About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Thursday
Aug282014

Why we all need summers off

Our whole business therefore in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart, whereby God may be seen."

-St. Augustine of Hippo 


When I first met my husband and asked him why he was a teacher, he said he wanted to someday have a family, and to have the summers off to enjoy them.

I was so impressed by his answer- by the forethought and intentionality in his choice, and what it said about his priorities.

I was also impressed by the way his muscles looked in the "Jesus surfs without a board" t-shirt he was wearing at the time.

 

There are a lot of other things my husband would have been good at doing, things that make more money than teaching, and are still altruistic in intent, but he chose a profession with a mind towards time off-towards play and enjoyment and investing in family and pushing the reset button and clearing the eye and challenging the cult of productivity.

Because of this, if we are intentional, (I have to add this caveat because it doesn't happen automatically), the summer is one big exhalation.

 

It's golden time. Precious time.  It's the let down and the expansion into unscheduled space and unchoreographed days.  

It is the release of the early morning hustle to get to school, the freedom from the carpool line, the daily unpacking of backpacks, the push to get homework done, the making of the on time dinner so that baths can be on time, and bedtime can be on time, so that next morning can be on time.

Summer is the wide open white space on the calendar.

It's the delicious luxury of saying "no" and sleeping in and watching movies late into the night and drinking more than two beers (this is a two beer household) on, say, a Wednesday.

It's lingering outside after dinner on the patio just to watch the tree in our neighbor's yard turn a fiery chartreuse, backlit by a hazy indigo sky. 

It's bike-riding home from listening to a local band in the town square, all of us whooping into the wide empty streets, giddy with the darkness and the banishing of bedtimes.

 

It's one deep breath after another, and we need it.  

Kim John Payne, in his book, "Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids,"  says that without those golden summer moments, we live in a state of emotional asthma-you can breathe in, but you can't breathe out.

 

I know it's unrealistic to take an entire summer off, even teachers often work through their summers to compensate for the lower paycheck (as we have done before), and on top of that, the U.S. is ranked as the lowest advanced economy in even offering paid leave; but according to a recently released study called "Overwhelmed America: Why Don't We Use Our Paid Time-Off?" by Travel Effect, an initiative of the U.S.Travel Association, 40% of Americans don't even use the paid leave we do get!


So if it can't be summer, maybe this year use up the vacation time you do get?  Or if you don't have that at your disposal, maybe give yourself a Saturday or a Sunday where you don't do anything?  Or even one hour one evening where you sit and watch the sunset, without your phone next to you "just in case?"

Or (something I am convicted on), try not picking up your phone when you're in traffic or the carpool line; try doing nothing but sitting.  I can barely do this tiny amount of "time off."  I fidget like crazy. There are so many things I could be catching up on! 

 

At first it will feel terrible.

You'll probably go through withdrawal.

You'll be gasping for air, wondering what the hell to do with yourself.

 

I know this because it's been two summers in a row now that I haven't blogged and haven't had much of an online presence, and at first I just feel awful.

 

I feel irrelevant, like if nobody knows what I'm doing, does what I'm doing matter?  

Or, if I don't post something on my blog at least once a week, will people just stop reading forever?

Or, if I don't have anything to say when somebody asks me what I did last weekend, then am I a social dud with a totally boring existence?

All of these questions, when you get down under them and examine their pale white bellies, are about significance, right? Significance based upon productivity?  

As long as I can prove I'm doing something, and talk about it or show pictures, then I have identity and I matter?

 

It's good to have these questions.  It means you are doing (or not doing) something right. It should feel like you've lost yourself a little.

Losing yourself is good for you.

It's actually what this life is all about: losing yourself to find yourself.

 

Doing less, whether it's five minutes, one hour, a day off, a vacation, or an entire summer, challenges the locus of self. 

And I think it's important to deliberately force this challenge upon ourselves with regularity.

Because you see what happens when we never challenge SELF, SELF grows unchecked, and it gets HUGE. So huge that it just dominates everything.

The all-powerful "I" overshadows the eye, and everything gets cloudy and out of perspective.

 

But when you take a breather, when you slow down and stop producing, the world stops spinning!

No, not really. The world spins along just fine, you just cease to be at the center of it.

Gravity shifts, you get nauseous, it's awful, and then, all of a sudden, you realize you are breathing again.

Really, truly, taking deep breaths, where you can feel your chest expand and contract; you'll actually notice the act of taking in air.  

Which is usually a sign that you are beginning to relax and let go and just BE.

 

We need breathing room. 

Or should we call it Beeeething room (nods the wise sage).

It clears the air.

And then we can see again.

 

Because breathing and seeing go hand in hand.

Stands to reason if you are noticing your breath, you are paying attention to other things too-like the person right in front of you, or the way the light looks filtering down through the trees in your front yard. 

The eye of your heart is clear.

And you can see a piece of God in everything, including yourself.

 

Reader Comments (2)

I've missed your voice- literally but more, in words. You have a beautiful way of expressing yourself and sharing your wisdom. You know when I moved to a place where I could sit on a porch and DO nothing but BE everything, people thought I fell off the earth. Maybe so. But I landed in a good place. And so have you.
I'm proud of you for leading the way, for swimming upstream in a image and productivity culture. And I know how productive you are within your family -when you have to be. But it's a precious season when you can revel in the goodness of deep breaths. It will create memories for six lifetimes, possibly create more little fish willing to swim upstream, against the current.
Blessings on your family, my friend.

September 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

Well, well, well said, my friend. Glad you're back ;-)

September 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSista Abby

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