Seriously. I had big ideas.
What is going on in my head when I think up stuff like this? I mean, what part of my logic do I have to willingly or unconsciously turn off to make incredibly detailed mental lists like these? By now I know myself pretty well. Me, myself, and I have been together close to four decades. I don't know this ol' gal completely yet, but way better than I once did. Yet I still find myself capable of the most outlandish self-expectations. I wish the part of me that knows me a little better could've talked some sense to the one making the lists. "Come on, girl. Don't do this to us. I know you mean well. I know you like a list or thinking up a system with uber structure and maximum organization...in theory. But that's not where we live. Remember? Remember how given you are to flights of fancy? Remember how you like to get a feel for the day and let it unfold within a more basic structure? Remember how much you want to learn to live fully in moments and not always be trying to anticipate the next one? Remember, girl?"
I didn't remember. I had big ideas. And I wouldn't have listened to me because something about all those lists and ideas felt like the "right thing to do", the responsible mom thing to do. They also felt like the way to head off conflict or stress or boredom or laziness or squandered time or distraction. If I could just put up the right framework then we would build the Best Summer Ever. Blech. Yuck. Holy perfectionist streak, Batman.
In a late-night summer coffee date my friend Donna and I were talking about trying to "get out in front of" things (her well-chosen words, not mine). It's the idea that we could outrun a thing - especially a hard thing - and hopefully get to the point of impact first to either stop the collision or brace ourselves and somehow buffer the crash. We were talking about it in reference to much more serious situations in our lives than summer schedules, but I realize now that all of my big ideas were a whole lot less about having the Best Summer Ever and a whole lot more about getting out in front of a potentially hard summer; less fueled by love and more by fear.
I think summertime is tough. The kids being home all day everyday is tricky for me. Their ages span eight years, from kindergarten to high school. There's rarely a moment that the three kids all want to do or watch or eat the same things. What works in scheduling the youngest two doesn't always work for the oldest. The middle child feels himself shape shifting between identifying with the youngest and wanting to identify with the oldest. They're all so different, and rightfully so as little individuals with their own design. I'm an empathizer, very often trying to read beyond words and body language into the mood of a person or room full of people and then make the necessary adjustments to increase the comfort level. That's not always a wise goal and doesn't bear out so great in my own person, but it is what it is. That's hard work with the four of us home each day together. My goal is peace and love. Six-, eight-, and fourteen-year-olds have slightly different goals. I find that hard to balance. So my big idea was to outrun conflict. If I structured us just right, maybe I could do it. Maybe I could get out in front of fights and irritations and yelling and whining and boredom and hunger...within me...and possibly even the kids.
Yeah. It didn't work. Or it didn't happen, I should say. Schedules are great tools. They really are. And in the hands of someone else, all my big ideas might've been phenomenal and yielded huge, happy days. But for me those ideas, those schedules, were just a shield up to not accidentally fall into feeling anything but complete joy, contentment, and gratitude for every moment of everyday. I wanted to leave no room for the unpredictable. My big ideas weren't about planning ahead as much as they were about outrunning the unplanned. Boy, that sounds realistic, doesn't it? And exhausting.
We did find a rhythm. It was a whole lot different than what I expected and happened in a far more grounded, collaborative way than my frenetic, solitary idea-storming in May. The summer was good, really full of goodness. And, not without irony, we sort of hit our groove about three weeks before school started on August 3rd. Ain't that the way sometimes?
I'm trying to grasp the takeaway from the Summer of the Busted Big Ideas. I think it's this: stop trying to outrun the day-to-day living for fear of the unknown, or even the known hard thing. Yeah, it's a live-in-the-now kind of lesson. Sometimes it's hard to plan ahead, and sometimes it's a lot harder to stay in the moment. I don't always know how to decipher which instance is a better-plan-ahead moment or which is a stay-in-this-moment-or-you'll-miss-something one. It feels a little like a riddle. But I know I don't want to live the days grasping for control because I don't like feeling out of control or afraid. I don't want to be bracing myself or others for potential pain. I've just got to live today, and try to help my husband and kids to. I need that as much in the school year as I do in the summer. Summers can be tough, but so can school years.
This school year, I don't want to try to outrun:
a bad day
somebody hurting my kid's feelings
my kid making a wrong choice
a low grade
too much homework
a busy extracurricular schedule
a broken heart...
...because if I do I may miss:
the really good days
mercy, forgiveness, grace
setting personal goals and reaching them
accountability and growth
excitement and fun
friendships deepened and new friendships-in-the-making
hearts full of love.
So note to self: make a plan if it fosters freedom, but not out of fear. Run in fields like a liberated soul, but don't run ahead lobbying for control. Let's just see what today brings...
Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. - Matthew 6:34