I started reading Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist a few weeks ago and am really enjoying it…the chapters are short, but meaty, and have been cause for a lot of reflection. Many of you know that a year and a half ago I found both my husband and myself simultaneously unemployed with an eight week old baby. Times were trying, and needless to say, it’s taken the last year to figure out how to make us work. I am so grateful that we’ve had truth and community and help in the ways that have taught us to dig deep into ourselves and marriage, so grateful that I’m now living a different kind of life.
As I embarked into full-time self-employment as a new mom, I’ve really had to ask myself what kind of life I want…I tend to have wanderlust and a savior complex in that I want adventure and somehow believe I literally can be all things, to all people, at all times. I’ve really been working on deconstructing this and have been seeking a life of more balance…In Bittersweet, Niequist has a chapter that rang home for me–’Things I don’t do’. She references a friend saying, “It’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard is figuring out what you’re willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.” She then goes on to define what she does and does not do in her own life in order to make that life happen…
This process of defining what I do and don’t do in this season has added significant clarity and peace to the way that I approach doing life. I’ve adapted some of what Niequist wrote about to define things for myself and came up with this list–I know it will change.
Life ALWAYS changes, but for now I know that this is right, for me.
Things I do:
- I do work that I enjoy. When I first started my career, and first became unemployed, I was willing to do whatever work I could get my hands on to pay the bills. This was a necessary season, however it also hurt my heart and energy to be engaged in work that didn’t motivate or inspire me. I’m grateful to be in a season in my life right now where I can be picky about the work I do away from home, since I need it to add to my life and family rather than me depleting. That means that I work three half days a week right now doing clinical social work with a population I adore, and have 1-2 portrait photo shoots on the weekend. I don’t wish to do either full-time and this works for me.
- I love to cook from scratch and feed people–feeding people is one of my primary acts of service, it feeds me on a deeper level. I don’t host huge dinner parties or bring meals to people who aren’t in my immediate circle. However for my family and close friends, feeding is one of the ways that I nurture.
- I move my body/exercise in ways that feel good. I stop when I’m tired or sore, I don’t push myself too hard, and I don’t take too many breaks from movement throughout the week. Moving my body is becoming another form of worship to my creator because it’s less and less attached to my appearance.
- I thrift. It’s fun.
- I read, a little bit almost everyday.
- I do community with the wealth of girlfriends I have in my life…however I do it in a way that now supports my family. For years I over committed myself and family. Now I do something social (including play dates) just once or twice a week. This structure has let me spend more time investing in my marriage, my home, and my heart. Its important for me to maintain relationships yet not at the cost of my family and time.
- I use cloth diapers. This does not mean I make my own baby food or sew all her clothing. Some moms can do it all, I can’t, I chose which one mattered more to me.
- I do daily maintenance on my house, but I rarely do a deep clean. That means my house is a few steps above dirty but will most likely never sparkle. I’m okay with that. I’d rather spend the time reading with a latte or glass of wine depending on when I can steal twenty minutes.
- I go to therapy. This is a practice of care for my heart and marriage that I will do for the rest of my life. I believe in it, for the healthy, for the sick, and for everyone in between. We all need perspective, validation and a safe place to hear the truth. I’m committed and plan on doing it with my kids when their older.
These are things I don’t do–they are valuable to me, and I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make them work, but they just don’t in this season in my life.
Accepting I can’t have/do it all has decreased my stress and disappointment immensely!
Things I don’t do:
- Garden. I love gardening. It brings amazing satisfaction to eat something that you’re brought out of the earth, however it’s a narrow window of planting and most Februarys sneak by me, and it hasn’t happened and I am learning to accept that. I don’t do it.
- I don’t shop at farmers markets or the specialty grocery stores because they’re not conveniently located for me. I used to drive out of the way to hit up a whole foods or trader joes, and at one point was part of a really great food co-op. The timing and stress however was too much, and do now I don’t.
- I don’t iron.
- I don’t attend exercise classes–I love the Revelation Wellness community and find it to be a great place to work my body and spirituality. However the timing with attending classes never works out. In fact, attending any classes, anywhere, at any gym, does not work out. So instead I move my body in ways and with a schedule that does. I miss it, but I don’t do it.
- I don’t volunteer. I spent most of my twenties volunteering on the side in some capacity. It’s been a hard thing to give up, but I can’t do it in this season of my life without it eating away at something else that’s important.
- I don’t attend church. Church is a tricky thing for my husband and I; We believe that it can be good, that finding community to do life with is meaningful and necessary, yet haven’t found a church in which we both wish to practice that within. Some Sundays I miss it, some Sundays I feel guilty for not going since it was a practice I grew up with. Yet it doesn’t work for us now, maybe someday, maybe never. We don’t do it.
- I don’t meditate. I’ve tried so many different methods. It makes me anxious. I used to analyze why and now I simply accept that it’s okay that I don’t do it right now as long as I still learn how to quiet my head and heart. This is usually happens while I’m reading, running or cooking.
- I don’t host garage sales. I know that I could make money, but it’s energy and time I can’t, so instead I make monthly trips to the Goodwill with things we don’t need.
- I don’t craft much. I love throwing parties and creating pretty things, but I’ve had to let go of doing everything myself. That means I buy things online or hire someone else to help. I recently made some burlap curtains for my backyard and the whole time found myself swearing under my breath–while I saved us money, I wasted so much time and energy. I’m not doing that anymore.
I love Nieqist’s approach and would encourage you, wherever you’re at in your life, to create some space to focus on whatever is important, perhaps letting go of much. It’s working for me, find what works for you. Let there be grace and freedom to expand and retreat and to live the life that truly protects your heart and family.