While our extended family gathers today to celebrate Thanksgiving, we are home today. The stomach flu hit our house Monday night. Sweet Grace fell first. Scott is down and out today. I thought I’d be really upset about missing it on Monday when I realized the probable timing of the next bout of illness, but I’m oddly grateful. I am glad we are all home, safe and warm. I am grateful I can take care of Scott and the kids. I am looking forward to a lazy day in our pajamas, drinking tea and watching movies; it’s not so bad.
We push and pull and try to force the events of our lives into what we want; we believe we know best—we know how things are supposed to go. But there are times life has other plans for us. This is when life asks us for relentless gratitude. We have to work to find the things for which to be grateful.
Last weekend, we were in downtown Detroit at the Fox Theater to see The Grinch and there were some road closures. The roads we normally take to get onto the expressway were blocked off so we had to follow Siri’s recalculations and admit that forces more powerful than our own had insight to a better route, even if it wasn’t the way we thought we should take. Of course that magical robot voice got us safely to our destination. We just had to acquiesce.
Today is another opportunity to find contentment in the imperfect. Life is not predictable. It’s not always a party or a feeling of being swept off your feet with excitement, sometimes it’s just ugly! But ironically, the inconsistency is the steady. Change is sure. And when we can learn to appreciate the joy to be found in the present full of its bumps, bruises and imperfections, when we stop fighting reality versus our expectations, we’re going to understand the true definition of joy.
My mom and dad are celebrating 39 years of marriage today. I don’t know if anyone can attest to the truth of these sentiments better than they can. My dear mom, who is undergoing treatment for metastatic breast cancer, who fights to wear her smile every day and my dad who is there to hold her hand and fights to give her reasons to smile, you both inspire me and Scott so much.
When you think everything is lost in your life because something didn’t go the way you’d planned, you need to look at what’s there, not what you lost. The things that are meant to be ours will be and that is where our joy lies. Pursue your joy relentlessly. Dig deep to find the blessings because they are always there.
I wish you and yours a blessed Thanksgiving.
“You know those times you nearly fall to your knees under the heavy relief of overwhelming gratitude for the richness of your life—even though things aren’t perfect and never will be? Even when you still have problems and worries and always will? How I pray you know those sustaining moments well. If not lately and soon, then eventually and surely. You can build a big, beautiful life on those cornerstone moments. How relentlessly I wish them for you.” – Jodie Utter (http://Utterimperfection.com)
It was 7:40. Grace was lying on my pillow scrolling photos on my phone by National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen. Scott was getting ready for work and the boys were making themselves breakfast. Grace was asking me about neoprene suits and how well they work in the cold water and I was smiling to myself like, “Oh yeah, isn’t this what every six- year-old girl wonders about first thing Monday morning?”
Lazily, I rolled out of bed to get her moving. She’s always our poky one in the mornings. I envisioned how the day would go…get her breakfast, help the kids pack their lunches, trudge through the snow to the bus stop, send them on their way, and come home to work on a blog post and an exercise routine for a class tomorrow.
I went out into the living room and somehow my mood flipped from enthusiasm to annoyance. My eyes zeroed in on piles of things everywhere; a stack of drawings scattered across the countertop where Luke had been illustrating his latest comic. The sink was full of dirty dishes. Art supplies covered the kitchen table, a tube of caulk and some allen wrenches were next to the stove from a few repairs Scott had done yesterday. Piles of laundry flanked the washing machine. The kids’ snow gear heaped haphazardly in the back hallway…I looked at the clock. Almost 8:00. The kids needed to be out the door in 45 minutes. I was still in pajamas and my breath smelled like the inside of a garbage can. The shape of my beautifully imagined day was changing before my eyes.
Scott came into the room with a MUSTACHE. I could picture him carefully sculpting it in the bathroom while all these things needed to get done. Unfortunately for him, my resentment had found its target.I began flippantly swishing papers from the counter and making sarcastic jabs about how useful it would be to have a tube of caulk next to the stove for tonight’s dinner.
Obviously, you know where this was headed… Mustachioed Scott left the house annoyed with me and probably slightly disappointed that after his precise shaving I wasn’t as amused as him. (It looks creep-tastic, sweetheart. Nice work! I’d definitely feel compelled to pat you down at airport security).
Anyway, usually I feel so fortunate to be able to work from home. I mean, how many people can say their office includes a fireplace and Christmas tree? The problem is when I have a long list of things I want to accomplish using my creativity, and I get sidetracked by laundry, dishes, oh and who will make dinner? That’s right: Me.
But this is the life I wanted, right?Pursue my dreams while being a mom/homemaker. So why is this so frustrating when it’s everything I wanted? As I sit here and think about Grace suiting up in rubbery neoprene, diving into a frigid arctic ocean, I ask myself, would I want her to feel guilty if the laundry isn’t done before she goes out to photograph polar bears and narwhals? Or will I want Luke to make sure all the dishes are done before he sits down to work on his latest New York Times best selling YA graphic novel?
