Finding the quiet moments when life is not.

There is so much written today about being mindful, about being still, about not rushing and being in the moment.

And there is good reason for it, it's really important stuff.  With mental health problems at an all time high, work days that never end with the availability of mobile phones, and email wherever we are, and people living more individualistic independent lives than ever before.  Well our bodies are being bombarded with cortisone and never-ending to-do lists. 

It’s not good for us.  But it seems impossible to slow down at times, doesn’t it? 

I’m in a stage where life in many ways, is speeding up.  With the boys, work, and 3 subjects this semester, there is an increase of the outside demands on my time, meaning I am out of the home more than ever before.  The volume and type of jobs around the home hasn’t changed, it never really does.  There is washing to do, meals to cook, a house to clean, dishes to do, homework to help with.  What’s more, all of these things are important to me in creating and building a nurturing family home which is a refuge from the world. 

I am essentially transitioning from being a full time stay at home mother, to a working/studying mother.  I would like to say I have it down pat but the truth is, I don’t.

Studying today, uninterrupted as I was meant to be at college.  What luxury!

Aggie my little study buddy, it was just me and her all day.  The oven was lit and the fire crackling away, occasionally interrupted by a contented grunt coming from the little black bear of a dog curled up in her bed.  What a total princess!  It's a tough life hey?  

What I do have is our core family values which hold us in good stead.  That we value time together over “things”, that we value a simple life, we value books and quiet time together, we value working together, we value nature which is reflected in our somewhat hap-hazard gardening efforts, bushwalks and camping in our old vintage caravan.

I’m not going to share a “how too” because what works for me, will not necessarily work for others. 

But I thought I would share a few lessons I have learnt and a story of how they have unfolded in the past week or so.  The main one is saying “no” to the things I think I could possibly squeeze in if I’m super organized.  You know I’m talking about, the small extra task we think we should do.  On its own these kind of tasks seem innocent enough, add 5-6 of them and suddenly we find ourselves juggling waaayyyy more balls then we ever intended.  Often coming to a head all at the same time.  (What’s with that anyway?) I often find it easier to say no to the big things, rather than the small.  We can justify it clearly and our reasons are understood to be valid by others.  But it’s not the big things that tend to tip us over the edge, it’s the little, seemingly innocent things.  I’m reminded of the children’s book “Who Sank The Boat” by Pamela Allen.  For those of you who don’t know it, the book is about a little row boat and a bunch of big animals all want to get in at once.  One by one they do, carefully counter balancing their weight.  Finally, there is a just a little mouse who wants to hop in, it seems innocent enough – he is a after all, a tiny creature.  But it is him who upsets the balance of the little row boat and everyone goes toppling into the water.  It is really a wonderful picture book and carries a message that can resonate with all ages. 

This week for us has a lot going on.  My car died and un-resurrect-able death last week meaning we are down to one car, with two adults going in seemingly different directions.  I have a short answer task due for collage, a short quiz, a stack of reading, and two essays.  And the usual work/family/homework/cooking etc.  It means I have had to say “no” to coffee with friends, I have had to say “no” an unexpected church council meeting called that I was asked to attend, I knew they would have their quorum so all would be fine, but I also know they would have preferred I go.  It means I had to miss college as it was going to take too much time to try and juggle cars/busses/school run and put too much pressure on Grant to work around me.  I also had to look forward at my schedule as I was asked to fill a space on the preaching roster.  Now I enjoy preaching.  It’s important to me and I take it as both great privilege and responsibility.  But in this very season, it may well be the innocent looking little mouse that tips my row boat.  Each of these extra things on their own are innocent enough, a couple of hours here, a couple of hours there.  But add them up?  Suddenly I would have lost a significant amount of time.  

What would the cost have been?  Well time for one, but I can guarantee I would be more stressed.  Which adds to the chance of convenience food being embraced, which makes me feel tired and unhealthy, which adds stress to my load as I wouldn’t feel able to do what I need to let alone the extras.  If I’m too stressed I turn into a growly-bear like creature who is not pleasant to live with.  I would have had to stay up late to get the house hold chores done, adding to more tiredness, adding to more stress, adding to more bear-like behaviour. 

