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Thursday, September 22, 2016

A September in the Weeds


I wish I was finally coming back here to write something light and airy and funny. I wish I could bring myself to write about the fashion at the Emmys (I missed it) or a new fall tv show (haven't watched a one) or maybe an uplifting commentary on a scripture (sorry, no words on the Word). None of that is what I'm writing today.

I'm so tired I could spit nails. I mean I don't know if tired people actually spit nails. I think that's angry people. Tired people are too tired for spitting. I'm tired. Obviously too tired to come up with the correct hyperbole.

Come to think of it, tired people do eventually become angry people. And sad people. They become people no one wants to be around. And I'm precariously close to not even wanting to be around myself. Which poses a problem in many respects, not the least of which is that the goal here is to write something someone might want to read and that might require being somewhat pleasant. :/

For that reason, I keep avoiding this space. I don't want this to be a "woe is me" place. There is quite possibly nothing more irritating than a person with a reasonably healthy marriage, reasonably healthy children and a reasonably safe place to lay her head at night whining online. Especially if someone is posting very cryptically and asking for prayers and thoughts and attention, but won't really let you in on what's really going on. Well, no veiled references here. No trying to peak your curiosity that something seriously tragic is happening. I'm not on the edge of disaster. It's just basically this: (and it's golf season, so stay with me)

I'm utterly and completely in the weeds. Knee deep, lost the ball, gonna have to take a penalty stroke. Furthermore, while I'm fishing around here wondering what club I need to use to get out of this mess and find my way up to the glorious, light filled green, I'm probably going to get poison ivy which I will spread to my entire family.

Actually, I'm possibly right on the edge of disaster, it seems.

"September in the Weeds" appears to be a thing around these parts. So I'm going to hope that this raging, whining post won't seem so selfish. I'm hoping that anyone who's picking up what I'm putting down can just look at this as a "woe is us" post and then maybe we can get down to the business of pulling back the weeds that are choking the very life out of our days and find some light at the end of this tunnel, even if it might be that the light happens to be as far off as October.

Often, writing lifts my burdens. I can make a joke or observe something silly happening among the men and the mess around here. But nothing seems funny because there seems to be no time for funny. No time for introspection. No time for any thought of substance.

Back to School seems so inviting for mamas after the free for all of summer. For me, the days were to look a little bit different even compared to school years past. With one in middle school and two in high school and one of those two graduating in less than a year, my kids are much more independent and well they should be. I imagined our family falling into a comfortable rhythm. I was sure that outside of running my house and (assisting in) keeping my people alive, I would spend my days writing and reading and deciding how those things might work together to create, not necessarily a greater purpose, but perhaps a wider purpose for me. I was imagining that the fear of the oldest leaving would be assuaged by this new plan I would create for myself.

To do that I was looking forward to regular routines, consistent meal times and bed times. I'm not sure what I was thinking because I don't think all five of us have had dinner together since some time in August. And bed times aren't even a real thing around here anymore. I remember when all of kids were asleep by 8:00 pm and I had a few hours to watch Project Runway and drink a glass of wine or actually talk to my husband.

(Is Project Runway even on anymore? Because unless Tim Gunn  has decided that a Red Sox uniform is the new black, I think that ship has sailed.)

The only thing that September has brought to my writing life is the composition of list after list after list. And a calendar full of drop offs and pick ups. Of appointments and practices and meetings. Meetings where I sit across from people and am not really listening because I've one foot out the door. Appointments where I'm tapping that foot on the waiting room floor in impatience because I need to get to the next thing. I'm not really looking anyone in the eye. I'm not really communicating with anyone. I'm not really living a full life of observing and connecting and relationship. So what on earth does a writer write about if not observations, connections and relationships? And even more, how does a mother do her mothering, a friend do her friend-ing, a wife do her wife-ing or a Christian do her Christian-ing if she's not observing and connecting and relating?

Exactly four months ago I stood in front of a church bursting at the seams with people in shock at the sudden death of a husband, a father, a friend. I urged them and promised myself to find freedom from busy-ness, franticness and a task oriented life. My voice shook with sorrow and with conviction as I tried to understand what God needed us to know in the wake of unspeakable tragedy that rocked our community. I told myself and those in that congregation with the truest sincerity that we should  pay more attention to our people and their souls. I determined that I would treat the ones God had gifted me as blessings to be cherished and not as problems to be solved or cargo to be shuffled from one place to the next.

I have failed miserably at this in the last few weeks. Perhaps even in the last couple of months. And I'm so ashamed. A great number of people looked me in the eye that May afternoon and seemed to honestly be touched and changed by the death of our friend. They believed in what I had said. They believed that I believed it. I believed me, too.

Why is it so hard to keep believing in what we know to be true and right and honorable? Why is it so hard to fight against this notion that we must be efficient and productive and on task at all moments of the day? Who decided this was a good idea? And how are we going to survive it? More personally, how are the members of my family going to survive me, if I continue in this frantic, unrelenting race to cross things off a list instead of establishing the walls of this house as their home? How will this be a safe place to fall at the end of the day? How will this become a place of grace and forgiveness and comfort? How will they know that these rooms offer a refuge where you are off the hook from performance and duty if I am unwilling to let myself off the hook for even an hour a day?

In the midst of wandering around wanting to write yesterday, I picked up a book, Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist, which I received over three weeks ago and had yet to touch. As I was too busy to start from the beginning, I flipped through it. I landed in the middle of a chapter in the middle of a page out of any context and I read this:

"My regrets: how many years I bruised people with my fragmented, anxious presence. How many moments of connection I missed - too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency.  You don't have to damage your body and your soul and the people you love most in order to get done what you think you have to get done. You don't have to live like this."

I flipped a little farther and found this:

"What would our lives be like if our days were studded by tiny, completely unproductive, silly, nonstrategic, wild and beautiful five minute breaks, reminders that our days are for loving and learning and laughing, not for pushing and planning, reminders that it's all about the heart, not about the hustle."

Well, now. Perhaps one should have picked up this book when God put it in her mailbox at the beginning of this September of suffering.

This list I clutch and cross off is not my friend. It doesn't make me laugh. It doesn't listen to my dreams. It can't talk to me about Brangelina or the woes of the Texas Longhorns defense or about the anxiety I feel about my son going to college. It just goes along with me telling me that we're doing important, necessary things. It makes me feel like my needs and my wants, my connections and my relationships must wait for another time.

Busy-ness is lonely. Tasks are not life giving. Being surrounded by numerous people and beautiful things and admirable accomplishments and still being lonely is the loneliest place to be in all the world.

I didn't get it right after our friend Tom died. Maybe for awhile I did, but I fell right back to my addiction to busy-ness.

Today I'm going to try again. I'm going to go for a run and then I'm going to sit with Jesus and I'm going take the time to start this book from the beginning. I'm going to go outside and sit with my dog and look to the sky to ask forgiveness. I'm going to look up at our friend, Tom and tell him I'm sorry. I'm going to tell him his death did change me. It will change me.

I'm going to begin again. I'm so grateful to my God that He allows this redemption. I might not get it right today. Or maybe I'll get it right for a little while and then mess up again. But I will remember this - again found in the pages of Niequist's book - at least for today.

God hasn't invited us into a disorderly, unkempt life but into something holy and beautiful - as beautiful on the inside as the outside. - 1 Thessalonians 4:7, The Message

Thanks for returning here, friends. You've no idea how much it means to me. Come out from the weeds today. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He is humble and gives rest to our souls. It's there for the taking. Let's go get it.

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