I have debated for days whether I should write this post. Every time I sit down to write I have at least ten ideas on the go vying for my attention. So if I take the time to write about how difficult the month of March was those other ideas get set aside and wait that much longer to be published. Ideas that I think might be more helpful for you, more encouraging, more inspiring, more applicable to your life than my March reflections.
But FIMBY is very much a personal and family journal. It is my story. And today my March struggles win the writing lottery.
I don't even know where to start so let's start at the beginning. The beginning of March specifically.
We welcomed the month with a very difficult Sunday ski (and you thought all our outdoor days were bliss). There were some bad attitudes (mine included), a lot of hard work and in the end some very soul searching questions asked. I'm reminded of the transformational work we went through together three summers ago.
That difficult ski was a catalyst for revisiting the "What are we doing with our lives?" question. You'd think we'd have answered that already, seeing as we made a huge change last year in leaving Maine and moving here to give us the freedom to explore what we want to do with our lives.
We have answered that question in part. We know what our broad purpose and mission is in life. We know what our values are, how we tick, what we love. We know who we are. But prior to this move we didn't have the freedom to merge mission and identity together. We moved so we could do that. Now we are faced with the work of building that.
This questioning hit Damien harder than me since my mission is very much wrapped up raising and educating our kids. Feeding our family. The work I offer to the world at large comes out of the work I do at home.
This month Damien and I have been asking ourselves this - if you're not working to build a career, to gain fame and fortune, to put in x amount of years so you put your kids through college and then retire (ie: our sole purpose in working and living is not to save enough for college and retirement just so someone can repeat the cycle all over again) what are you working for?
In other words, aside from putting food on the table and having a roof over our heads and a few extra funds for fun and saving for the future - what is the point?
And if your goal is to live with less, then how much is enough? What do we really need?
Those are the questions at the tip of the iceberg but what it comes down to is this - we need to craft, on paper, our family mission - in more specific terms than we have done up till this point.
We know why we moved. To give us freedom. Now that we've got that we're in a "what now?" state. We need a clearer roadmap than we've had up till this point. The old roadmap of raise the babies, work to support the babies (& their mother), and do the things we love as much as possible (integrating the raising, working and loving as much as possible) doesn't serve us any longer.
Talking about this stuff (questioning and rejecting societal norms, dealing with our "baggage", defining success, etc.) and writing an actual mission statement is not as easy as some people would have you believe. I feel rocked to my foundations. And it's scary. I'm in a whole new place of losing control and surrender. Scary times two.
I feel a bit disoriented and on shaky ground. Not with the important stuff like who I am and who loves me but in coming to terms with the life we feel called to live. This insecurity is probably just going to be the way of it for a few years in my life. I say this with a touch of irony knowing I will probably struggle with this my whole life.
Hokey Dinah. And that was supposed to be just the introduction!
So from rocky place add the following factors:
- A client who hasn't paid us for weeks and the significant hit our bank account has suffered because of it. Belt tightening to the max. One of my security crutches is money in the bank. I don't even like spending it. I just want it in the bank. This is a huge growth curve for me. To let go of my tight grip on financial security. Financial security is an illusion and this is a lesson I know I need to learn but it is so hard to learn it. And of course the only way you learn it is trial by fire. And fire it is.
- We need to leave our chalet the end of May. This was always the deal and we've been looking for another place to rent since we moved here. We haven't found one yet. The ease at which we found this chalet astounds me (it was God thing) because finding another place to rent has proven very difficult. We have opened ourselves to all kinds of options, including spending the summer in Quebec City renting an apartment. (Significant travel is out of the question because of the previous point). Next to a healthy bank account having a place to call home is one of my other security measures. I'm a homemaker. A homemaker needs a home.
- Tax time. We honestly have no idea how the tax situation will shake out for us and if there's a big bill we're not exactly sure how we'll pay that either. We moved three times last year (2 different countries, three different states/provinces). We own a rental in Maine. We started a business (all our paid work is under that umbrella). It's messy and complicated and March has been about getting everything ready for the accountants. A significant stress for Damien.
It's no wonder it's been a difficult month. The foundations have been rocked. What are we doing with our life? How will we buy groceries next week? Where will we live? And life's inevitable reckoning - taxes - looming large on the horizon.
On the upside I birthed a small e-book. Yes, that was a very vulnerable experience during a particular insecure time for me but the support and encouragement I have felt around that project have been such a blessing to me this month. And book sales have helped to pay for said groceries (even though we were hoping to earmark those funds for other things, like taxes!). You fed our kids! You'll be happy to know they're eating their veggies.
To my credit I stayed the course with our homeschool practice. I need to give myself pats on the back now and then. This wasn't easy but like I wrote in my Simple Homeschool article we have moved into a homeschooling stage that requires a new level of personal diligence on my part. I have a lot to learn and model.
Life will never "settle down" (that's also an illusion) and I can't wait for that day to come to attend to my middle school aged children's education. The relationship and learning dynamics change as children grow, there's no getting around that. This new stage requires more personal discipline for me. Ouch.
