Friday, October 4, 2013

Finding calm in chaos (#31 days to Sanctuary day 4)

In my most overwhelmed moments, I dream about my perfect day.  While I would like to imagine faraway locales with a tropical atmosphere (and do look forward to our cruise vacation coming up in December), I've learned that this doesn't suit me in the day-to-day reality.  I get overwhelmed by all the planning, packing, and the pain of traveling.  There are times I imagine that I would like to be a speaker at conferences, but all it takes is leading a local workshop to have me sighing with relief as I take off my shoes in my own familiar and comfy house.

When I reflect on where and how I find peace, it's really about the simple comforts.  If I had my choice, I would wake up around 7am, but not get out of bed until 8am (my lovely, well-behaved, and QUIET children coming in to kiss me goodbye before leaving for school.  This is a dream, after all).  I would spend a leisurely hour getting ready and catching up on Facebook and favorite blogs.  I might fit in a trip to the library before strolling in to work at 10am.  The morning would be filled with conversation and connecting with students and colleagues, and planning for events.  Lunch would be with friends, followed by a walk in solitude.  The afternoon would include necessary meetings, creative projects, and events.  I would be at home in time for dinner (but perhaps a later, more civilized form of family dinner with us sharing stories from our day instead of fighting or pleading with them to eat).  I would help with homework (which would not be frustrating, but full of insights and true learning) and then there would be lots of reading time cuddled up together on the bed.  After they put themselves into bed (with lots of love and kisses from us), there would be ice cream and catching up for John and me (talking with each other and finally making it through those 55 remaining recorded episodes  of "Breaking Bad").  Then there would be plenty of time for my own reading and writing before bed.  I would get enough peaceful, dreamless sleep with no one crying out in the night.  Weekends would be more of the same calm existence, with added time for us together as a family, as a couple, and as individuals; time for creative play, exercise, conversation, and rest.

It's simple for sure, but sometimes seems so far away in our chaotic existence.  We work not to overschedule our kids, and yet time always seems fleeting and we are always rushing to get something (dinner, homework, chores, baths) completed, while other things ( fun, dreaming, writing) remain undone.  It's enough to just get through the monotony of the present and hard to see beyond it.  We have conversations where we imagine that "some day" we'll have time to do more, but in the here and now, we learn to trudge along and find joy where we can.

That is how I find sanctuary these days, finding moments of rest and peace within the chaos of life that does not stop.  I know the start of the semester is always a crazy time, and I went through much of September without a day off.  But I maintained sanity with the help of my husband who gave me time away, a dinner here, a Saturday there, just to soak up the quiet.  As an introvert, I need those times to recharge.  This morning, I did go in to work later (after working yesterday evening), and I also stopped by the library.  I had a walk with a friend, and said "no" to a commitment so that I could have time to write and catch up.  Tonight, John and I will have a much overdue date night.  I will have to work some this weekend, but I will be able to be present in a more positive way after carving time out to care for myself.

This is my advice, learned the hard way, that I share so often with my students: you must take care of yourself so that you will be equipped to handle the work before you and serve others.  There a reason why you're instructed on airplanes in emergencies to put on your own oxygen mask first before helping out other passengers.  You are no help to others if you run out of air first.

As you care for your spirit, may times of sanctuary fill you with all you need to keep moving through the busyness and find your life full and yet not exhausting.

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