Live a Life of Joy, Not Obligation

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Artwork by my unbelievably talented mother, Cindy Rashid, who makes time to create beautiful watercolor paintings instead of living in a perfectly spotless house. (Love you, Mom)

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? 

HELL NO.

  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!

2 thoughts on “Live a Life of Joy, Not Obligation

  1. In short, we are happy doing what we Love wether it’s work, play or creating.

    Words to Live By Angel!

    Love always,

    Dad

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