One of the newest hashtags that David and I bandy about on a regular basis these days is “#notinourearly20sanymore.” This could be used to aptly describe how exhausted we are by 8:30 pm. Or how we have both needed sudden and extensive (and expensive) dental work this summer. Or perhaps how my annual exam revealed that I have borderline high cholesterol (and with a history of heart disease in the family that’s no laughing matter).
“We aren’t in our early 20s anymore, Dear,” David will ruefully remind me, standing in the kitchen, staring in our fridge, and admitting that our waistlines can no longer handle frozen pizzas and bowls of cereal for weeknight dinners. The fruit and veggie drawers beckon with their promises of health, while glaring with reproach at how many sad summer squash and slimy spinach leaves have met their demises over the years.
Well, we are turning over a new leaf.
(Go ahead and laugh. That was a painfully obvious, senile attempt at a humorous pun #notinourearly20sanymore.)
In “Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler More Soulful Way of Living,” Shauna Niequest references Rohr: “The skills that take you through the first half of your life,” she notes, “are entirely unhelpful for the second half…those skills I developed that supposedly served me well for the first half, as I inspect them a little more closely, didn’t actually serve me at all. They made me responsible and capable and really, really tired. They made me productive and practical, and inch by inch, year by year, they moved me further and further from the warm, whimsical person I used to be…and I missed her” (p. 18-9).
Forgive me while I share more of Niequest’s conclusions. Her words have left me realing, crying, inspecting, questioning, and – hopefully – healing. “The two sins at play here,” she writes, “are gluttony and pride – the desire to escape and the desire to prove, respectively. I want to taste and experience absolutely everything, and I want to be perceived as wildly competent” (p. 19).
Well, I’m responsible and capable and simultaneously lonely. I’m productive and practical and simultaneously lacking the time to pour into relationships the way that I desire. I’m really, really tired. So tired that I have been falling asleep driving. So tired that I can’t put two coherent words together and the thought of being with friends who require conversation (you know, the usual way that friendships work) makes me want to curl up in a ball with an IV of coffee.
Bottom line: I miss what I have allowed the productivity of my 20s to steal. My joy. My deep-seated belief in dreams. My ache for the spiritual mysteries of the Heavens. My love for the brokenhearted and the orphans.
But, it gets worse. I have actually enjoyed – like some crazed-fiend – the ability to wrap myself up in careers that require so much that I have a “legitimate” escape for what is slowly killing me. I have craved the excuse of over commitment. When I was going through years of infertility, painful hormone treatments, and miscarriage after miscarriage, I ALSO taught full time while earning my teaching license and master’s. With a 4.0. I HAD NO LIFE. I was awarded the “2013 Outstanding Graduate Student from the Division of Curriculum & Instruction Education in the College of Adult and Graduate Studies” from my program and then promptly fell asleep on the front row after the president of the university handed me the plaque because I was so bone-weary.
In 2014 after a high-risk pregnancy, Abby was born, David was back in school full-time, the terms of my teaching contract were called into question, and I found myself home with Abby. What did I do? Pick a career as a birth doula that required me to spend up to 60 hours awake at once, supporting families through some of the most intense moments of their lives. Often choosing to work with high risk families. All while pumping every couple of hours for Abby, trying to also build an essential oil business, and volunteering regularly with a church launch team.
And just as Micah’s pregnancy began to really set in during the summer of 2016, I jumped into a more than full-time position as a practice manager of a birth center with hours that often had me home after 8 pm. And I loved every minute of it. Okay, almost every minute. There were some third trimester days when I wanted to glare at every glowing pregnant mama who walked through our doors without “even a single symptom” while my feet were so swollen that my ankles were non-existent. My body didn’t exactly do pregnancy gracefully.
All that to say that at my core, I am a relator. An empathizer. A seeker of glitter and fairy dust. I believe in excellence and lifelong learning. I value servant leadership and introspection and long walks with good friends holding coffee mugs. I love to watch Netflix with David into the wee hours of the morning and play games with friends over whiskey and snacks.
And, this year I have hit a breaking point. I can’t have it all. I can’t trust God through season after season of challenge when I don’t have time to even talk to Him. I can’t keep my anger in check when there is no longer cushion. I can’t really learn how to mother well when I don’t allow myself to be mothered. I hate asking for help. I can’t sustain deep friendships when I don’t even have the stamina to wash my face at night.
This life – these lives – they aren’t the ones that we are meant to live. Frantic. Unsteady. Exhausting.
And, let me be clear that for me personally, THIS IS NOT THE FAULT OF THE CAREERS THAT I HAVE CHOSEN. No, I believe that somehow I’ve gotten caught up in the need to do everything and prove my competency. My skillsets tend to help me excel in roles that drain me emotionally and physically each day. I think most of us could say that was true of ourselves in one way or another. And then I’ve also needed to prove my own ability. As a woman. A business woman. A mother.
Well, I have a tired family, body and heart to take care of now. Apparently, I’m starting the journey to abundance with a dose of brutal confession. Cleansing, the monastics would say. Transparent, if nothing else.
So, hence August. Lovely, hot, humid, August. Named for a Roman Caesar who claimed Divinity. Claimed he could do it all, be it all, conquer it all. I believe his bones lie with the rest of the ancients – no different than the lowly servant in his court.
I don’t have the answers, but I’m beyond grateful for a community of friends who have rallied – many without even knowing the significance. Women who have encouraged me to do a Whole 30 dietary challenge and cleanse my physical body. Women who have humbled me by their own resolutions to pray for their marriages and serve their spouses. Individuals who have bravely decided to walk away from positions of power into the unknown because their families needed them. Friends who have been present for my family. Friends who have challenged me and confronted me and hugged me and reminded me of who I am called to be.
So, perhaps this blog post gives more context to the road our family is walking down and the personal goals I am setting before I throw myself fully into the next career.
Let me be present.
Let me be a gift.
Let me see with new eyes.
Let me hold my babies close and treasure the moments I have with them.
Let me allow repentance and grace to do their perfect works.
Darlings, let’s do August. Let’s do the next 30 years differently. Let’s stand for something different than our generation has stood for, as we stop trying to prove our own competencies.
Beautifully written and powerful. Self awareness journeys are always exciting and scary all at once. As I tell other young women, do what you want and need to do, not what is expected. Make your own rules for you and your family. You got this and one day will look back smile, laugh, and toast a glass of whiskey to the younger you!
Carol, thank you. Truly. It’s rather a crazy beautiful free fall right now.
Intense! And boy oh boy can I relate! I’m finally focusing on 2 things like never before… writing and mommying. Here’s to hoping that simplifying will make all the difference. May you find your simple happiness mama!
Sending you love, friend. I think of you often.