We’ve been hanging on for weeks, caught in the chaos of the end of the semester and everything else – job offers that fall through and new jobs that suddenly spring up, health scares, trips to see friends, teething toddlers. “Just one more week,” we keep telling ourselves as we tuck into bed after midnight again and again. Just one more long weekend of furious paper writing and grading. Just one more week of night classes, one more week of solo bedtimes, one more week stuck at home, kids riding bikes back and forth and back again across our 20 feet of patio. Just. one. more.
And then suddenly, it has come. The last papers will be soon submitted and Drew is home again. It is sunny until nearly 9pm, long after we’ve finish dinner (together! a luxury we haven’t enjoyed in months!), washed the dishes and finished our other chores. I carried the garbage out at 8:42 tonight and marveled at the slow spread of orange and pink and crimson reaching up from the horizon. We have had friends over for dinner on a weeknight (!) and enjoyed slower mornings with time for walks around the neighborhood in the still-cool part of the day. It is everything we have been longing for and more than once a day we’re exhaling the long hard spring with proclamations of “This is so so good.”
But I am restless.
All the dreams and goals and projects that have been deferred for such a time as this now feel like a load of work and expectation and the fear of failing weighs. And so I sit around watching waste-of-time tv, folding endless piles of laundry, side-eyeing the pile of books that are supposed to inspire my writing.
Summer is a pause for us, a long inhale of fresh air between no-moment-to-spare semesters. Drew will be devouring the Philosophical cannon in preparation for comps this fall and we will both be working more hours than usual, but without the intensity of his class schedule we will have time together. Time for play and for rest. Time for making plans and for good work and for friends and visits from family. And still: the restlessness. It pulls me already ahead to August, looking at the fullness of life this fall. Why are we doing this? Will it pay off? Will our marriage survive three more years of this? Could there be anything else for us? Are we doing the right thing?
And so I need to set a purpose for this time. This “how did I get here/what do I want from this life” season. Something to anchor the days that are now split between toddlers and a new job. Something to help tie together all these fragments and questions. Something to breathe fresh perspective into the musty closed up closets of my creativity.
So: My hopes. Dreams. For this summer, at least. May a summer thoughtfully pursued (with a heaping measure of grace for all that does not go according to plan) perhaps launch me into more thoughtful and restorative life patterns for many seasons to come.
- I began a new part time job this month and it feels like a turning point for nurturing new rhythms into our life. This summer Drew will spend more time at home with the kids and I will be out more, less responsible for every moment of their intense little lives. (praise be.) I want to do this job well. To be really present in the hours I spend working with, befriending, caring for some new friends who walk through life with different abilities than me, and just as present in the hours I have with Drew and the kids, re-working my habit of splitting my attention between mindless social media-ing on my phone or half-listening to a podcast or half-engaged with my family while keeping up a text conversation with someone else. I want to be there. I’m sad that this goal alone feels like such a challenge, but this is the first step. Wisdom about the unplugged life is welcome!
- I want to train for and run a 10k. My health issues have been conspiring all spring to derail every renewed commitment to my training plan, but I will not be deterred! (Thank you to the wonderful YMCA childcare workers for their saintly kindness to my screaming children, although I fear your high turnover rate and our increased use of the center may be related.)
- I want to find ways to weave contemplative practices into my slower paced summer life. So obviously, deliberately screen-less time. More bread baking. Reading scripture and the reflections of mystics. Gardening. Meditation. Prayer.
- I want to write about it. Maybe a book proposal: contemplative habits for parents of young children. (Except with a title that doesn’t sound like a poster presentation at an undergrad theology conference.) This idea feels wonderful and like it’s been a long time coming and also truly terrifying. I have no idea how one goes about proposing a book, or if anybody would want to read such a thing, or if I could actually write it! But other than that, I’m totally excited.
- I want to get back into a regular habit of recording the small bits of my days. Journaling, just for me. What we did. Who we saw. What we fought about. What I longed for.
- I want to create. I don’t know what – maybe curtains for our boring bedroom or some paint for the kitchen or we could finally print some photos and hang some of our 65 ikea picture frames. The bar is low but I am craving beauty and our home is severely lacking.
- I want to garden. This is something I must do – we’ve invested so much in building the beds and buying seeds and dirt. But I want the daily work. The mud and earth and waiting and tending and weeding and the veggies. Feeding my family and our friends with the miracle fruit of our labors. The calm and quiet and mystery of calling forth life from the earth.
- I want to sleep. Lots of sleep. I need to stop staying up so late, trying to squeeze every last drop from the day – reading that one last article or finishing another episode or comparing 14 highly rated bike trailers on amazon. I want to settle into bed and feel my body relax the weight of the day before my consciousness fades. To be present even to my rest.
- I want meals shared around our table. I want the extra chairs to become permanent fixtures because we’re opening up our home so many nights of the week.
- I want to enjoy Lexington. The hard part about this will be curbing my impulse to throw up all my grievances on Drew when we finally have a spare Saturday to enjoy together. I’ve developed a terrible habit of holding our rest times hostage until we work through lingering conflicts and it ruins so many good family days. I want to learn to let go. To take the long view. To make it out to the farmers market, even if the laundry is scattered and the sink overflowing and the shoes are left muddy in the middle of the kitchen.
- I want to work on my marriage again. These kids take and take and take all of my energy and desire to be with people. They take it all and it’s still not enough, and so I’m frazzled and short and disengaged with the man who is my best friend in all the world. We need time to rebuild and relearn each other. To celebrate surviving an insane first 5 years. To dream about the next 5 and 50.
I turn 27 tomorrow. I’ve never had hard edges on my dreams for the future – who I wanted to be or what I wanted to accomplish or where I wanted to live and share such a life. Parenthood has made those vague notions even fuzzier, I feel like I’m in danger of losing myself entirely if I don’t press into these longings and reach for the firm walls of the way forward. I hope that in a year or two or ten I will be able to look back and see the growth, even if it isn’t in the direction that I planned for or in pursuit of the dreams I’ve laid out. I just want to grow. To be more loving and patient and kind and gentle, a heart renewed and open and inviting.
I wish there were these hidden stores of wisdom somewhere, the secrets to holding all my hopes in balance with the realities of life, gracefully continuing on even when I fail myself and the ones I love. But, better than that: I imagine that such wisdom is scattered among all of you, my friends. Your unique experiences and passions and heartaches. We can light the way forward together.
Here’s to 27. May I love better this year than last. May I wait more patiently. May I respond more gently. May I magically transform into a person who stays on top of her laundry situation. May I adopt a slightly less canned/weirdly dramatic/repetitive writing style. May I acquire a faster metabolism. May there be a sequel to Station Eleven. Okay okay. I’ll save the rest of my birthday wishes for tomorrow.
Cheers to a wonderful restorative summer for all of us!