I was looking forward to this. No pressing deadlines, not really. No school syllabi with tests, projects and finals due. Long, lazy days kicking back with my children; early-morning coffee watching the sun rise over the garden; driving home at 3 a.m. with the windows down after births in farmhouses.
I’ve done some of that, and it’s been lovely. But in the summer breezes, I’m smelling something about myself, and I’m not sure I like it.
If I am not “busy,” I am not happy. That’s not entirely true; I’m mostly happy kicking back with my children. It’s just I seem to be happier if I’m pressed a little. An empty calendar makes for a grumpy mama.
I know, I know. Something’s wrong with that. I should be OK with having nothing pressing — or at least some people believe so. I probably have some disorder, some pathology that won’t let me exist happily as a human BEING, but only as a human DOING. Probably goes back to some rejected-as-a-child thing that pops up for me from time and time, perhaps compelling me to try to prove I’m worthwhile by accomplishing much.
Aside from whatever internal suffering I do, when things are pressing all the time, my family suffers. For most of the year, my poor children have a barky mom with no wiggle room in the schedule, and that’s a hard row for them to hoe. When I’m pressed with deadlines and projects, I’m less tolerant than my already naturally intolerant self of deviations like spilled milk, butterfly discoveries, schoolwork help or sibling bickering — you know, a child’s basic life?
But I’m working my way through all this — being rather than doing — and, hopefully, getting better, both trying to embrace the strengths of my “busy-do-do-do” personality and allowing the weaknesses of such a personality to be amended.
• While I found about a dozen camps or events or activities I wanted my children to do over the summer, I narrowed it down to a precious few and, actually, said NO to things. Some of that is sheer logistics — amazing how a budget can help you — but some of it is a conscious “We-don’t-need-to-be-doing-something-all-the-time” mentality I am attempting to embrace.
• I scheduled in a vacation, a time when I plan to be as un-busy as possible. We have to drive 400-plus miles to do it — miles the ubiquitous Internet doesn’t recognize, by the way — but we’re doing it. For nearly a week, I hope to wake each morning and see what the day brings rather than have a list of projects or appointments already on it. This week includes fishing poles and beach towels. (But don’t tell my husband it also includes a 22-page list of workouts I hope to do, a stack of nursing journals I need to read and a bag devoted to various electronic devices’ chargers and cords for Internet access to check in on my clients.)
• Following the advice of a few headlines, I’ve decided to let my children just PLAY on their own – hardly even giving them ideas or equipment — and then try to follow suit myself. No one has yet said he or she is bored, and plenty of organic projects are showing up all over the house and yard. Right now — as I write, deliciously, on the back porch with an afternoon cup of coffee — my children are investigating what they think is a rabbit’s nest. The other day they invited me to bounce a ball around with them. We had a blast.
• Along with mellowing out, I am, however, embracing the fact that I’m just the kind of person who seems to thrive when I have work to do, projects to tackle. That’s the way I am, and while I can see some troubles with it, I have no choice but to make it work for me. So I have a couple of classes I’m teaching — and one I’m taking — over the summer. I have a new fondness for CrossFit, a workout regimen, and have been going as often as I can. I have a modest “bucket list” of things I hope to do before my full schedule of classes starts in the fall, and I’m plotting those things on the calendar.
Are you a busy-do-do-doer like me? Consider loosening up a bit, saying no more often and resting — as much as you’re able — in the simplicity of being rather than doing. No kidding, but you might find extreme pleasure in the so-called “little things” as you drop the busy.
Here’s to summer breezes.
Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at email@example.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”