Work To Live
It was almost exactly four months ago that I started my 30-Day Extravagant Experiment with Rest. While it was quite a counter-culture practice (I was always uncomfortable saying that I needed to rest instead of meeting a colleague for coffee, delivering some snacks to the school, or missing a friend’s birthday) it was also not much of a choice.
I was getting weaker by the day and there was nothing this gal had to offer anyone until my tank was filled up again. There was so much left to explore in this big beautiful world but my energy was running out well before I could write, create, have a conversation with my kids, make dinner, plan a romantic get-away, or be generous in any way.
My hope, the one that I held on to and let go of a hundred times during my month of rest, was that this time of recovery would enable me to be able to eventually access my own resources with an energy that felt like really living.
And I wanted to be awake for every moment that belonged to me.
Sometimes you can only understand one concept in contrast to it’s opposite. For example, it is very difficult to define truth but everyone knows what it means to lie, so we understand what truth is because we know when we are lying.
The same thing happened to me in my intensive study of rest. While I was immersed in learning the lessons of rest, I couldn’t believe the clarity I was gaining each day about work.
Let’s start with my family. First of all, I have always worked along side raising my kids. They were always right there beside me, playing, helping, learning, or unpacking their little bags of educational toys while I worked. I often talked about my private practice as being the baby of my family, but it was the baby that was going to stay with me after the big kids went off to build their own lives. I lived with the tension of rarely having a family dinner and never getting certified in the most up to date professional trainings. I was okay at everything and mostly at peace about it.
One of my misunderstandings about life was that I would set up a foundation-create a home, set up a business, raise my kids, they would become more independent every day while my husband and I became more stable.
Suddenly our life started unraveling. Overnight, everyone required more maintenance and care then ever. There are many reasons for this: some things changed for us financially, our kids high school careers morphed into two new, for real, careers. All of us needed our own personal assistant. So we tried to work harder, make more money to see if we could hire more people to help us make this life work.
One day my son came home from play practice around 9:30pm. I stumbled out of bed to see him for just a few minutes. He was starving and exhausted. He stood in the middle of the dark and dirty kitchen and kind of yelled, “There is nothing here for me to eat. I just need someone to help me.” In the rawness of being a teenager, he was asking for support.
My husband and my kids are the most unconditionally loving humans I have ever known. They know me well. They accept me with all of my limitations. They are my safe place in the world. They are home. They are the ones who give me a break when the rest of the world is breaking me.
Because they love me no matter what, I gave to other people, other places, other relationships, other priorities what belonged to them. I realized if I quit my business then no one would need a personal assistant anymore because they would have me.
My children’s success in life is not dependent on me having parenting properly. So many amazing humans have evolved from absolutely terrible family situations. I don’t pretend I am the make it or break it secret to my kid’s success. My children will be capable, generous, responsible and kind adults regardless of if I kept on at the rate I was going.
I changed for me.
I realized I am the luckiest person in the world that I get to share space with these two people and every day they live under my roof is a gift. I made the surrendered decision to accept the responsibilities and roles of parenting teenagers as my primary work.
It is with a great deal of humility that I say taking care of my kids is my priority right now. It’s obvious, right? We can all agree parenting is important, but I have been very scared of finding my identity in being their mom. Fear of losing myself in their world has kept me from fully being in their world in the ways I can.
My lessons in rest have settled something inside of me. I am significant and I belong period. Not because of anything I am or do. This nourishment of my own needs has released me to be and do what MUST be done in order for us to live instead of what I was doing to feel significant in my own life or others.
This new priority is completely unknown and undefined. Yesterday it meant picking someone up from school at 9:30am, figuring out how to get lost luggage from Starbucks to FedEx, navigating a complicated relationship issue, rescuing some dry-clean only sweaters from the washing machine, making sure there was money on the lunch card and watching a very special episode of Parks and Rec.
The only way I can do this job is by creating extensive margin in my days and reserving tremendous amounts of energy for this “on call” work. Yesterday, I kept my schedule clear believing that I would be able to focus on my other work (Part 2 of this series) and in the end I only had one hour I could call my own. If I did not have this shift in my reality, I would have been very frustrated and annoyed at what my kids needed and what I did not accomplish.
Other things that fall in this category are basic chores, upkeep of everything, finances, transportation, all things adult. Even if I did not have kids living at home, real life is maintenance. I can’t imagine ever loving to pay bills, go grocery shopping, cook dinner, or going to the dentist but these things must be done if I want to keep my teeth and sleep in a warm bed at night (or in the afternoon:).
Anticipating a day of rest means I MUST do what MUST be done. I can see these things clearly when I am honoring the ancient ritual of rest. What should be done, what could be done and all of the distractions I rely on to numb my overwhelm, fall into the background of my days when I am doing what I must.
I can look at myself in the mirror and say, I gave what I had to give today. I showed up for life the best I knew how.
And, ya’ll, my best* requires a lot of rest.
*I will also be writing a whole post on my definition of best. It is nothing remotely Type A or Oscar-Award wining and does not include any medals, not even bronze. I am the only one who can define or know this is my best.
P.S. I have tried to stay as close to my story as possible when writing because that is all I have to share. But I must leave my circumstances for a second and say that parenting at every stage of development means different things for different people.
Keeping a roof over your kid’s head and making sure they have food and safety is a MUST. Most people have to work big and small jobs to make that happen.
Until this recent season, I was able to contribute to my family at a higher level when I was developing myself and doing what I was good at outside of their lives.
We have complex and ever-changing realities our strategies for finding rest and clarifying work will be different. None of us make these decisions lightly and, with my whole heart, I honor the choices you are making to bring your best to your world.