I’m sitting in the quiet of a Sunday afternoon. Ben and Josiah are curled on the floor, playing chess. Lorelei and Ellianna are over at the kitchen table playing with some lavender scented sea salt and cork alphabet letters. Isaiah’s curled up on the couch reading The Goblet of Fire. David is narrating the chess game, sportscaster’s style, to the laughter of various siblings. My Beloved has been in and out, puttering in the yard and the garage. Dinner is bubbling away in the crockpot. It’s about as close to an idyllic afternoon as one could hope for.
It doesn’t happen every weekend. In fact, for the last few weekends, things have been more than a little intense due to a wedding (in which I was the main photographer) and a memorial for a friend, and, and, and. We so rarely stack things up on the weekend anymore that the last few weekends really tested our stamina.
It’s from this quiet vantage point that I look back to a time I was running on empty. Days like today were the type I longed for in the wee smas of the night. I wanted an environment where things ran relatively smoothly in the keeping of the house so that the family could focus on other things- creative endeavors, chess games, puttering, laughing, and rest. I wanted my home to be a place of peace and delight. This is isn’t to be confused with conflict free, because wherever there are humans, and especially human children, there will be spilled oatmeal and broken toys and broken words. I wanted a place of grace- a place to fail well and often without judgement. At the time, I thought it was utterly elusive.
I don’t think it is so elusive now, but I do think to have such a place of being takes a lot of work. Heart work. Home work. Love work. It is a life’s work.
I’ve heard you’ve got your whole life before you a thousand times, first as a high school graduate, then as college co-ed, a young woman getting married. My first child. The thing is, I think I got it all wrong, that phrase.
You think, you’ve got your whole life before you and that means that you’ve got all the time in the world, all the possibilities in the world, go, do, dream big, travel, scale the ladder, go, go, go. I am in no way knocking the go, at all. But somewhere in my head that switched from go to run. As in, run for your life. Hustle for your worthiness, as Brene Brown calls it. Go turns into run and then you’re running in circles, a hamster wheel of getting nowhere in the busy.
At that particular time in my life, I was homeschooling four children from kindergarten to third grade, plus a toddler and a baby. I was working full time for a major homeschooling magazine. I was not just teaching at the homeschool co-op but also coordinating it, and what’s more, I was still taking on freelance work throughout it. I look back now and it just…all I can do is grieve.
Not only was I doing the jobs of three people, there were major medical issues. When I was in my third trimester with Ellianna, I was hospitalized for two weeks with pneumonia that would not resolve and required high level antibiotics. It was bad enough that they began giving me steroid shots for Ellianna in case they had to deliver her early and she and I were monitored constantly. I worked every single day I was in the hospital. I would rest, return emails, rest again, puzzle over spreadsheets. I distinctly remember half wondering why I was not getting better, why I could not heal. I am horrified now when I look back on that time.
I just want to wrap that mama in my arms and turn everything off, shut everyone out, and tell her it was okay to stop running.
I understand my reasons for running. They were many. Even today, those reasons tempt me to run again. But now, the very reasons I ran are now the very reasons I must walk circumspectly and slowly. When I hear you’ve got your whole life before you now, I hear it as both a warning and a reminder. What you need, what you hope for, the things that fill your tank so completely? They are right before you. They have names, and souls, and they are your whole life. Before you. Don’t waste it on running.
This is the second post in this series. Find the first one here: Running on Empty.