Saturday, January 12, 2013

life in this moment

The older our children grow, the more difficult it is for me to sit down and string together a cohesive thought.  The kids don't nap anymore, their bedtime is slowly creeping later, and whenever I do have an opportunity to sit down - it feels like my mind is a jumbled mess.  How can I sit to think and write when I should be:

- Spending time with my husband

- Exercising and meditating

- Sleeping

- Meal planning

- Communicating with friends and family

- Reviewing school work

- Cleaning up from the day

- Reviewing my calendar

- Paying bills

- Preparing for tomorrow

(In the interest of full disclosure: I rearranged my list above after I wrote it.  Initially, the first item on my list was cleaning up from the day immediately followed by preparing for tomorrow - and the last item on my list was exercising and mediation. That certainly seems unaligned based upon what I really consider to be important in life.  For some reason, my priorities always find a way to get completely out of whack without my conscious consideration and rigorous stewardship.)

At this stage in my life, the more difficult it is for me to know what to do.  

It feels like everything is so important and so critical, it's a juggle to know what exactly to do and when. Something of equally critical importance on my list will need to be shifted. And then there's writing, which is vitally important to my soul, but how do I make sense of the things that I'm thinking about when I have so many other competing priorities?  Of course that doesn't mean that there aren't a lot of things on my heart ... there are so many I feel like I'm looking at a heap of tangled yarn, trying to figure out how to even begin unraveling it.  Usually, the task is too great given the energy and focus required to write about them when I finally have the opportunity to be still. 

Stillness, that's what I really crave - more than anything else.  Because in stillness, there is a peaceful voice that gently guides me. I crave to jump in to a big ocean of stillness and drift around - letting it carry me with the tide.  But to achieve stillness, all the other things on my list of things to do have to be done. How can my mind possibly rest when I'm still in my pajamas at 10 AM and there are leftovers from our Christmas dinner in the refrigerator? (Two facts).

So instead of an ocean and the ability to float, I get little drops when I'm brushing my teeth. Or maybe a puddle on my drive to work.  And yet, I know how much I need stillness to keep the ship that is my sanity off the rocks of insanity.   Today, wishing that I had a block of time to eloquently craft a detailed description of puzzles in life that have me perplexed, I'm going to instead bridle the tiny bit of time I have on this foggy morning while Charlie prepares breakfast and I sit next to the Christmas tree that we'll be taking down later today - and try not to let the blank Girl Scout cookie order form that is due in three days distract me - as I jot down a few important things on my mind.

Charlie and I have some dear friends who are among our favorite people in the world. We live in one country, they live in another.  But we met several years ago - when they decided to take off and travel. They settled in San Diego for a brief stint, and while they were there, we quickly realized that we had much in common. They moved back to their homeland and we remained in contact with them, until a few years ago - when they completely fell off the radar.

We were so confused as to what had happened. When several phone calls were unreturned, we began to question whether we did something to offend them?  Did we say something? Write something? Not say or write something?  What had happened to them?

Had they been injured?  We left messages on phones that had recordings in their voices. They never called back.  We sent cards and letters. We never heard back. We almost went to visit them, but thought better of it.  What if for some reason they didn't remember us - or suddenly disliked us? That would be uncomfortable, if we just arrived on their doorstep one day.

Earlier this week, Charlie made a connection with our friend through the professional networking group, LinkedIn.  My husband sent a cheery note that said, "You can run ... but you can't hide!" Then he summarized our life in a nutshell over the past two years.  Within an hour, our friend wrote back and provided his nutshell, over the past two years.  His beautiful son, a year older than the triplets, was diagnosed with autism. He was in a difficult and unstable work situation. His mother was diagnosed with cancer. His marriage dissolved. He was in an automobile accident. His mother died. He didn't feel like being social and felt like crawling in to a hole. Can't say I blame him.

