What now?

I’m feeling a little lost. I have been waiting for this week for months. For the time and space to do only what I want, when I want, for large chunks of time. But you know what? I miss having a rhythm to my days. Even the relatively unpredictable rhythms of young children. The best description I’ve been able to give is that it feels like I’m clapping off the beat, with that awkward, grasping motion that feels icky. The good news about this image is that I expect I will find the beat, within another chorus or two, and this too will pass.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

1) It helps to have external markers for my days, even if they’re artificial, like I have to get to the store by 10, so that I can start the dish I want to make for dinner before I have to leave to pick up the kids by 2.

2) It’s good to make arrangements to meet with other grownups. As in, I invited E. for coffee this morning so I have to shower and make my bed before 9:00. Not that E. really cares if my bed is made or not, but I know that I do better at housework if company is coming. Also, it’s energizing to me and my writing to be able to talk about it with others.

3) Exercise is important. There is actually a room with exercise machines in my building, but I tend to forget about them. So far, I’ve found two walks that work for me:
a) 20-30 minutes around the block that includes a great view from just above our development, since we live on the side of a big hill;

b) along the beach that could be anywhere from five minutes on the pier to two hours in the hills.
The main thing is that I get outside and move. It’s good for my body and good for my mind.

4) Sleep matters. It is one of my soapbox issues that it is remarkable how little mental illness is apparent in the homeless population considering how little sleep these folks get. I’m working on establishing a regular 10:30-6:30 sleep schedule, which would be great for me. It’s not a coincidence that my worst day this week followed a night when I had to go to the bathroom twice(!) and then one of my kids fell out of bed and woke us all up. Hmm. Unfortunately, I didn’t make the connection until after dinner on that miserable day. Otherwise, maybe I would have taken a nap.

5) Caffeine and food are best taken in moderation.

6) Prayer is a good thing. Sometimes just noticing that I feel anxious is enough to help me settle into a few minutes, or maybe seconds, of silent, eyes-closed, wordless communion. Or contemplation of the beauty that surrounds me, wherever I am. I’m going to try H.W.S.’s recommendation of taking my worries to God and handing them over, as often as necessary. We’ll see how that goes.

7) Writing and reading every day. It’s good for me to see these as work, not just a guilty pleasure.

One piece that I haven’t figured out yet is where or when to volunteer some time to help people with more urgent, practical problems than mine. I walked into the St. Vincent de Paul shop the other day, but I didn’t work up the courage to talk to anyone. I think I will try again on a day when I’ve had more sleep.

The last thing I’m going to work on is some kind of big scheduling calendar, so I can lay out all the projects I’m supposed to catch up on this month and work through them, you know with priorities and resource maps, just like my life was a real job. Because it is.

Helpful and relevant excerpts from Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice, Advices and Queries:

“A life centered in God will be directed toward keeping communication with God open and unencumbered. Simplicity is best achieved through a right ordering of priorities, maintaining humility of spirit, avoiding self-indulgence, resisting the accumulation of unnecessary possessions, and avoiding over-busy lives.”

“John Woolman said, ‘As Christians all we possess are the gifts of God… To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.’ The principle of stewardship applies to all we have and are. As individuals, we are called to use our time, our various abilities, our strength, our money and our material possessions with care, managing them wisely and sharing them generously.”

Do I center my life in an awareness of God’s presence so that all things take their rightful place?

How have I been faithful to the leadings of the Spirit in choosing work or vocation?

What am I doing with my talents, time, money and possessions? Am I sharing them according to the Light I am given?

Do I live simply and promote the right sharing of the world’s bounty?

Do I keep my life uncluttered with things and activities, avoiding commitments beyond my strength and light?

Is my conduct at the workplace consistent with my life as a Friend?

How does my daily work enhance my spiritual life?

How do I strive to maintain the integrity of my inner and outer lives?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for #3 - I'm going to send this and then go outside for a walk and some looking around.



9/14/2007 3:46 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

I hope your walk was pleasant and refreshing. Come back any time!

9/17/2007 12:30 PM  
Blogger kathy said...

Hi Robin, I'm finally catching up on some blog reading this morning and this one reminds me of the era when I stopped working 10 hour days to stay home with my pre-schoolers. It was something I longed for, dreamed about, hoped for and when it came, I thought I was going crazy. I had no idea how such a dramatic change could tilt the world. About the time I finally adjusted, they went to school and I didn't know what to do with myself. As I adjusted to it though, I discovered God again in new and exciting ways. He became very "talkative" in those long quiet days and it was an awesome time spiritually for me. I pray the same for you.

9/19/2007 9:26 AM  
Blogger Nancy A said...

When my kids were little and I finally sprang for daycare (or go nuts), I found I had to structure my day.

I kept a notebook that planned my week so that I never had an empty day. I had people, meetings, excursions, errands, and tasks booked. This helped me to sleep better at night, so my mind was racing to figure out what I needed to do the next day.

Exercise was built into the day. I rose every morning a half hour before the rest of the house, drank a glass of water, and walked 2 km.

I walked to the grocery store after lunch each day with a backpack to pick up odds and sods.

And I went for a late afternoon walk and a quick evening run. I biked or walked everywhere instead of driving.

During the morning, I worked on the things in the notebook till they were done.

In the afternoon, I worked on my dreams. That is how I got my business started.

It can be a bit solitary, even with meetings and friends coming over. But I found that thinking of this time as both a gift and as a task, I was able to focus on accepting the gift and doing the task, whatever it was.

9/19/2007 12:34 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you Kathy and Nancy. I know this experience is not unique, but it's good to hear how other people adjusted. And this week, my mother-in-law is visiting, so at least it's not a solitary time.

9/19/2007 3:08 PM  
Blogger Hystery said...


This post resonates with me. I find that whenever I move between summers when I am a full-time stay-at-home mother and the autumn when I begin teaching part-time, I am all jangled and disjointed as I attempt to wed the expectations of the academic and the domestic worlds. FlyLady helps some but most of the time I am left with the deepening knowledge that for all my tendency toward obsession with the details, life is messy!

9/19/2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Hysterywitch, the FlyLady lost me at the point where you have to wear shoes in the house. I would hate that. Several people I know have referred to her plans for more organized housework, but I don't know any who have really stuck with it. But I liked your blog. Thanks for commenting!

Another friend called this "transition restlessness" and recommended skipping all the things on my to-do list for a few days and just doing the things I'd been dreaming about. Another recalled she had gone through a period of mourning when her youngest child went to school, for her identity as a full-time mother, even though she had been looking forward to the change.

I think the worst thing for me was that I didn't expect to feel lost and sad - I expected to feel free and light-hearted. It's the train you don't see coming that always hurts the worst.

9/24/2007 4:00 PM  

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