“”No man can live without joy” is what Thomas Aquinas wrote. And I confess, it is true, I have known many dead waiting to die”.[i]
Here I sit, fireside, in a leather chair, sipping my Starbucks. I haven’t seen my husband or children in 24 hours. I’ve interacted only with total strangers, a silent hotel room, a cab driver, and the wait staff at the hotel restaurant.
That gift-giving big heart of a man booked me this night away with belly swollen and just weeks from its time to give birth. I envisioned relaxation and hours upon hours to myself to finally catch up. To finally get a chance to do what I never seem to have time for (whatever that may be).
Since the time he dropped me off yesterday, my mind has been spinning and whirling and not quite sure where to stop. In truth, this little getaway has been strangely difficult. A wrestling, of sorts.
I confess, I spent most of my time yesterday just flitting around from one thing to another. I went on facebook, I watched at least an hour of natural birth videos on youtube, I downloaded Uno onto my ipod and never played it. I read a book, some posts from my google reader, had dinner by myself, and flipped through TV channels mindlessly until I had the sense to just turn it off altogether. I sat in that king-sized bed surrounded by mounds of white fluffy pillows, wearing just my hubby’s t-shirt (At 37 weeks pregnant? Yeah.) until I fell asleep knowing I wasn’t going to be wakened by anything other than the little one dancing on my bladder.
In these mothering-the-little-years-life I often find myself thinking that if only I just had more time to myself, more hours in a day, more focus on my own wants and needs, then I could be a better mother, a better wife. More organized, less behind on everything. I was certain that I would be more patient, wiser, and happier. A veritable trifecta of Mrs. Brady, Martha Stewart, and Mother Theresa.
My days are ever hemmed in by a load of darks and load of whites and a load of colors. The towels and linens, the dirty diapers, and by the time all is washed (sometimes twice when left overnight accidentally), dried, folded, and put away, the hamper is overflowing again and the work is never ever done. When is there time for me sit and relax? To get my daily dose of joy and fulfillment by finally catering to myself after a day of servanthood?
I’ve never been away before with solely my own self for company. I felt the need to pretend. To act like it was all old hat to me. “I’m not just a housewife that spends her days within four walls with (almost) 3 children aged 3 and under, wiping boogers and bums, sweeping crumbs from the eternally-dirty dining room floor” I wanted to shout. I am important! I am more than that! Heaven forbid anyone scoffingly see through my stylish maternity cropped trench coat and cute bag to know that all I am is a mere servant with raisins and baby wipes at the bottom of my purse: the antithesis of vogue sophistication.
In truth my insides were screaming at me to notice. To wake up and realize that more me-time is not the answer. “How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it!” wrote G.K. Chesterton, and I see the truth in this. I am not ashamed of my servant-status, my resumé of changing diapers and soothing babies to sleep and sharing in the delight of a puddle-splashing preschooler.
The self is small and I am glad and my heart burns with the knowledge that I am exactly what I need to be to fully receive joy.
As I wrestled with my own soul and my expectations for this time away, I found myself humbled by my temptation to pretend. I’m not a savvy business traveler, nor a career woman with a company credit card. I can try to play that part, but my fumbling fingers as I reach first for the cab’s front door then clumsily change my mind and switch to the back door likely gave me away (as did my basketball-sized abdomen).
I don’t know proper cab etiquette and I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m not in control of this wild and unnoticed life.
If I seek peace and joy by fulfilling myself and my own ambitions I will not find it. Not in a million nights of hotel getaways, and not in unrestricted free time to myself. It is not in the fancy champagne brunch (champagne-less for the swollen-bellied), nor the designer coffee beverage that I slowly sip, uninterrupted. The American Dream (Mother’s Edition) of housekeeper, cook, and nanny cannot offer it either.
It turns out that moments of peace and quiet, away from the daily grind do not bring true peace if one is running away. Peace must be found in the very life that is lived and breathed, not the moments in between.
I sit here with myself for company, and I realize this. I did not leave in order to get away. I came in order to step back and renew my perspective. To see with fresh eyes the joy that awaits when I walk back in that front door and back into the daily grind.
