There is a small tree growing between our neighbor’s side yard and ours. Every year around this time, that tree spits out tiny pink buds, whispering the promise of hopeful things to come. The buds are only pretty for a short time, and yesterday I realized I missed their prettiest days this year.
My first instinct was to feel guilty about that. Oh no! I’m missing my favorite small gifts! I’m not paying attention in life. But that’s simply not true. I am paying attention. I’m just not always able to pay attention to everything at the same time.
Here’s the thing: I’m thankful for the small gifts of the every day, the tiny reminders that life is not all about me and my big self. But I can’t always roll around in them. I value the practice of celebrating small gifts – but that practice doesn’t look the same from day to day or season to season.
When our kids come home from school at 2:30, we jump in the deep end of homework and projects and juggling food on the stove. We eat together at the table, practice spelling after dinner, referee sibling fights and snuggle on the couch before bed.
During the hours they’re in school, I have a job to do. I am committed to finish this third book. So far in 2013, my writing efforts have been entirely focused on re-writing large portions of my manuscript (this is not ideal, by the way). Last Friday, I finally turned it in (for the second time). But that was only after 9 hour writing days, early morning wake up calls, lots of reading, thinking, praying, and waiting for the message to make sense.
I’m also committed to write blog posts, guests posts, and articles, to communicate with my editor and agent, to plan marketing and promotion, to do interviews and prepare talks for events. This is my job, one I love and sometimes want to hide from, but I’m always committed to doing it – not to mention all the other responsibilities of being a mom, a wife, and a dependable grown up.
My husband wakes all of us up every morning. He makes breakfast and does the laundry (washes, folds, and puts it away, people. I will never leave him). Frankly, he does a lot of the household work I used to do – and he still has his own full time job.
I felt guilty about that for about 7 minutes once. And then I woke up and smelled the fresh laundry, realizing I can’t waste my time worrying about stereotypes and expected roles. This is our life together and we both make it work.
We are learning new rhythms, flexible schedules and shared responsibilities. We plan downtime and date nights and squabble about timing and dinner and who’s picking up the kids. Sometimes I get it all wrong, work too much, and have to reset things.
There are days when I still fight every moment with guilt over not going with them to the park or the movies, over feeling distracted even when I am with them. It’s important for me to enter into that fight, but it’s also important for me to recognize this is a unique season and it won’t always be this way.
It’s also my responsibility to make sure that’s true.
Here are some things that have helped me release the guilt over the past eight months as I’ve been working more than usual:
- My husband and I have decided together this third book is part of my calling as a writer. We decided this was the time to write it and we both knew what that meant, from the proposal to the marketing and all the things that come in between. If you’re entering a season of focused work on a big project, it’s vital to have your family on your team.
- Sometimes being fully present to my work and my family means I will miss the pink buds on the tree in my side yard. We choose what gets our attention. When it’s time for margin, enter in fully. When it’s time to work, do the same. Missing the small gifts sometimes means I’m simply caught up in a bigger picture.
- Doing the risky work of hyper-focusing on a project now means my mind and heart will be free from the burden of having to figure out how to say it later.
- The beautiful truth I’m thankful to know is this process brings its own small gifts. When I have something to say and I finally take the risk to say it, I become more fully myself with each word. That kind of courage is a gift all by itself.
I’m sharing this for a few reasons.
One, in the next few weeks I plan to tell you more about this book I’ve been working on. But before I did that I wanted to be honest with you about the process. I haven’t figured out “how to write a book” yet. But I’m at least learning to stop feeling guilty over the amount of focus it takes me to do it. I mainly have my husband to thank for that.
Second, I’m guessing most of you are in your own full seasons right now. And maybe you struggle with fear or guilt over not being able to embrace all the moments the way you either used to or want to.
Might I suggest that you take the day off from the guilt and see if it changes anything? You may realize the space all that guilt was taking up in your soul is now free to embrace more moments than you thought possible.
You’re juggling plenty of balls in the air. Don’t let shame be one of them.
Drop the guilty, wilty worry over missing out on the little things or not living up to made up expectations you have in your head. Be fully present where you are with what you have and trust that God is big enough to fill in the gaps.