Beware the barrenness of a busy life- Socrates
This year has been one of the hardest of our lives. I think we’ve been in survival mode without really knowing it. It’s only when we stop long enough to breathe and reflect that we realize the stresses and griefs and battles we’ve been fighting. Among many other traumas Mr. Uhler’s work schedule has been, to say the least, exhausting. Our sense of normalcy and routine has been lost. But slowly….like a frog boiling in water. And now I feel it. Now I see how the heat has been slowly turned up over months. I had no way to brace for it. I thought it would be a quick dip and now I can’t feel my legs and I’m panting for air.
Today I had a little meltdown. One kid woke up puking. I had already been feeling stretched too thin, getting ready to fly to Spokane for a wedding, wanting to enjoy every bit of summer with my kids (who are also sometimes driving me insane), having difficulties with computer software that is meant to make life easier, all with a husband across the country. And it just keeps bringing me back to this conversation I’ve been having all summer about what is essential. This book has been a huge help in teasing out the questions to ask about how (and why!) to edit a very full life, the importance of margin, the fact that understanding your priorities is key to making an impact in the world, that in order to accomplish more we actually have to do less.
There is a pear situation happening in our house. Our backyard is covered with pears. Covered. And there is still a full harvest in the tree itself that I haven’t been able to get to. The thing about pears is you pick them before they are ripe, and then you have to store them someplace cool so they don’t rot before they ripen. I felt like things were under control when we gathered up hundreds of fallen pears destined for the yard waste and picked four full bags more to store in the basement. I wiped my hands, satisfied that I was saving this beautiful fruit. Thing is, in this heat, the pears in the basement are turning. We can’t keep up with the fallen pears turning to mush on the brown lawn. There are still bushels on the tree ready to be picked. I don’t have time to pick and peel and preserve them all right now.
And during a bad week when the weight of it all is pressing in it’s enough to move me to tears. Is this a metaphor for my life? Am I missing the harvest God has for me in this season? Is all the fruit of my labor going to waste? Is our family missing out on the fruitfulness we’ve been given because we’re too busy? Am I missing out on opportunities as an artist and small business-owner because I’m just not hustling hard enough? And then this: ABIDE. It is the word I felt God whisper to me at the New Year. And right now I’m clinging to it.
In John 15 Jesus says ” I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” And so I don’t need to fear I’m missing out on bearing fruit. It isn’t mine to begin with. He is growing it, maturing it. He won’t let it go to waste.
The medicine we have needed is empty space. I’m often not comfortable with it. As in introvert, I do love my quiet, alone time. But in the life of our family for some reason I’m fueled by projects, change, movement, plans. I will say that taking Facebook off my phone has been a huge help in cutting through some of the clutter and noise. I don’t miss it at all. (Though it’s possible I might be addicted to Insta-stories now- there’s something so sweetly temporal about them) I wrote this post on Instagram that started a great conversation and was the seed for this blog post.
A while ago for a class with Kirsten Lewis I had an assignment to ask friends what words they would use to describe me. One friend called me conflicted. At first it felt like a criticism, a character flaw. Now I realize it’s an apt description for me: an artist, wife, mother, business owner, friend, creator. How can I not be conflicted? I find myself simultaneously wishing for more free time to create, and wanting my kids to stop growing so fast. I want them to stop talking over me and each other all day long while also dying to hear them open up to me. I want them to go back to school so we have some normalcy in our routine, and I want to pause everything to do engaging science experiments with them and teach them how to cook three course meals or go swim in a creek. Meanwhile I’m trying to juggle running a household, prepping for an out-of-town wedding, play nurse, cruise director, and stay healthy and happy myself. I don’t have any answers about the ache that is in a mother’s heart.
All I know is that I only get one shot at this motherhood thing. And I want it to be a good one. But that nasty idea of BALANCE rears its ugly head again. I used to think that I could do it all if I just worked harder, was more disciplined and organized. But I now see that’s a lie. Every choice we make is a trade-off. Every YES to this means NO somewhere else. The right choice in one season isn’t right for the next. And it’s hard to say No to good things, even great things if they don’t truly help me achieve my biggest goals and line up with my purpose. I don’t pretend to know the answers even for myself.
We spent a week earlier this summer on Whidby Island at a camp that is very special to us. Our kids have been campers here for years and the last couple summers Mr. Uhler has been able to co-direct the Sr. Boys camp (picture Lord of the Flies, only nicer). And we have been able to join him. These pictures are just a small representation of our time there.
They’re a little gritty and raw, like we feel. They have a lot of negative space. That is what camp feels like for me: margin. Breathe deep.