As I sit here today, mulling over the goals I have in life and reflecting on the past several years, it is clear to me that I have been missing something. Call it a sense of professional accomplishment. Call it filling my free time. Call it wanting to finish what I started. Call it putting my education to use. But whatever you want to call it, whatever lens you want to peer through – it has eaten away at me slowly since my earliest days of marriage and motherhood. However after taking no more than one week, 7 days of Lent to be exact, to reflect and revisit my goals and hopes for the future – several things have become clear to me.
I am not alone. I am not the only wife and mother that feels this way. After talking with friends, I realize that feeling is not unique to me or to my life. My feelings are validated by knowing this, and I feel a great sense of comfort in seeing the accomplishments of other women that have managed to find balance between the intellectual, the professional, and the domestic aspects of their lives.
That which is lacking is not what I expected. I was feeling empty and lonely because I wanted to do more with my life than simply serve as a maid, laundress, cook, taxi driver, and toddler entertainer for the next several years. I’ve already put in 11 years of that, and what more is there to look forward to? But I realized very quickly these past several days that I have been looking to fill that void with all the wrong things. What I have been missing is a deeper connectivity and more meaningful spiritual aspect in my own life. I am accomplished intellectually – academic grades and references that I am proud to hold. I am professional and courteous, and have many marketable skills – I am certain I could land a full-time job if I really wanted to. And I take care of my domestic responsibilities – a clean and well-running home and safe, healthy children. But I have simply been going through the motions spiritually for a very long time.
Fixing this problem is easy. I have spent these Lenten days taking better care of myself physically and emotionally. I have taken time to look at each aspect of my life and discern what is going right, and what needs some fine-tuning. I am tackling two books at once that have really opened my eyes. The Encyclical Letter of Pope Francis, Lumen Fidei, and Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscover Catholicism. I fully realize that I am a Catholic woman, mother, child of God, living in a modern world. The obstacles and temptations are everywhere. I need to set a better standard for myself, and be a better role model for my children, or no matter what else I do in life I will have failed to leave behind something meaningful and special for the next generation.
“Under the influence of philosophies such as individualism, hedonism, and minimalism, we often seek the happiness we desire through pleasure, possessions, power, and the path of least resistance … In each moment of history authentic lives are ever so rare … We have built a whole culture based on appearance” (Kelly).
Baby Steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will I fill this void in one fell swoop. I made a mental list of what steps I need to take, guided by the readings that I have undertaken.
Step 1 – Pray more. Not necessarily in the standard definition of the word, but in small ways, by offering up the mundane, undesirable, and sometimes difficult tasks and decisions that I make on a daily basis. I intensely dislike folding laundry. What better thing to offer up than my least-favorite chore? Dear Jesus, this 15 minutes of laundry folding is for you! I really want some cookies. Dear Jesus, I am going to deny myself this half-package or Oreo’s for you! Someone is unwilling to compromise or hear me out? Rather than start fuming and fussing … Dear Jesus, please help this person overcome the sin of pride that is weighing them down.
Step 2 – Talk less. I love to talk. I love to talk circles around things, I love to re-hash things over and over again, and I am ashamed to admit that I love to have the last word. Talking = not listening. I want to listen more and talk less. Every First Friday I will go and listen with my heart, in the quiet presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Many things can be discovered in the presence of the Lord, through the consoling light passing through stained glass.
Step 3 – Prioritize. What are my priorities right now? Well, given the circumstances in my family over the past several months, I believe that a huge priority for me is my family. Not just being a warm-body in the house when the kids are home, but being present with them and engaging them. Something I have struggled with for years. My biggest priority, however, is God. God wants us to put Him first. Without putting Him first, we are unable to love others the way He truly wants us to. Without first taking up our own crosses and following God, leading by example for those around us, we are never truly ready to love and serve others.
“‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.'” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Step 4 – Clear the clutter. I have so much clutter in my life; it comes in many forms. There is the physical manifestation of stuff, all over the house, in every nook and cranny. Then there’s the mental clutter. There are too many tabs open in my brain. I’ve got too many irons in the fire. However you want to state it, nothing sums up my life better! De-cluttering my life means that I have to really look long and hard at what projects I want to take on, how many activities I want to be involved in personally and for my children, and prayerfully decide what extra stuff I have room for. As of today, I am officially disbanding my venture East & Eve Design Co. Sad to see it go, but I had to start somewhere. However, I am in love with the name – which is why I am recycling it and rolling it right on into my Step 5! I have certain passions in life – and being a business owner is just not one of them. (I’ll leave that to my extremely persistent and entrepreneurial husband!) I love using my talents, and I will continue to do so for friends, family, and organizations that mean something to me. I will always have a lot on my plate; it is in my nature to stay busy. But I want to make sure my projects are enjoyable and worthwhile – not a source of added stress.
Step 5 – Find productive outlets. And with this, East & Eve the blog was born! I need to vent, I need to share, and I need to teach. I love helping others, and if I can spread the word about something that I care about on a fundamental level, I will do so through this website. Mama also got her groove back on the exercise track! I’ve been going 10 days strong on daily activity and health eating. It’s amazing how much more I like my kids and my husband when the endorphins are flowing! I have also been enjoying months worth of a weekly Bible Study, that I have found both educational and engaging. I highly recommend the Great Adventure Bible Study – I have been doing the Bible Timeline, working through the narrative story of the Bible. It gets me out of the house once a week, at the very least! But I have learned so much more than I could have hoped for, I have met some very wise and wonderful people.
Embrace this life. There is much that can be accomplished if only we stop and embrace our reality. One of the many crosses that I carry is my inability to fully resign myself to God’s Will. I make plans on a daily basis. I have short-term plans, and some long-term plans. I am frustrated easily when things do not go the way that I intend. But I could be a poster-child for the phrase “What you want is not always what you need.” In short, God has always had a plan for me. I have set myself up for some of the greatest and most exciting things to happen, only for God to knock me down off of my high horse a time or two and show my a different path. Only after savoring the moments of this life, and breathing a sigh of relief at knowing that I don’t have to be in control of everything, am I able to find contentment. But believe me, it’s still a work in progress!
I hope that this post has brought someone even a small amount of comfort, or insight into something important in their own lives. Our pastor’s homily last Sunday was about temptation. He brought up a very valid point about the process of self-discipline, and how crucial it was to the most successful athletes, businessmen, students, and even saints. It became overwhelmingly clear to me at that moment, that all it would take was a little self-discipline and self-control, and I could easily make the changes that I have been so desperately longing for. And with the help of prayer, it has been ever-so-easy to relish in the first 7 days of Lent and feel like I can move mountains.