I've figured out something since I've got sick a few years ago. And it has to do with life and work and family and "balancing" all those pieces.
It all came to a head the other day when I opened a magazine that I receive and read a short article describing a day in a particular woman's life. This half-page article is run every month and is designed to illustrate "balance" in a working-outside-the-home woman's life by giving a sample "day" in one woman's life.
The woman in this month's article woke at 5am to go to spinning class, came home and put her children on the bus for school, went to work from 9am to 8pm, ate dinner with only her husband (rarely her children), tucked her children into bed, and pulled out her laptop and worked until midnight (or later). This woman freely admitted that her current schedule is 'exhausting' but that 'it works for her'.
Really? I wondered. Does it really work?
Is that a good exhausted - as in "I'm-so-happy-with-my-life-and-I-am-so-fulfilled" exhausted or is that a "Ohhh-I'm-so-tired-I-can't-stand-it" exhausted? I'm betting it's the latter and she just hasn't gotten around to figuring that out.
We all have moments in our life when we have to push extra hard to get through a particularly demanding season of life. Those things end up being fulfilling even if in the middle they're exhausting. I'm not talking about those moments.
I'm talking about waking up one morning and thinking, "What in the world am I doing?" with a huge sick feeling of dread in the pit of your stomach and not wanting to move forward at all. Because you just can't. Because you have no purpose for doing what you're doing every single day and you're sick of it.
For years, I had an idea that I was going to be a high-powered research scientist and professor, cleverly balancing several research grants, a lab full of workers, the classes I'm teaching and travel involved with being a high-powered research scientist. In addition to this I was going to have a high-powered husband - a well-renowned cancer doctor - and a houseful of well-behaved, perfectly groomed children. Did I mention that I was going to be superbly physically fit and well groomed too?
Once you stop laughing (go ahead, I give you permission!), you can see just how absurd this idea was.
Yes, there are the very, very rare people who can pull these things off. But they are rare. Very, very rare. That's why we hear about them. Most of us just don't have their stamina, organizational skills or internal metabolism to keep up with that for a prolonged amount of time.
Over the last few years I've realized once and for all that that whole package isn't what I want.
Not by a long shot.
I want time and space and fulfillment.
Not running around like a chicken, lacking in relationships and having a hoard of things to take care of.
By all accounts we are a very busy family.
2 of us work full-time-plus jobs/careers.
All 4 of us are in school.
We are active in our Church community - beyond Sunday mornings.
We have a house and yard to maintain.
We have the children in a couple of extra-curricular activities.
My husband and I exercise regularly - and I teach Jazzercise.
All of that equals busy.
It is busy but it's busy for a purpose. Something outside of ourselves. The seasons of my husband and I being in school are temporary. We are willing to do this for a time to get where we believe God is calling us to be.
I know that I do not want to be a high-powered faculty researcher anymore.
I know that my husband is not going to be the high-powered cancer doctor that he had intended to be when I married him.
I know that my house will never be perfectly clean or decorated and that my children will comb their own hair and dress themselves, whether I want them to or not.
I know that we will all do things that aren't perfect or even just worthy of recognition every day of our lives.
After reading that article, and getting a sick feeling in my stomach that I had almost ended up where that woman is, I realized something:
I am finally okay with all that I know about where our lives will be headed.
And I have a much better idea of what I don't want.
And what I do want.
And I'm okay with all of that.
Even if it isn't what I wanted 15 years go.
How about you?