I want my kids to chase their dreams with reckless abandon. AND I want them to be independent and live the life they want to, not the life I want them to. If they have to live off of takeout for weeks because they don’t have time to grocery shop, please God, just let them think to eat a salad here or there. If they wear wrinkled clothes because they didn’t get to fold laundry that day, I hope it was because they were struck with inspiration that just couldn’t wait. I want them to live life on their terms. I realize this isn’t very “Midwestern conservative” of me. But I don’t want my kids to live their lives for me.
That being said, I will teach them how to do laundry. Noah might be a little disappointed this year to find Santa’s bag of tricks will include his very own laundry basket and some laundry detergent. But I am going to teach my kids how to be independent. Some parents feel this isn’t fair because it denies your kids their childhood. But believe me when I say, my children are never deprived their time to do their creative activities. My messy house proves this. But they will have the tools to be adults even though I want them to live a life with childlike curiosity.
Similarly, I need to make my own peace with not being the mom my mother was. She was a saint to have dinner on the table every night in a tidy house. But it made her feel pressure to put her aspirations of being an artist on the back burner until we were grown and moved out. I am so glad she finally makes time in her week to paint. She is wildly talented and my only regret for her is that she felt too guilty to do it sooner.
My mom isn’t the only one who sacrificed her dreams. My dad wanted to be a photographer at one point in his life, but decided to stick with being a builder because it provided better for his family. We have to make these tough choices at times but I guess the point I’m trying to make is, don’t abandon your dreams entirely. Always make time for your passion. When we live a life out of obligation, we get burnt out. We must “adult” for a good portion of our days, but you do yourself a disservice when you stifle your creativity.
Creativity is the thing that sets us apart from every other living thing on the planet. Why would God give us a desire to create if it wasn’t important? It’s what makes us more magical than narwhals and polar bears! They can’t paint or play guitar or grow creepy mustaches, but we can! It’s our gift from God to make this life tolerable. It’s the fun we get to have! He wants us to play! He wants us to live for joy, not for big mansions with sculpted lawns that are afforded by repressing every stitch of creative expression we’ve ever had.
Yes, we must survive, but how important is it for us to work ourselves into the ground, because ultimately, people, that is where we all end up. The only question we are left to ask ourselves on that last day of life is, “Did I enjoy the ride?”
So here I am, typing away, my passion, my heart, and soul in my favorite way—written word. In this moment, my creativity is more important than cleaning and that’s fine. No one will suffer for it. And don’t do what I did this morning and blame someone else for your refusal to get out of the way of the arbitrary rules you place on yourself.
My fireplace is on and I am actively avoiding that sink full of dishes so I can share this good news with you: LIVE YOUR LIFE WITH JOY, NOT OBLIGATION.
Happy Monday, you beautiful, creative, expressive being! Go do THAT!
Since April, I’ve had the privilege of writing weekly blog posts for the gym I work at, STS Active. The month of November is all about gratitude and I felt this one was a good reminder for anyone, even people who aren’t avid fitness buffs, and emphasizes the importance exercising for the right reasons.
For many of us, walking into a gym can cause instant anxiety. Thoughts like, “Wow, why is everyone so thin and toned?” or “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to benchpress that much weight,” and a thousand other insecurities bubble up to the surface when we see so many people exerting themselves physically and looking good doing it. But the worst thing we can do is compare our journey to someone else’s. They might be in the middle of theirs and it’s hardly fair to compare day one to day one hundred.
In fact, you might get to day one hundred and find that you still aren’t as thin/toned/strong as the person next to you. But do we ever stop to consider that maybe our bodies are just built for different things? While genetics play a huge part in our physical make-up, there are also parts of us that no amount of squats, push ups, crunches or chin ups are going to change completely.
Our bodies are not meant to all look the same. They are a conduit for doing good works. And everyone’s work is different. In other words, our bodies are not our offering to the world. The deeds we do, the words we say, our ability to lift each other up through intention and action are the bigger point of it all. So it’s all right if your thighs always touch no matter how many squats you do. Those legs work and you can use them to get you from point A to point B. It’s ok if you can never lift 200 pounds. Your arms are more useful helping your elderly neighbor carry in her groceries when you see her struggling.
Exercise is what we can do to help maintain our bodies and allow us the capacity to keep doing good in the world because good health usually means a longer life. Showing respect for your body by taking care of it is actually a gift not only to you, but to everyone whose life you touch. When we take care of ourselves, we are able to live a better quality life and provide a better quality of life to others as a result.
Taking care of your health by eating well and exercising is the best way you can honor you body and show gratitude for yourself. Prioritizing your health is showing those who care about you that you value not only yourself but them as well so they don’t need to worry about you.
Working out can feel like a challenge or a chore, but if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you to help you become the best version of yourself that you can offer the world around you. But we can’t get crazy over the end result. Everyone’s version of “healthy” will look a little different depending on who is wearing it. Just find your fit and keep at it. Honor yourself by taking care of yourself.
“Stop spending all day obsessing, cursing, perfecting your body like it’s all you’ve got to offer the world. Your body is not your art, it’s your paintbrush. Whether your paintbrush is a tall paintbrush or a thin paintbrush or a stocky paintbrush or a scratched up paintbrush is completely irrelevant. What is relevant is that you have a paintbrush which can be used to transfer your insides onto the canvas of your life — where others can see it and be inspired and comforted by it.” —Glennon Doyle