The cross sits in the palm of my hand; a gift. I think of the beach and sand, laughing out loud. This is an ongoing discussion we continue to have; my girlfriends and I. Transparency. It symbolizes the journey I walk in this season of life; my reflection in the mirror. It is perfect.
I sat last night, chattering to the hubs, in the midst of the mess of my home; papers strewn across the floor; dishes piled near my sink. It was 10:33 PM and twice, during the day, I had received a phone call from my son. Amidst the noise of the music and crowded auditorium I cupped my ear to my cell listening to his request for Honeycomb cereal. Where are you? When are you coming home? The first call came about 11 AM; the second close to 4 PM. When I relayed this to the hubs he was aghast. I had no idea he called you. I was in the next room! He called to the son, Why didn’t you ask me? I was right here!?
I understood the real reason he had called. My boys are not accustomed to their mom stepping out of her four walls for a long period of time. When my sons have: playdates, school activities or parties to attend I am always happy for them to go; wishing them off. It is when I make the choice to leave them that my heartstrings tighten. I had left my home at 7 AM and would not return until nightfall; attending a women’s conference. I had balked, at first, reluctant to give up my weekend to sit and organize my four walls; to spend time with my growing boys. I declined dinner. It took my girlfriend’s insistent text and my husband, shoving me out the door so the boys could enjoy inappropriate movie night (think Terminator, Need for Speed, Goonies?) to finally agree. This morning when I asked if he still needed his cereal my suspicions, yesterday, were confirmed. The call really wasn’t about the cereal. He was making sure I was okay.
And so I am stepping out; out of my comfort zone after four years of transition. It is liberating to seek new things since my usual battle is to maintain. The house continually needs repairs, cleaning and organization. My health, as well as my family’s maintenance is vital; slow cooking and pre-planning meals to make them illness and obesity- free. Our finances, the numbers, fluctuate; the endless cycle of income and expenses battling to stabilize in Quickbooks. My beliefs, faith. It is easy to believe; harder to practice. It is always safe to stay in the routine; to know what comes next. Though sometimes it is boring; monotonous, it is what I know. But just as with physical training, your body adapts and becomes more efficient and you hit the dreaded plateau. The mid life crisis. You feel stuck.
And so I sat with these women in uncharted territory. The last time I found myself at a conference as large as this was in my teen years at a convention center, a mile down the road, meeting the Pope. We came to hear Ann Voskamp, whose blog I follow; a gifted writer from southeast Canada. When we discovered she would be in our neck-of-the-woods my girlfriend bought tickets. It is affirming to sit amongst thousands of women of various Christian denominations; all imperfect. In most other areas of my life I have fought to find balance. But it is this one aspect I have denied myself; the one that gets pushed down behind: the mother, the spouse, the chaffeur, the office/home manager, the maid. Nourishment of my soul.
We laughed, we cried. The little Catholic girl was overwhelmed; so much Spirit in one place. I wondered if my soul would burst at its seams as I tried to take everything in. Lysa TerKeurst’s words emblazoned themselves amongst the folds of my cortex: Pause, Perspective, Cease Pretending, Cease Proving as I thought of the various conflicts in my life. Am I an exploder (reactionary with words/actions) or a stuffer (push things down/collect stones for retribution)?
When, mid-afternoon, our introverted, nervous farm girl took the stage, stepping out of her four walls, we cheered. We know her story. We’ve read her book. We’ve done her study. I read her blog. It is in her faith that her fear of getting stuck in places where she cannot escape (agoraphobia) allows her to serve; to deliver her message. The hard gifts are for good. The good gifts are forever. The best gifts are forthcoming. Her anxiety was transparent. When it was announced she would be signing books for 20 minutes my girlfriend, who gently steered me to this path, and I went to find her. We knew it would be a stretch; our seating far from the designated area. We had already experienced the serpentine lines as the lunch area ran out of our pre-ordered lunches or as we waited for elevators. Our expectation weren’t high. And so it was no surprise that we stood in the wrong line, on the wrong level for the band Mercy Me. When we finally came upon Ann’s line the security guards ushered us away; her time up. I took a quick shot with my phone, under the fierce glare of the security guard, of Ann taking her last picture. I chose to stand near a few others; hoping I’d catch a glimpse as she was shuttled by; rushed backstage for the next session.
At dinner, afterwards, the conversations flowed; thoughts and life stories shared. I have hiked my trails, the mountains and the valleys, alone; the only person allowed being the hubs, the one who steadies me. But I’ve recently learned the wisdom of having women on my journey; ones who also walk their own paths thinking they are islands in a sea of people; misunderstood and stuck. Introspection is a quality most females cultivate, unlike our testosterone counterparts, as well as communication. It is a lost culture; women forging together to help with the chores, sharing their burdens. Two hours flew by in the Lazy Dog Cafe and the insistence to go to dinner became clear. They had conspired to celebrate my birthday; the milestone I tried to forget. Most people assume I deny the passage of time; aging. But the hubs knows, it is the time I grieve; the day I remember I have lost two parents; the only child. It is the one milestone I choose to spend with my family of five; alone. The burden of sharing: my birth, my life, my worth, falls squarely on the four individuals living within my walls. It is an unfair task for my poor hubs to fulfill all these expectations. Thus, instead of material gifts I request simpler things on that day: to not cook, a clean house, a clean car. It is enough.
I continue to write my thankful list, these gratitude gifts, in my journal. #Ice cream sundae birthdays. #Dancing autumn scarecrows (fall is my favorite season). #Butter birthday cake surprises. #Coffee and books shared with friends. These thousand gifts I journal do not need to be extravagant; in fact they are meant to be simple. I am to find them, the little details and abundant gifts that surround me each and every day; just as Ann does in her book. Much as I try to slow down time it continues on. But if I snap the shot; jot the thought…it means I took the moment to see it. I have slowed my steps. Instead of racing through life, trying to beat time, my weight holds me down; grounding me. I don’t only see the words on the page, I see the white background, the folded, dog-eared pages. The picture becomes clearer; whole. The plateau is not monotonous, it is simplistically fresh and new. Rejuvenating.
Okay, so I’m stretching the metaphor a bit much. After renewing my mind, yesterday, I was landed into reality with the grumpy husband, the messy home, the cold coffee, the un-gourmet meals. I bit my tongue, hitting the pause button; my immediate response to prove my worth; my works. I contemplated this newfound knowledge as I cleaned bathroom sinks and toilets or mopped the floors. I did not pretend; my anger transparent. But I chose my words after two hours of cleaning; working them through my mind. My perspective had changed. It is something I must continue to remember and work on. The rest of my life.
The Gift of an Ordinary Day is loaded unto my Kindle, our next bookclub read. It falls right into step with my current journey; my ordinary days. I look at the coffee/tea cup on its cover and imagine what picture reflects my days; my life. The beach cross, a pencil, camera lens and coffee cup seems apropos. #a stack of books waiting to be read. The stack of books sit next to my computer, which the hubs has moved upstairs from the loud noises in our den. It is quiet and I can think. #a quiet computing place. I glance at the stack and smile. As Ann was ushered away, yesterday, I had stood with a few stragglers, holding out our books. She stopped and she reached; mine the last book she signed. I voiced the heartfelt thank you that came from my lips and she smiled back. #a simple signature; Ann.