In my life, playdates are fairly synonymous with, “An hour of life when mama will try to connect with a friend in short bursts of conversation, while still attending to the incredible energy and demands of two toddlers.” I remember when I first transitioned to staying home full-time with my kids, this dynamic was a steep learning curve for me. Largely, I had only ever functioned as either an adult in adult conversations, or as mama with all eyes and ears on the kids. Now, I was learning the juggling act of attempting both simultaneously.
A couple months ago, a group of fellow mamas and I found ourselves five minutes into an uninterrupted conversation during a playdate, and got rather giddy about such a tremendous amount of time having elapsed since the last child interrupted. And so, in that rare space, we each found ourselves giving voice to both the joys & challenges of raising young children. Most of us have at least two kids, the youngest just a couple weeks old and the oldest almost six. Everyone has lost a child or birthed a child with unexpected medical issues. Many of us also work part-time and volunteer in the community. We are in the thick of parenthood.
At one point, our conversation turned to sleep – “sleep training”, sleeping arrangements, sex after kids, sleeping aids, sleepless nights. We shared horrors stories of infants up all night and toddlers that won’t ever stay in bed, and then finally lightened the mood with blissful recollections of our most recent full night’s rest. Aaahhh, the memories….
Suddenly we came upon a phenomenon that we each had experienced: there we were, finally in bed, collapsing after a full day. Minds and bodies totally exhausted, yet still we lay wide awake and restless. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Finally, we would find the wherewithal to take a long, deep breath and all of a sudden we would realize that all that time we had been trying to fall asleep with our shoulders tensed up to our ears, our heads elevated in midair and our buttocks as hard as rocks (okay, well at least all the parts that get hard).
We realized that our sleeping positions looked more like a lateral ready-set-go stance, than any form of relaxation or rest. We were literally frozen in “Go!” even as we tried to fall asleep.
And all this got us thinking, How often may we find ourselves trying to live, as best we know how, but it seems we’re just not getting anywhere? We may cast blame all around, including within ourselves, but ultimately we cannot figure out what is wrong. “Why isn’t this working? Why is life so hard?!”, we scream. Finally, whether by choice or forced by tragedy or despair, we take take a long, deep breath.
And in that spacious state of being present with ourselves, we realize the problem all along has been our own running – our own striving and stressing and addiction to doing.
Later that week, I wrote this in my journal, “What is the gift I most want to leave to the world? Maybe that is the question longing to be answered. What is my truest self long for, breathing toward, impassioned by? What must I do? There it is…
What MUST I do in this life?”
I came up with six things that feel essential to my being, things without which I would feel like I’m suffocating or hiding. Not compulsory responsibilities, not moral obligations, not performance or trying to appear perfect. I am talking about the musts that mean my soul is fully alive.
And then I looked at my days. The real challenge was to compare those six “musts” to the way I spend the minutes of my life. I saw how often I spend priceless hours on the lesser-thans. Energy and effort, striving and spinning, on the things that won’t ever satisfy anyway. Clenched, frozen in “Go!” but getting nowhere.
And so, I challenge you to write your MUST list this week. Because every day doesn’t have to be a fight for survival – these are sacred, spacious moments we are living in.
Every second is a gift. We have to start breathing into that truth! We have to make ourselves stop long enough to see, to live. We have to start aligning our time and effort with our true priorities, living out our musts everyday.
Here’s my list…what’s yours?
1) I must honor my husband & truly partner with him
2) I must teach my children that they are good & whole & enough just as they are. I must laugh with them, tell them I adore them, release them over time.
3) I must care for orphans – I must love, in very physical ways, the most vulnerable of our world, telling them with my touch and time that they are good & whole & worthy.
5) I must create – with words, with art, with pictures. I must tell my stories.
6) I must read.
Give yourself, and your family, the gift of sitting with this question for at least twenty minutes this week. I know it’s hard to make the time, but you won’t regret it. Rest with this question, take a few deep breaths and then jot down what beats most profoundly as true and living in your heart. I’d love it if you find your way back to this page and share some of the “musts” you came up with afterwards. Blessings to you!