Monday, January 17, 2011
Earlier today I had a conversation in my head that went something like this:
Me: Hey! You should save all these great gift boxes and plastic food containers and pretty glass plates that people used to give you treats at Christmas! You could totally reuse them next Christmas!
Self: Yeah! Great idea!
Me: Except, crap--we just put all the Christmas stuff away yesterday. You'd have to go unpack the boxes in the garage and cram this stuff in. Or put them in a new box, which you'd probably forget about and rediscover next time you move.
Self: Good point. But think how much money I'd save next Christmas by already having this stuff!
Me: Um, when was the last time you actually gave little neighbor gifts or treats to people at Christmas?
Self: Three, four years ago? Wow. Has it really been that long?
Me: Very likely. What are the odds that you are actually going to make treats for all the neighbors next Christmas?
Self: Well, I WANT to.
Me: But what are the odds that you'll actually do it?
Self: I know, I know. Okay, so we take the box to DI?
Me: Good plan. Let's put it by the front door and see how many months it takes before we remember to put it in the car. And how many months after that before it goes from the car to DI. Maybe we'll make it before Christmas next year.
Which brings me to the actual point of my post:
There are far more things I'd like to do than enough of me to do them. To put it much more poetically and beautifully, in the words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, "My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds."
In this I am not alone, especially among my sister friends. For some reason an urge to do and be it all seems to be more the province of the female gender, and we have the accompanying anxiety, depression, and insomnia meds to show for it.
The week before Thanksgiving a perfectly nice woman from my church called me one evening to ask if I would, along with one other woman, sew all the costumes for a church Christmas party less than two weeks away. She assured me that the costumes were very simple, and at most, we were only looking at 10-20 hours, total. I told her I'd think about it.
What I should have said was, "In what bizarre universe do you ask a single mom of four very young children, who works full time and teaches part time and insanely insists on being a part time student as well, who already has three other callings at church, and who just bought a house that seems to require a new repair every other day---in what whacked out place in your brain did you think I would be the logical person to ask for this project????"
I sincerely, sincerely regret that I did not offer the above response, and I promise that if (when) something like this comes up again, I most certainly will.
Much as I knew that I must decline, there was still some residual guilt, which I don't even want to begin psychoanalyzing here. I like being able to help people, and anything church-related brings an extra dose of both responsibility to help and guilt if I can't. Thankfully, church is made up of lots of regular folks like me, and the core of my spiritual life--my relationship with God--is founded on His Perfect Understanding, so I have somewhere to go when these conflicts arise.
It bothered me. I prayed about it. I told God that if He really needed me to make those costumes, I'd do it. Even if I had to do them between midnight and four am, which is about what it would be.
God said it wasn't necessary.
He reminded me that there's only one person on this earth who is my kids' mother, and it's me. Nobody else can do that job. I wouldn't want anyone else to do that job. The teaching, squabble-settling, feeding, clothing, cleaning, bathing, tucking, rocking, listening, singing, holding--those are one of the very most important things I can ever do with my time. Ever. And it does take TIME.
I've only got two parents (and two step-parents, but you get the point). I like them. A lot. Our relationships are important to me. I enjoy them. I need them. I want to spend the time required to maintain those relationships.
Ditto my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and many good friends close enough to consider family. It takes energy and work and time to nourish our relationships, and I WANT to do it. I CHOOSE to do it. I believe God approves.
Participation in church is important to me. I attend church each Sunday. I partake of the Sacrament there, believing that the observance is a source of actual power in my life. I play the piano and play the organ and teach classes and sing hymns and freely, actively serve and worship with my fellow saints.
I gladly, willingly accept the assignment to be a visiting teacher, to be a friend to other assigned sisters in my neighborhood. I love visiting teaching. And it does take time. I believe it's important. I believe it matters to God. I believe He wants me to love these women and look after them and care for them.
Temple service is hugely important to me. I think anyone who knows me knows this. I love to attend the temple, serve in the temple, worship in the temple. This also takes time.
Then there are all those things I mentioned earlier--the full time job, the part time job, the studies, the house, the dishes, the yard, the laundry. The list never ends. Somehow, mixed in all of those, are moments of connection, even of service. I tell God that while I don't have much in the way of time, what I have is His, and if He just points me where to go, or what to say, or what to do, I'll do it. I'm frighteningly obtuse, but He breaks through, and the two of us do some good things from time to time. I'm constantly re-learning how frequently one of the greatest acts of service we can do for each other is simply acknowledge each other, fully, completely, to truly SEE each other. Those seemingly trite things--a smile, hug, sincere listening, belief in someone's potential and innate goodness--aren't really so trite at all. Those things don't come naturally to me, but they do to God, and I'm taking baby steps. I don't always see the world through His eyes, but I'm learning.
That's all He expects. It's perfectly enough.
There's never quite enough of me to go around. Just ask my four kids, as they each vie for a spot on my lap. Me & God; that's a different story.
I may not be able to do everything, but thanks to Him, I can do enough.