Saturday, July 31, 2004

A mom's dry-stacked wall o' life

On the Well-Trained Mind general discussion board, someone posted some thoughts under the topic "Surrendering to responsibilities." That touched off an interesting conversation over there on a topic I've been thinking hard on this summer.

For years I've tried to streamline by removing a few carefully chosen stones from the dry-stacked wall I'd made of my life, when maybe it's better to take it all the way down to the base and carefully choose and place each stone anew.

Whether it's called surrendering to responsibilities, learning to say no, finding balance, following your heart, or learning you can't do it all, I'm right there right now. There are SO MANY things I never get to, and over the last year or so it's mostly been family and household things that I've neglected. Yet that area of my life is much more important than the volunteering I did over the year.

I've tried over and over again to say no to activities and commitments I like — not enough. I've tried extending that "no" to nonessential activities I love — not enough. Must I let go of everything I love, beyond the family?? That makes no sense to me.

So I've been thinking, all summer long. And praying. Feeling my way in the dark to where my heart feels most like singing.

One thing: I started stripping away all of the volunteer and for-fun outside activities that are NOT part of the core of what I need to be about. The one nonfamily core thing is my ministry in faith formation, where my heart also sings. The related activities & commitments that make happy heart music for me get to stay.

Another thing: I want to watch and enjoy the boys, adapt our plans when there's interesting weather, play with them and read to them, and be relaxed enough when cooking, baking, doing laundry, and cleaning to bring them close and teach them.

A third thing: I have two remaining ongoing commitments that I realized I could reorient so they dovetail better with the reasons I took on those commitments. They could be positive in my life rather than neutral/negative. I'm working on doing the same with my nearly flatlined Web design business and my pride and joy Web site, Faith at Home.

This summer I've fallen into a new way to know when enough is enough. In addition to dropping most of my volunteer projects, right now I'm already living my life the way I really want to, as though it's already just fine. My aim is relaxed but busy days, taking care of the household and being with the family in the way I want and hope to be. Rather than struggling to get to this point someday, I decided to live this way now and make choices as the choices present themselves.

Feels sort of Buddhist or something.

As activities and commitments, whether one-time or ongoing, come up, I can choose whether and how they fit in. So far it's going okay. I'm ready to add tasks, long put off, that are family and me-oriented. I intend to declutter and organize my office, get on a meal-planning cycle, and do some mending (gasp!) and my own needlework. Does my youngest even know I love my needlework??

I still have somewhat rushed and hectic days, but it's an interesting feeling, refusing to get overly frazzled. Instead, I totally skip the less important stuff. If the stone doesn't fit, it doesn't. A short yet well-stacked wall can be a pleasing thing.

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