This was not a getaway, it was a coming-to, and I see the joy that is present in my mundane and precious life within those four sacred walls. In the midst of snotty-nosed kiddos that whine and breakdown on the kitchen floor because I wouldn’t let them push their chairs up too close to the stove while I stand with aching back and tired feet and the endless cycle of meal-making for my beautiful babies and husband. There is joy in that life and I whisper my thanks to the Gift-Giver for these beautiful gifts.
I’ll see them again in just a few hours with smiles wide and hugs and kisses freely given. I’ll inwardly gasp for breath in gratitude as I haul my toddler up on my hip with belly large, and I’ll choose joy, and I will know:
I’m just living the dream, baby. Living the dream.
[i] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts, pg. 177.
I’ve been a silent stalker of your blog for a few weeks now, and thought I should say hi. 🙂 And now I’m going to do the tackiest thing EVER…this post reminded me of one I wrote this week . Don’t get me wrong – you have a precise eloquence I love but don’t have…So I’m not saying mine is as beautiful as this one, but it’s the same idea! (http://smarttereachday.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/is-this-the-good-life-why-you-should-enjoy-but-not-too-much-having-little-ones/) And ps, I’m so curious why “Red and Honey”? Perhaps you explain the title somewhere I missed…:)
This is so poignant, as I sit alone at Starbucks (on the other side of the world), seeking some time for myself, getting some work done, but desperately waiting for the moment İ walk in my home and Hug my precious snotty little boy. Thanks for sharing your heart! Living the dream in Turkey,
Wow, thanks so much for sharing. I love so much that this idea resonates with you, a mama all the way across the ocean. Being content with where we are and loving our home life seems to be a universal ideal! Welcome to this space, Priscilla, it’s good to have you. xo.
This is a great post, Beth. A good reminder to all of us to recognize what is good in all of our lives, instead of thinking that we won’t be happy unless we escape. Love your writing.
I get the missing of children when before I so desperately wanted a break. I guess that is the point!:)
As for this stage- I think having multiple kids under four is the TOUGHEST exhaustion and guilt wise and I have to now say having my kids range from 5- 9 that I am LOVIN it more than ever before. It’s harder in some ways but easier with the guilt for sure! I am amazed looking back I survived as best as I did. We have ridiculous ideals in our culture of what motherhood should be!I recommend : Perfect Madness- motherhood in the age of anxiety.There are many non traditional ways to raise a family. If you feel great at the traditional mostly power to you…but for those who love to be the breadwinners as women or those who don’t cook ( like me) there is no guilt in that either…I know you were not saying that but I wanted to say it for anyone who comes across my comment:)Martha stewart went to jail, Mrs Brady offered too trite of advice for todays world, and Mother Teresa could only have done what she did while being single! While I admire these ladies in various ways I think they have nothing on the typical mother. There are so many ways to live a good life. None of us can be it all. We can just give our love, our nurturance and our gifts the best that we can…which is why I have a bit of a problem with Anne’s book. While the gratitude is important we can’t be thinking of it all the time because then we live in guilt and “I shoulds” We also have to live in the grind and sob and get angry. That is part of teaching our children too!:)
P.S. I forgot to mention ( because I got side tracked with passion) That this WAS a beautiful heartfelt post.
Glad you are finding your joy and I am genuinely happy for you. I think you are a great mom!
My comment about Mrs. Brady etc. was really more tongue-in-cheek, not that I actually aspire to being exactly like those ladies. That being said, I totally get what you’re saying about there being many ways to be a good mom (at least I think that’s what you were saying…)
Just curious – did you actually read One Thousand Gifts? (I mean that honestly, not snarkily)… because I don’t think that was the message of the book at all. I actually just finished reading it yesterday, and it definitely addresses those realities.
Yes I did read it:) I know she talked about hardships and such too but for me I found that sometimes when we talk about being grateful all the time we actually forget to simply live it. I found the book not helpful to my journey but I know many who have found it the opposite…and if it can help great! It may have been her writing style too.
