Reminders from Unproductive Days

As I type this, it’s eight minutes to 5PM. It’s a Monday. By now, I’m usually wrapping up my todo list for the day, which has nine objectives currently. We usually take Everest for a walk in about fifteen minutes, to signal the shift from work day to evening relaxation. But all I’ve marked off is “cook lunch”, and that’s really only because I have another adult to feed. 

I’ve felt off since waking up this morning. Persistently…sad. For no discernible reason. I can make them up or choose to focus on perfectly legitimate options that the chaotic world currently offers, but I can’t honestly say my sadness is stemming directly from any of them. Just one of those days. Comes with the territory of having mental health struggles.

I had some distracted devotional time, mostly spent browsing Goodreads rather than Scripture. I prayed a little bit. I took an unnecessary 2 hour nap (unnecessary because I slept well and enough last night). I watched some talent show auditions (I always cry if someone gets a golden buzzer). I started a documentary on Mennonites. And that’s brought me here. It’s now two minutes to 5.

Photo by Becca Schultz on Unsplash

These days are deeply frustrating for me. I planned out my week with intention, and I had the time and space to accomplish everything I wanted to today. More than enough of both. But I did none of it and now the day is reaching sunset and I feel the familiar sensation of failure overwhelm my limbic system. It’s suffocating. 

On days like today, though, I gratefully receive the painful but freeing reminder: I am infinitely valuable even when I get nothing done. 

A few minutes ago, I crossed from my office to the living room where my husband is on his computer. “I’m not going to work on [my book’s name] today. I was going to, but I’m not going to anymore. And that’s okay. Jesus still loves me.” On the last few words, my tears threaten to escape. 

My dear husband is used to these kinds of announcements and he knows what I’m asking for. “I affirm you in that. He does still love you. And it’s perfectly okay to not work on it today. You’ve been working on it a lot, and breaks don’t change that. You should take a break.”

I half-smile, thankful for this miraculously-made-for-me husband. I add my ridiculously illogical but I need-to-ask last question: “Can we still be friends, though?” As if me not working on my book today would hurt our relationship.

I can tell by his face that he still thinks this is such an unnecessary question. But he answers it anyways; he can tell I’m not doing well and just need to hear it. He smiles. “Of course. We can still be friends. Do you want to go on a walk soon?”

So today, on this writing Monday, although I had plans for about 3-4 different articles, I’m writing this one. Not for sympathy (I’m sure I’ll be fine by the time I publish it). But for transparency. For encouragement that these days happen. And for the reminder for both of us: that you are not defined by your rough days or even by your worst days. Your value is fixed by an unchangeable force: the love of God. Productivity or none.

And as is good on these kinds of days, I’ll close with a few specifics I’m grateful for:

  • A husband who answers my silly questions with sincere love and kindness
  • Cool water
  • A lunch that came out super well that I was nervous about
  • The ability to change plans
  • Sunny skies
  • Comfy clothes
  • Enough money
  • Friends who ask me to proofread their articles (hi, Rod)
  • Knowing that the feelings of today, no matter how overwhelming, are temporary
  • Deuteronomy 5
  • The patience and persistent love of Christ

It’s now fourteen minutes past 5. Time for our family walk.