I watched my ten year old daughter dance on a big stage this weekend, surrounded by the daughters of about twenty other mothers.
All the dancers had worked all year for their big moment in the spotlight, their chance to spin and jump and take up all the space they could.
It was heart-breakingly beautiful.
I stood in the audience with one of my best friends as we watched our girls practice their routines in full costume at the dress rehearsal on Saturday. This particular friend holds most of my stories and knows my heart better than most. We have watched each other mothering our collective nine children over the last several years. We tend to ebb and rise in complementary cycles; when she is weak, I can be strong. When I am overwhelmed and paralyzed, she lets herself into my house and cleans my kitchen while I am at work. She knows where everything belongs.
I turned to her as our girls were taking the stage and said, “I really love watching them do this. You know, most of their lives will probably be filled with taking care of other people, like ours are. But I hope they always remember what it feels like to dance because they love it and it feels good. But…I don’t know if that’s how it works. They will probably turn out to be adults like they see us being adults. When was the last time you did something for the joy of it?”
The house lights came on before she could really respond.
I bet she didn’t really want to respond anyway.
I keep spinning that conversation around and around in my head.
I don’t know when it happened. I guess it happened slowly, one baby at a time, one day at a time. I never meant to wait ten years to make time to write, it just happened. I didn’t mean to become a person who neglects her needs and wants, it just happened. I didn’t mean to become so bound to an untouchable ideal that now when I choose to sit and type instead of folding these towels and cleaning out the refrigerator I can’t take a deep breath and enjoy it because I am constantly having to talk myself out of closing the laptop and getting back to real work. I’m telling you that I literally have an anxious knot in my stomach as I sit here and type, even though I have already worked all day, even though all my children are happy and accounted for.
When did taking a half an hour to write start to feel like a radical act of self care?
I remember the story of Creation in Genesis. It’s a good story. Every time God creates something new, he seems to lean back on his heels and marvel at it. It’s good. It’s good. It’s good. You get the sense that God’s creative work is bringing him joy first, even before Adam and Eve take a breath and start to make something of themselves. The ocean is good, deep breath and a smile. The animals are good, crossed arms over chest and grin.
I am noticing a shift in my spirit, a call to noticing myself in a new way because it’s getting easier to believe God really does love me. I feel like the theology I absorbed when I was younger came with some side effects I am still unpacking. It really was nice back then, don’t get me wrong. I love a formula and a system and an answer to every question under the sun as much as the next Evangelical. But I think it may be time for me to start trying to dissect some of the lessons I learned about what God wants for me as a person, this time through the filter of God’s affection for me. I am getting to know God better, I think, and one thing that is becoming clearer and clearer is that I am loved. I can’t tell you how I know it for sure. But I know that the more I lean into practicing God’s presence, the more beloved I can believe I am.
There was a time that I would have laughed at a woman for writing that paragraph. Suck it up, buttercup. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Get busy. But I did suck it up and I did get busy and now I am tired and I can’t anymore.
So here I am, hands open now. I’m determined to learn how to live whole while my kids are still watching, because I know they will do as I do, and not as I say. And driving them to seventy four activities a week isn’t enriching their lives much if their example is me toiling endlessly and never enjoying. I love to write. When a month goes by and I haven’t created anything, you can be sure I am not ok.
I don’t want my daughter to feel like this when she is thirty five. I want her to see herself from the beginning the way I am learning to see myself in tiny little ways now. One little change I know I need to make is putting down my phone and picking up a book. I love to read and my phone stresses me out. I also need to go for walks with friends, because it makes me happy. I need to make time to write, because it feels good.
I love hearing from people who read my words. If this post resonated with you, I would love to hear about the ways you are learning to be nurtured, too.