When I read the note, I was heartbroken for them.  I think about some of the challenges that I've faced over the past two years - and they don't hold a candle to their challenges.  But the thing about life's challenges is that they are unique and relative.  When I lost my very early fifth pregnancy, I remember talking to a woman who had just lost her newborn. How could my pain compare with her pain?

It couldn't.

But it could. 

Challenges are challenges. 

Earlier this week, I came home after a long - still not in to the swing of life after the holidays workday - to a little book that Kathleen sent to me.  It seemed like it might hold a few gems of inspiration and seeing as I'd been overly snappy with the kids - and Charlie - and myself - I stole away to the bathroom library and read the entire book, cover to cover.  It spoke to my tired soul so much, that I read the entire thing to Charlie that night.  And then I read it again, the next day.

Then I went on line and wanted to download everything Max Lucado has ever written.

My religion? It's confusing. I don't understand or know what exactly I believe but I do know that I find great strength in going to church, prayer, and deep reflection.   Unfortunately, there isn't much time for those things.  (Refer to commentary above.)

While I struggle with what exactly I believe - especially given my scientific background - I do know that there is solace that comes from believing in Something.  There is a great peace that comes from believing that the world is indeed unfolding as it should, God's Fingerprints are on everything, and miracles and magic abound.  I've come to realize that if you really believe those things in your heart and Do Good, you will channel divinity. It's inevitable. But definitely not a guard against facing challenges in life because those things will continue to happen.

I've said it before. Life is so good for me. I have my health. I have my marriage. I have my family. I have my friends. I have my home. After an extremely harrowing time in my professional career, I received a promotion at work and am now with a manager who is well respected - and who respects me. And despite my chocolate obsession, I can still fit in to suits that I wore 15 years ago before I gave birth to triplets and a 10-pound baby. I'm blessed. And lucky.

Why, then, does it so often feel like I'm drowning? Why does it feel like my best self, my best energy, are going to things that are at the bottom of my Important Life Priorities List?  Why do I have to exercise such rigor to focus on the now instead of the tomorrow?  I had a dream the other night that I was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer. Terrible, but not Stage 4 bad. The potential for cure was slightly more likely.  In the same dream, Elizabeth had grown  taller.  She still had the same facial shape of an eight-year-old, with missing front teeth and baby cheeks - but she towered over me, as I fully expect she will one day.  Life goes so fast. Do I even know if I'm making the right choices?

Will I realize one day, I've been all wrong? 

Sticking with the analogy above, this little book was like a raft for the ocean of stillness that I so desperately crave. It grounded me and calmed me and was like a flashlight in to darkness.  The one passage that has really resonated with both Charlie and I is this:

Lead kindly, Light. 
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene; one step enough for me.

God promises a lamp unto our feet, not a crystal ball in to the future.

Kindness. Goodness. Seeking stillness, in this moment. So much easier said than done.

If I had a few more minutes to wrap this post in to a tidy ending I would. But my time is up and I need to go get dressed and take down the Christmas tree. William just picked out my wardrobe for the day. It consists of wool socks, a sports bra and snow pants.


  1. I wish you quiet reflections as you put away another year's memories; you have given me pause to rethink my own priorities; thanks.

  2. Jen:
    I am so glad you got the "Little Book" OK. I love to read it, too, and pray for the wisdom....when I am afraid or look up!
    Bless all of you each day....

  3. Jen, I GET THIS POST. Seriously. I have no grandiose revelations to answer your questions, nor tidy little programs for you to execute that will fix the broken. But I GET IT.

    Just know you're not alone. :-)

  4. Jen, my recent move (which certainly cannot compare to your West to East Coast move) left me with one mantra: One day at a time. Yes, I realize this is the tagline for AA, (smiley face) but it worked for me and still does as my New England self adjusts to the Texan landscape. Plus putting my feet up and having a cocktail at the end of the day! Somehow that keeps my mind from racing ahead to 19 different projects, which if I had my way, I'd work on simultaneously. I think you and Charlie are doing a pretty awesome job!

  5. I love this of my all time favorites. I, too, find myself searching for stillness.