But, instead I have submitted the quiz and short answer task, completed necessary readings, and the research for the major essay is going strong and I am well into the planning/drafting stage.  My other essay is in the works too, though will be a little simpler.  I’m getting to bed at a respectable time, my paid work is on track, the house is mostly tidy enough and meals are simple but healthy.  Most importantly, my family are getting the me they deserve, and deserve my best.  Not what is left over after I have given my best to everyone else.

The reality is the church meeting went on without me just fine, the preaching roster will be filled, my friend understood my situation and we will have that coffee at a later stage.  I have not added unnecessary stress to our families’ routine by trying to keep the same pace while we are a car down.  There is no need to feel guilty as I will be able to go to the next church meeting, I am allowed to miss a couple of lectures without it affecting my grade if I give notice, there is plenty of time to preach and I can possibly pick up a couple next roster for someone else if need be.  There are few problems so big they don’t have a solution in our everyday lives, yet often we rush about like crazy things thinking we need to solve aaaallllll the problems ourselves, without help.      

Do you see the picture I am trying to paint?  It is important to say no, especially to the little things because they add up.  Even when they are valid and important things.  It is when we say no, that we are able to create space in which to find those quiet, peaceful moments we are so desperately looking for.  That our bodies, minds and souls need more then ever.  When we say no, we are in turn saying yes to the things which truly matter.   

Much love,
Emma
xx


10 comments

  1. Oh I hear you Emma. I'm getting better at saying 'no' however still have that slight guilt and find I try to justify. Why? I don't have to justify. Cutting down and saying no is something I practice every day and it does improve slowly. I do the same with my busy mind. If it starts thinking ahead and adding tasks I picture a blank canvas, a white sheet basically. I then say to myself 'it's clear'. Meaning my mind is clear there is nothing there but what I'm doing right now. Concentrate on the task at hand in mind and body then move on. That works for me anyway.

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    1. I really need to try this!! I am shocking for getting sidetracked!

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    2. I don't necessarily think trying to justify is completely bad, though it can be excessive. Like to say no to something important does require consideration and weighing up. If it becomes a source of guilt then I think it is perhaps too far, but I struggle with this too at times. I'm improving all the time. Odds on the guilt I would feel giving my family a poorer version of me is usually greater then the feeling of guilt of saying no.

      I find writing a list helps me to clear the clutter in my mind and writing a plan.
      xx

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  2. Such very wise words, Emma. I have a LOT of trouble saying NO at times but I am practising and, although I feel initially guilty, I always am glad afterwards. I treasure time here, at home, with my family. Last night, we three were having a snuggle up in bed, before "official bedtime" and after playing Boggle. We were warm, snug and talking together. When I was working, often late into the night when I was teaching, I felt I rushed these times and always had more in my head than I wanted to.

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    Replies
    1. I hear, you. I have felt like this too often this year, though I am learning what I can handle now. Its a bit of trial and error at times isn't it?

      And nothing beats bedtime snuggles, Henry is next to me now as I respond to comments, sleeping peacefully while grant is watching a move on telly. I love it.

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  3. The church I attend is having a spiritual direction retreat next month. Silence will be kept most of the time allowing participants to contemplate, reflect and pray. I am hoping to be able to go. Good luck with your study.

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    1. It sounds lovely, I have only ever attended one retreat....I struggled with it to be honest. Like it was nice enough but I think the rebel in me struggled with the idea it was "compulsory". Like a compulsory retreat kind of takes away something from it. Lol! And I had other stuff I wanted to do- anyway I think I failed at the idea of a retreat - I took my study books with me......hahaha!

      Maybe next time I will do better. ;)

      xx

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  4. I feel so much better when I am not overscheduled, too. It's nice to have breathing room.

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  5. At my ripe age I learned to say no to other people or invitations awhile ago, but now I'm working on saying no to myself. For instance, telling myself that it's not going to end my world if a certain task doesn't get done that day. A lovely post as usual, dear Emma. XX

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  6. Thanks for this timely post Emma :)
    Hugs
    Rachel

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