Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Compared To Nothing

"I want you, Mom! I want you!"

She's all sobbing hysteria, feverish face flushed and wet with tears.
 "I want you Mommy, I want you! Mom!"

I feel like my ear drums could burst, she's shrieking so loud.

She's been pleading this way constantly for at least 5 minutes - this round. Really she's been at it night and day for weeks. The thing is? The entire time she has been tightly held in my arms.

It's been a week. A Month. Today I finally collapsed under the weight of all the 2 am baths, endless cycles of sick laundry and disinfecting floors. I can't remember when I last took a shower and I'm walking around in a fog of exhaustion. When the toddler came to me with telltale bright blue paint smeared all over his clothes and I discovered his mural on the girls' freshly painted bedroom walls? I was done.

I never understand how people discount struggles by comparing them to the struggles of others. Any time we have the opportunity to share our difficulties, we feel the need to first discredit them by reassuring all around us that we know that others have it far worse. Yes my kids have been sick and I'm exhausted and pregnant, but at least I have kids! And running water! And a roof over our heads! Medicine we can afford!

I understand that perspective matters quite a bit, and knowing that our perspective is skewed by circumstance can be very valuable. I'm also calling this constant dismissal of hard things because, compared to others, they aren't that bad - nonsense.

Hard is hard. Compared to nothing. 

Hard is just hard.

What is hard for me might not be hard for you, but it's still hard. It's still overwhelming. It's still frustrating and it still counts. Sure, a few weeks with sick kids is nothing compared to having a terminally ill child. But it's still hard.  A toddler defacing something that you saved up for, dreamed about and finally, finally were able to execute - isn't the end of the world. No on died, after all. It's just a wall and all that. But it's still disappointing and maybe a bit understandable when you sit there, scrubbing at it and crying.

We are so frightened of our privilege and work so actively to assure the world that we know how good we have it that we have come to a place where we can't even admit that we've had a bad day. Afraid to admit we are disappointed, frustrated, tired or angry - because surely there is someone out there who isn't living our exact charmed existence.

You don't discount the struggles of others by having your own. Fighting with your husband still stinks even though you know someone who wishes she had a husband to fight with. Being completely worn out by a sick, sad and demanding toddler doesn't mean you aren't grateful that you have her - you're just tired!

Gratitude isn't about never having a bad day, or never being discouraged or disillusioned. I can be grateful for the kids I have, the life we lead, our relative health and new mercies each morning while still feeling completely spent - because this is hard.

Good lives typically are, because difficult things shape us - no matter the shape or size.

Being shaped and molded, sanded and refined is always going to hurt a little - or maybe a lot.

Admitting difficulty doesn't downplay the difficulties of others. If anything, it shows that struggle is a part of every life, no matter if you live in a first world country or not. That is something we can all share, relate to, understand - and find comfort in.

I haven't had more than an hour of consecutive sleep since last Saturday and

Compared to nothing.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Balanced Efficiency

I love Saturdays. I love waking early, getting dressed and attacking a day full of possibilities - mostly, in my mind, the possibility of catching up, working on big projects, getting as much done as possible. The absence of school and presence of another adult in the house opens the door to things I'm not usually able to get to during the week. In my mind, a good Saturday is one where I work ceaselessly and wind up exhausted and asleep by ten pm. I love that feeling of accomplishment.

There is one thing I struggle with on that quest for complete Saturday domination. My huge to do list requires efficiency that waits for no man and, as a result, my patience is severely tested. If made to wait for even a few minutes for something I need from someone else, I can feel it prickling. My internal time piece counting down the moments with increasing urgency because I must get to all the things. Even including little ones in my work eats at me, knowing I could move faster, better, work harder without them in my way.

Thinking that way is a bit of a problem.

This past week, a few big things touched my community. A Mama I know lost her 3 week old baby. A fellow blogger lost her battle with cancer and left behind four small children. Hard and horrible things happen every day, but something about these particular instances stopped me. These are women approximately my age, living lives not that different than my own. They could be me.

