Life has a way of swallowing you up when you’re not looking. Lulled by the rhythm of routine that comes with the adult responsibilities of career, marriage, child-rearing, and parent-care, the hours turn to days; days to weeks; and weeks to years. I call it coasting. Wrapped in the cocoon of what we know and what we do, we forge ahead and rarely look outside ourselves to see that beyond our own margins there is more. In a way, it’s a type of selfishness, but it is seldom a product of intention. Instead it just happens, most likely of necessity; but, then one day, if we are lucky, we awaken from our black and white world. And when we finally do, it is like being born again to a world where all the sights, sounds, smells, and touches come to life. We begin again…
And so it was with me until about a year ago. As a stay-at-home mom, I determined to make myself valuable to earn the gift of being able to raise my children on a full-time basis. I believed that in exchange for a paycheck, it was my job to do the tasks required to manage our home in proper business fashion. If I did the work, it was like saving the money. If I saved the money, it was like earning a paycheck. It is hardly a sane existence for a fairly intelligent woman, but it was how I saw my world.
It’s a fair arrangement by most measure, but I neglected to consider that I needed a CLOSED sign on the door from time to time. My work ethic dictated that one does not play until one has finished her work, and I lived where I worked. I lost my way in a to-do list that never ended. I seldom gave myself over to whimsy or to letting go to live in the moment. I was terminally responsible, and I began to feel lost in a vortex of responding to any need put before me but seldom to the whispers in my soul that called me to look up and see that I needed balance.
It wasn’t until I faced my empty nest that the whisper sometimes shouted before fading back to a whisper. My emotions roiled over the edge, and after 21 years of raising my sons and 16 years of caring for my husband’s aging mother and grandmother, they bubbled over the edge leaving me feeling hopelessly lost. Everything I had known and the work I had thrown myself into would all end at the same time. The darkness that yawned before me threatened me and challenged me to look up or be swallowed up. I wondered who I would be without that work to define me, and I feared the possible rejection of searching for a “real” job. Dreams and ambitions of my youth had faded. I questioned myself and I wondered how I had become so lost.
One March day, again overwhelmed with tasks and emotions, I gave in and I followed the whisper as it beckoned me to step outside for respite. It took me out the door and into the sunshine, and I followed it away from home. I turned my face toward the sun, and my let my hair blow in the breeze that spring day, and when I finally looked up, this is what I saw. The cool, green invited me to rest, and nothing has been the same since I got off the sidewalk and ventured into the grass and peered below the reflection of the water.