This probably has her same concepts but I connect with this better:
“Life is Brutiful. And/Both. That’s the thing. In every moment, things are both awful and good. Our children are healthy, but our friend’s children are not. We got a big promotion at work, but our beloved father is sick and not getting better. We feel blessed to stay home with our kids, but we really want to run away from home sometimes. We feel blessed to work and have good child care, but we miss our kids and feel guilty some days. We have beautiful homes, enough food on the table, and decent health care- but most folks don’t. We have healthy bodies, but we’re ten pound overweight. We have thin bodies, but they won’t work right.
And everybody’s always telling us to BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL and there is something to that. But for me, gratitude comes in moments, all encompassing, out of time moments- Kairos moments- and as a general knowing in the back of my head and heart. Gratitude is not always front and center for me. And I don’t want to be bossed or guilt-ed into gratitude. Life is beautiful, and there is much for which to be grateful. But life is also tough. The big things are tough – like I’m sick, and I’m not getting better, and the little things are tough, like – WHY IS THIS PLAYDOH SO FREAKING HARD TO OPEN? The big and the little stuff get me down. And that’s okay. No need to be grateful all the time. Really, it’s okay to notice the brutal. We can feel it, sit with it, and allow ourselves to acknowledge it. It won’t swallow us up forever, if we let ourselves go there, we’ll eventually see the beautiful again. We don’t have to feel grateful all the time, even if we’re living pretty sweet lives in comparison to the rest of the world. Pain is pain, and we all get the privilege of feeling it.”
Oh that quote was from Glennon over at the Momestry blog:)
Glad you read it before having an opinion – that is one my biggest pet peeves (people disliking books without reading them) 🙂 I get what you’re saying, and I guess it really is just a matter of preference in the way she writes, style, what she emphasizes, etc. For me, the book was amazing, but I know it’s not everyone’s favourite, and that’s ok! Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I love a good discussion!
Beautiful thoughts, Beth, and so beautifully expressed! (Don’t you find when you’ve been reading Ann V. that you start to write like her? 🙂 ) You are such a blessing, you have a rare and valuable gift for expressing what so many feel and lack words. Beautiful, beautiful – life is beautiful when lived joyously in the moment, whatever that particular moment may bring! Bless you and yours today!
Thanks Joy! I try not to write like Ann V necessarily (though I love her style)… I try to just write like me… but I guess that’s just human nature to unconsciously imitate those you admire.
Thank-you so much for you kind words… you are so sweet! xoxo.
The Tea Bag
Thank you for this. Even for a non-mum, this reached a restless touchstone in my core that needed to be paid attention to.
So glad that it resonated with you. I agree, the truth is wider than just the mom-world. Thanks for your comment 🙂
Lovely post, and I do wish that I felt the same! With very little sleep, rare time with hubby, and nonexistent time alone, it is difficult to maintain a sense of peace. Someday 🙂
I so hear you… I empathize. This is a truth that is so hard to remember in the daily grind. Moment by moment is the only way sometimes.
wonderful post! LOVE this quote: “Peace must be found in the very life that is lived and breathed, not the moments in between.” Perfect read for my morning!
Thanks… I’m honoured that my words resonated with you, and I’m so glad to have you here reading 🙂
This is so lovely. I know exactly what you mean. Although, I would also give anything for a little retreat right about now…
Oh do I ever understand the tension… and I will never say that a little retreat now and then is unnecessary 🙂 So long as you don’t do it only to escape your life and seek joy outside of it. Know what I mean?
Another powerful reminder to me (you’re still called to be a servant even when you have adult children!) – and I’m sure a wise challenge to your other readers. Your journey also reminds me of Jacob (in the book of Genesis) who wrestled with God and came away wiser with a renewed understanding of his relationship with God and with others. Love Mom
Thanks Mom. I was reading about Jacob wrestling with God recently as well 🙂
Love, love, love this!
I find myself craving some peace & quiet, some alone time, but the moment I have it I realize that what I really want is the noise & those that come with it. That my joy is in the constant tea parties, dirty diapers, giggles & cries that fill my days & I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tea parties! Why do I always forget about these? I think tomorrow needs a tea party 🙂
Beautiful! I can so relate…
Thanks Margi, xoxo.