a change of plans

2013-11-20 10.59.20

Messy homeschool room.

Had this really philosophically heavy couple of days—but in a good way. And my thinking is clearer now and I feel a hundred times lighter.

But that was precipitated by a bunch of crummy days.

Let me start off by saying I am fully aware that mine are first world problems. And now that I have gotten that piece of guilt out of the way ...

Lately, I have felt as though I am always—ALWAYS—2 steps behind. In every single area of life. My fiction writing, my blog, our homeschool, the tidiness of our house, cooking meals. Shaving. (Oh my word, shaving. Who the frick-frack has time for that?) Seriously everything. I am probably even forgetting something. Or several things. Bottom line—I have felt like I simply cannot get it all together.

2013-11-20 11.00.13

Pizza boxes on the chair. Empty pizza boxes. And a pile of dirty laundry on the floor.

Conferring with my sister, who also frequently shares this sentiment, was not helping. Usually it does—knowing she is out there also screwing everything up usually makes me feel better. But this time it did not. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that everything was off. I was trying to get my foothold in our new home and city (I am not so good with change, which is an understatement of enormous proportions) and our new homeschooling community and a book to be published in the spring and trying to achieve NaNoWriMo again this year.

In July, Katie Fox of The Art of Simple wrote this lovely blog post about grace—the everyday kind we take for granted. She called it “common grace.” And this idea pops into my mind now and again and whenever it does, it gives me pause. Because I think remembering the small everyday beauties might be the key to happiness. Not forcing, not fighting, not freaking out about everything that is not getting done. (Which is what I usually do ... )

“For after all, the best thing one can do when it is raining is let it rain.”Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

2013-10-16 13.06.18

Right around the time I first read this blog post, I experienced just this kind of moment that she means. I can’t recall the exact circumstances now, but I was sitting on the floor with my kids and we were talking and laughing and they each naturally moved on and off my lap. I simply allowed them to move as they wanted, stealing hugs and kisses from each. Their happiness that I was being present with them in that moment was palpable. And it occurred to me that this was the most important thing I could do: BE THERE. That this was a big part of what they need to be happy right now in this their one precious childhood: ME. It occurred to me: I make them happy—I am so lucky. I need only to show them kindness and give them my full attention—that's all. It's so simple and so fragile. A huge responsibility, but also the easiest thing on earth. There is nothing to worry about if I can do this. And I can do this.

There is so much common grace if only I take the time to seek it. I have a really nice life—I am so fortunate. And allowing unnecessary worries to seep in (or work I don’t really need to do to stomp in) and cause unhappiness makes little sense.

2013-10-16 14.20.51

So, I changed my plan this month. I am dropping NaNoWriMo. Was I getting a lot of writing done? YES. Almost 20,000 words at the time I decided to stop. But was it worth the sacrifices to my time with the people I love and the stress I was feeling to get it done? Nope. I think the breaking point came last week when I found myself thinking, “I don’t have enough time to visit Mem,” and I that I didn’t have the time to go see some good friends we really miss on Thanksgiving weekend. No! I thought. Stop! No goal is worth these kinds of thoughts. So I let it go.

I set a new goal: finish a draft of this book by the end of the year. I can do that. In the meantime I will be with my kids fully and visit friends and do Christmas crafts and work at enjoying this one precious life.

I don’t have to facilitate the perfect homeschool—I just need to read and cuddle with them, sit on the floor and play games with them, do fun crafts with them and give them a lot of freedom to play and explore. I don’t need a “cleaning day”—I have been a very successful guerrilla cleaner for years. I don’t need to keep a strict writing schedule—I will write this new manuscript after the kids go to bed and while they are busy on the playground and at red lights. I will visit Mem whenever I want. I will keep it simple. Life is not organized—I have to stop trying to force it to be so. Ahhhhhh!

(I’m probably forgetting something. Oh, well.)

Please come back on Friday for part 2 of my serialized short story “Red Step-Stool”!