Sometimes I tire of being me. Perhaps others tire of me, too.
I've tried to notice lately what happens inside myself when TJ is away on his trips for work. The majority of my psyche is giddy with the bare landscape of our weekends, time to do nothing but stay home, finish the kids' schoolwork, cook and clean at leisure, and have plenty of alone time while the kids play and sleep. There is the very occasional errand that gives me a mental reprieve from too much time at home, but rarely do I converse face to face with another adult except at church on Sunday mornings.
There is a tiny part of me, though, that has started to wonder if this unfettered free time, with no one to interfere, is inadvertently stripping my soul of the ability to risk and to rise to the occasion. I remember my therapist telling me last year that I ought to pursue a radical acceptance of discomfort, and that I do not have to perfectly alleviate the stress and discomfort I feel. By staying home and creating a schedule of ease, I find very little to stress about or be discomforted by. Of course, the kids are needy and fussy and cause disturbances, but even those are minor and fairly easily managed when we stay home.
In Marilyn McEntyre's book Word by Word, she talked about being in a workshop and being asked to write a "memoir" consisting of just six words. Immediately, I put my mind to that task. Within seconds, the first line that emerged was this:
The more I lose, the better.
Perhaps that sounds morbid, and I certainly don't want to lose people or health or even sleep. But strangely, I think it is when I can't have things my own way that I get to experience the experience of life in a fuller way. I am forced to "Arrange whatever pieces come your way," as Virginia Woolf advised, and that means I must bend and be flexible and consider others. In the process, I help my children do all these things too. Life expands to fill in the gaps we create when we stop preparing our joys.
I sat with the six-word memoir task for a bit, and came up with a few other lines, the first two of which are based on other thoughts from Marilyn McEntyre, and the third of which is borrowed from Gretchen Rubin.
Don't sacrifice divine adventure for safety.
Be a resilient and faithful mother.
Full of desire, easy to please.
Life is practice at letting go.
Life is practice at being kind.
Any of the above will serve me well. But I am moved most at the moment by the idea of not clinging to safety and reprieve at home so much that I miss greater moments and memories to be made elsewhere. Lately, we've talked as a family about places we'd like to vacation. At my turn, I genuinely could not think of a single place I'd rather be than home. And something about that doesn't feel right.
The kids all want a beach trip, and they were encouraging me by saying I could sit in the sun at the beach. I keep trying to reframe the idea of a vacation, thinking of what time away could teach me about flexibility, not cooking dinner every night, seeing things through the kids' eyes, having new experiences, learning to rest, or visiting with old friends who live near vacation spots. There's also the fact that I might find some sharks' teeth.
My pursuit of the known, calm, and comfortable, fueled by TJ's time away and no one to push me, is a pursuit of perfection, which is making me weary of myself lately. The good news is that it is not too late, I have friends who will pray for me and encourage me, I have a husband who will take us on vacation, I have kids who have desires for adventure, I have a God who knows me and will help me, and I have writing as a way to process the process. And believe it or not, I do hope to see those street performers in Barcelona one day, and take the kids to the Calgary Stampede, and visit my sister in Boston, and go back to Laguna Niguel in California with TJ someday. And then, always, to have a reason to come back home.