholeness Practices for the days you’re short on time.