Sunday morning, getting ready for church, I thought about efficiency...and remembered (too late) that I had decided not to fuss at my family to get them out of the door on time.  Oops.

Being efficient in and of itself isn't a bad thing. It can be almost a virtue of sorts, the kind of thing one looks for when hiring a potential employee, for example. An efficient home can be  a quite peaceful place to live, one that never feels particularly rushed because everything is done how it should. The trouble begins, as with most things, when we forsake all else in pursuit of that one thing.

In family life, it's a tough balance to strike. Whether you stay at home all day or go to work, some things are going to have to be done, and done while also living in relationship with others. Keeping what matters most in the forefront of your mind can be difficult when there are meals to prepare and clean up afterward, a steady march of dirty laundry to deal with, bills to pay. It can be easy to elevate those things while pushing aside the better part - the human part.

The truth of it is - sometimes relationships require our undivided attention. Sometimes the dishes will sit in the sink because we stopped and had a heart to heart after supper instead of rushing on to the next thing. Sometimes life will look a little bit messier than we'd like, or the ultimate list of Saturday domination ends up fizzling out because something came up that needed us to slow, think, relate.

It's all a balance. One that I struggle to find each and every day. What am I called to in this moment? What is the next right thing? What is the better part for me, for them, right now?

Sometimes it's getting the chores done. The clean slate of the weekend. A family working together. And sometimes it's recognizing that today is just not that day.

It's a different sort of domination. A domination of self in pursuit of something better, knowing that none of this is a guarantee. A balanced life is one that blends work with life, and never loses sight of what matters the most.

I'm still an efficiency addict, and I doubt that will change. But I hope to also be someone who can be relied upon to be thoughtful, helpful, sensitive and self effacing. At the end of the day, that's the sort of life I want to live.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

On Biting My Tongue And Choosing Peace

"Create in me a clean heart, O God. And renew a steadfast spirit within me."

I can feel it welling up in me, stirring up like a storm. It strikes fast and the regret is near instant. I can go from zero to fully snapped in seconds, left only with pieces to pick back up and try to glue together. Humility seems to be my daily lesson as I ask and re-ask and ask just once more for forgiveness. Grace falls quickly and I'm soaking it up before the next time I fall.

Seven times on this gestational journey and I know it well by now - as do those closest to me. Toward the end, tolerance becomes my biggest struggle. Irritation a near constant companion. Things that would ordinarily never bother me much become nearly impossible to ignore.

It's a good thing to know these things about myself. To mentally talk myself down when biting my tongue seems out of reach. To remember that so much goes into my emotions in any given moment - not just what was said or done right now. My lack of sleep, anxiety, physical exhaustion and chemical cocktail of hormones all invisibly play their part in my building impatience with others. I may think I'm in a funk because of what so-and-so said, but really that's only a minuscule part of it. Maybe even the least important part.

All of this is to say, this seventh time around, I'm really working at keeping my mouth shut. My needs met, as much as possible. I'm giving myself grace, and asking for quite a lot of forgiveness. More of Him, less of me. More understanding, less arrogance. More listening, less talking. Remembering that love is the license to speak, to instruct, to discipline - and the absence of it renders everything else worthless. My opinion, my preferences and my way of doing things do not trump my charge to be kind and compassionate, gentle and self controlled.

This inward turn is probably of biological necessity. A need to step back, to circle the wagons, to shift my focus from the outside world into my own little bubble. Big changes on the horizon for my family require it, just for now.

I'll still have my moments, as we all do - and probably more than when I'm not pregnant and hopped up on hormones - but I know that this grows me. The chance to choose something different than what I want shapes me into something better. I know who I want to be. How I want to respond. I know that prickle of humanity may always be present, but I can still choose peace.

Redemption for my missteps. Hope for future victory.

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