Speaking of personal discipline, because the month wasn't hard enough to begin with (smile), I decided to fast from all sweeteners. My tendency is to turn to chocolate or some other little hit during struggles. I didn't want to to do that. I don't like the way it makes me feel. This made the month that much more depressing, the lack of "pick me ups".
You know, when I write it all out it's no wonder I cried as much as I did this month. I'm going through some serious personal growth. And it hurts. To let go of previous expectations, to loosen my grip on illusionary security, to open myself to more change. And to come closer to accepting the only thing constant is change and the ground will always be shifting under my feet. (Oh, but I do dig my heals on this point.)
I thought I was done with painful personal growth for a while. Maybe I'd arrived. (You can already see where this is going.) We had packed up our family, downsized our life, said goodbye to friends and a place I loved (and good library service). And our prize is not Nirvana but more growth! I am tempted to laugh at my naivety but I'm trying to be kinder to myself. Another thing I need to learn.
I realize that the personal growth I've already gone through in the past couple years - the self study (working my way through publishing that), the letting go and uprooting, the big move - was simply setting the stage for this next level. Like peeling the layers of an onion. And just like working with onions, the process makes me cry.
Some of us think if we just do the right things or walk the right path we an avoid the pain of personal growth. Not so my friend.
Life is going to demand of you that you grow and change - regularly. Motherhood teaches us that, so do the seasons, which are never static. Either you accept that (and some of us even invite that growth by actively living outside the box) or fight against it. And in this case resistance really is futile.
Short of avoidance, or rather when we've tried avoidance and it hasn't worked, we think maybe we just need to read the right books, the right Bible verses, practice yoga, find our center, pray, have the right mindset, keep a gratitude journal, meditate and we'll unlock the key to understanding and living gracefully through personal growth.
If a perfect practice exists, I haven't found it yet, the secret to rising above it all. It seems I'm destined to go through these times of growth with a lot of thrashing around. It doesn't look pretty. It looks pretty on the blog because I'm taking photos of the beauty. I'm literally choosing to focus on that.
That's not to say these practices haven't helped me this past month. They have, but they don't take away the tearing, stretching, breaking down and building back up again. But perhaps they make it more bearable?
This weekend Damien directed me to this excellent article on change and resilence. And I see this process happening in my own life right now. The growing into new things. There's no going back. "The thing that we call “health” is not a steady state that we can return to, it is a process of forward motion."
On Saturday morning I listened to Sylvia Boorstein and Krista Tippett talk about nurturing (something we need to do during times of stress). And near the end of that interview Krista shares these words of Sylvia's. A mantra of sorts to help during times of personal growth and pain. I wrote it down.
Sweetheart, you're in pain. Relax, take a breath. Let's pay attention to what is happening. Then we'll figure out what to do.
I love these words.
I alse love the words of Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. I think a lot of people misjudge the Bible having never read it or encountering people who unintentionally misrepresent the words therein (raising my hand here). Ecclesiastes is a book for a time of struggle and questioning. A time of doubt. It's a book for March.
Ever asked yourself "what's the point?" Check out Ecclesiastes. I'm thinking our mission in life may be to eat, drink and be merry. Although Jesus' words (his basic message of losing your life to find it) do sometimes throw a wrench into that plan. Solomon? Jesus? Solomon? Jesus? Maybe a bit of both.
This is as far as I got my first morning of writing about March (I spend 2 hours every weekday morning writing). Then a couple more things happened yesterday that I had to include before I turn the page on March and welcome April, open armed.
I went for a walk and as I was gearing up I shared with Damien the essense of this post.
And I realized something, in that brief conversation, chatting with my husband in the middle of the day, at home together. This is the life I want to life and I'm actually living it. The big picture is sometimes hard but the moments building upon moments to make the whole have been beautiful.
Yes March was difficult, the ground is shaking, but every day, or nearly every day, I lived the things I'm called to do. The things I want to do. And there is meaning in that living. In the writing, cooking, reading, learning, sharing, being outdoors, exercising, educating, connecting, creating, contributing to our community, taking care of our home.
And there is meaning in the telling of it.
Later in the day while I was cutting veggies for supper I listened to another Krista Tippett interview, this time with Kevin Kling. (I warned you I'd be linking to her again and again). And I was comforted and encouraged.
Tears are ok (of course they are!). I'm not the only one who feels torn between two worlds. That being a cracked pot (a crack pot?) is ok.
And that there is a purpose for these type of blog posts. Because when I tell my story these circumstances don't control me anymore. And perhaps it is possible to grow through loss and change with humor and grace.
So April I welcome you with open arms. I love your sunshine and blue skies. Thank you for sending the robins and the red winged blackbirds. Harbingers of spring and rebirth.
Some woodland wildflowers would be special treat, though you'll need to melt the snow first. And if it's not too much to ask, payment for what we're owed would be nice. As would a place to live when we have to move at the end of May.
Short of that I will try to be content with our daily bread and the promise of transformation and new life.