“Live according to your priorities instead of your obligations.”
Until recently, I spent a lot of time wondering what I was supposed to be doing. I stressed myself out wondering about things that ultimately never mattered. Questioning the day to day of our lives. Then it hit me. I needed to write down my actual priorities, then build my day to day on those most important pieces of my life. Not priorities like getting to the grocery store when the fridge is empty. But the big ones. The ones that wake me and put a smile on my face. The ones that reassure me of my purpose.
- To have at least one parent at home with our children during these crucial years.
- To meet my husband with open communication, with trust, and with grace.
- To allow space and time and resources for each of us to grow.
- To have faith in life’s process.
- To teach our children grace, humility, humor, friendship, and equality.
- To contemplate more often, “Does this improve the quality of my life?”
The first one is at the very least, difficult. The first year of Stella’s life I was home while Adam worked. Then, we were houseparents at a residential treatment facility. We spent five years living and working under the same roof. Our apartment was on the third floor, but we lived our lives in every corner of that old house. And Stella had two parents with her, all day every day. When I was pregnant with Alistair we knew houseparenting was over for us. It had taxed us beyond our limits. But leaving that job meant two people needed new jobs, and we needed a place to live. I was scared. So, now we see #’s 2-6.
We spent our maternity leave considering other job options. Other living arrangements. We still owned an old farm house in South Georgia. “Should we go back down south?” we wondered. But there weren’t any jobs for us there. This is when number 2 got real important. Being honest and open and trusting during such a vulnerable time, when two people may have wanted different things, created a barrel of mixed emotions for Adam and me. Conversations with Adam instead of thinking it all in my head, asking questions, and meditating, became my new day to day. His ideas scared me. They made me uncomfortable. My ideas were pushy and made him uncomfortable.
When our maternity leave was over we met with our supervisor to go over the plan for our return to the cottage. We quickly learned that the universe had taken care of so many decisions for us. Our cottage was closed while we were out, due to a very low population at the time, and they weren’t going to reopen our cottage anytime soon. They told us we would need to move into another building on campus. It was all wrong. It felt so wrong. We both knew within minutes what we would do. We would move in with Adam’s parents until we could figure everything out. They were ten minutes down the road with an empty basement apartment.
We told our supervisor thanks but no thanks and called the Director of Human Resources. “We’re not returning after our maternity leave is over. Do we have to repay anything because of this?” She hung up the phone and rushed to the cottage. She asked me to apply for a new position in the Development Department. “Do you write?” she asked. Do I write?! “Pretty well, I think. It’s my dream to be a writer.” And here I am, still in that position a year and a half later. Still living in my in-law’s basement. And I feel really good about it. A lot of people in their 30’s might not be so content living this way. So, now we see #’s 3-6.
Knowing that I’m living according to these priorities trumps any judgement – even from myself.
My husband is an artist, a writer, and a performer. For so much of his life he wasn’t able to actually be those things. Because we’re living according to our priorities, he’s home everyday with our children. He sees Stelly off to school and spends his days coloring, playing games, and watching the same episodes of Regular Show over and over and over again with Baby Sweeps. He contracts graphic design – and he’s just so stinkin’ good at it. He writes in a way that makes my soul dance. And he’s in the cast of the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. For the 2015 season, he’s even in a musical group where he gets to play his guitar and sing Irish drinking songs. Space, Time, Resources
I started a blog. The community I have found in this blogging experience has moved me. I’m still waiting to hear back from admissions – through these priorities I might be in school again this year. I might be studying to become a world changing theologian and minister. It might take four years to finish that MDiv weekend program. Space, Time, Resources
Alistair learns from all of us how to communicate, how to dance, and how to love. Space, Time, Resources
And Stella grows into her self more and more each day. Would she feel so safe, so loved, and so comforted if things were different? Space, Time, Resources
We’re all growing in this time, and in this space, with what we have.
#4 teaches me that my family is hugely rewarded through the sacrifices we’re making. We don’t have a lot of extra cash. We don’t travel as much as we used to. We say “no” more often. This lifestyle is not always easy. And it’s untenable – there is an expiration date on our living arrangement. In the meantime, our kids get to hang out with their grandparents all the time. And that’s good for everybody. We’re all learning from each other, supporting each other. Intergenerational living at its best. Oh, and did I mention Auntie Lisa lives there, too? Not in the basement with us, though, she’s upstairs. It’s a big house with a sanctuous back yard with a rushing creek, a playhouse, a large gazebo, a garden, a hot tub, and a golf cart for those fun safaris.
I grew up poor, ya’ll. The little girl Rose, who sometimes shows up, reminds me of the stinky, dirty, strange places she had to sleep when she would visit her mama. She reminds me of the trailer parks, the potted meat, and the scary men. She reminds me of her daddy’s drug dealing and the fights with her stepmama. And my grown up self feels thankful and humbled and undeserving of the beautiful space she gets to call her family’s home, and of the grandparents who support all of us through this time.
Having faith in life’s process makes all of our temporary troubles bearable.
All of this pulls from and contributes to #5.
As for #6, we’re not exactly keeping up with the Joneses. We’re getting ready for a big family vacation. All those people we live with plus more are going to share a house on the beach together for a week. We do this every five years to celebrate the in-law’s wedding anniversary. This year is the big 40th. I can’t wait. I must have spent at least five hours looking at new swimsuits, swim shorts, coverups, swim t-shirts, rashguards, and beyond. Then I asked myself, “Is this new swimsuit going to improve the quality of my life?” and I closed all the store tabs I had opened.
These are choices I’ve made and ways I’ve worked to empower myself to live the life I want to live. This #wholemama empowerment comes from:
- The power of No. Saying no to things that are not life giving, and are not in line with these priorities. Even when other people don’t understand.
- Acknowledging that the control I have is limited.
These priorities make me an empowered #wholemama. What makes you empowered and whole?
Agere Contra, friends