a year later

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On March 2nd, I celebrated one year on the job.

It’s funny how slowly and quickly a year can pass.

Time moves molasses slow when you are learning new skills and desperately want to be a master in a matter of days but at quitting time each day you lament to having nothing in common with superhero.

Times resembles a speeding bullet when your body has relinquished sleeping in.

Yet the passage of these 365+ days has shown me the value of days strung together allowing me to arrive at a different space than previously resided.

Bullet journals are all the rage right now, so let’s pretend this is a page from mine recounting a half-dozen or so takeaways from my first year on the job after a lengthy sabbatical.

  • Don’t diminish the change.
    I believe I spent roughly 3/4’s of this past year, pushing back against the fact that  a big change had occurred in my life and my family’s. I found myself saying these words, “I am only working part-time” or “20 hours a week shouldn’t make such an impact”, or further “what’s wrong with me, you would think I was working full-time?”
    With each uttered word, I diminished the change. I essentially wouldn’t give myself permission to feel weak or overwhelmed. I erroneously believed I had to be strong and in control always. And if I believed this for myself, I further translated it to mean the people in my life held the same belief. It was a sham. I am slowly recovering from this faulty belief system and the easiest way for me to test which path I am walking is to check out my neck muscles and listen to my response when asked how I am doing. My mouth and neck are the quickest indicators of whether I am holding my breath instead of letting air expand my lungs, or trying to hold control in a death-grip instead of opening my hands in acceptance.
  • Choose relationships over responsibility.
    During the first two weeks of work, I came down with a horrible cold/flu and missed two days of work. About a week and a half later, Carl’s sister suddenly passed away. We said goodbye to her Sunday afternoon and that night, I went to the store, bought everything I could think of for Carl and my children to meet with our nephew and niece and their families during Monday morning and afternoon. I went to work. I will emphasis,no one from my work said I needed to be there. I felt like I should be there. Carl and I had discussed it and we both felt since I would miss work for services, I should go. If places were traded, Carl would have been at work. We both value being responsible and dependable. But here is what I know now. I should have stayed home to be with my family. Yes I left some killer trays of food but I shouldn’t have gotten in my car and driven away. It was simply one day in a work week. That one day would not write the story of my work life but it did subtract a page from my family’s chronicle. On that Monday, I chose to elevate my work responsibility over my response to relationship. This was a mistake, I will not repeat.
  • Give yourself time and extend yourself grace.
    I kept waiting for one magical morning when I would wake up and every part of my life was put back into a perfect order. Or better yet, to spring out of bed at 6am without an alarm, full of purpose and joy. I grieved the loss of my old life and rhythm and it felt extremely painful to envision my days looking differently.
    I truly think it demanded a year of walking through the literal seasons and days to grasp the new rhythm. A year to realize I wouldn’t crumble. I missed (for the most part) being the boss of my days.  Well, at least thinking I was boss. But if I am the most candid with you, I was the most lonesome for God of my whole life. I have known wilderness seasons and sections of life I would never want to revisit, but this parcel of land was foreign like none I had ever known. Desolate.
    God was there but I missed having loads of time to just hang out in my house with Him. I experienced winter throughout spring and summer. Change is hard because it disrupts the familiar but God cannot be changed. Isn’t that good news?! The days look different but in God’s tenderness, He has helped me find Him in smaller tighter fitting spaces of time. I am grateful and a lot less lonely.
  • Learn to say no with an asterisk.
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    I stumbled upon this graphic when I was setting up to write this post. I hadn’t realized it had been nearly 2 months since my last post. It was interesting to see a year stacked in blog posts. The areas I said no with an asterisk this past year were: weekly blog writing, card writing, regular friend time, reading, making meals for others and gift giving. Saying no with an asterisk took three forms: No for now, yes but not as often and no to being on time. I said “no for now” to regular blog and card writing. Sigh. Both types of writing ignite my soul but unless I sense a persistent nudge rather than nagging guilt, it’s a no for now. The next “no” was actually “yes but not as often” for friend time, taking meals and reading. Friday is my day off. It took me a couple of months to realize the calendar square is quite small. I can’t grocery shop, see the dentist, chat over paper cups with a friend, clean my house,exercise,take a nap and finish a book
    without it seeping outside my planner. Friends have been patient and understanding and just like a boomerang initially labeled no, it has slowly returned with a yes more often. Last year was not a stellar year of book reading as I didn’t have the brain space for it. I could not read in the evenings. By year-end, reading moved to the big Yes column. Gifts are in the “no, it won’t be on time” category. I love giving gifts as well as sending cards but I have made peace with not being on time especially if mailing is involved. A gift is still a gift whenever it is received.
  • Ask for and accept help.
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    One of our neighbors delivered a card and a container of cookies to our porch during my first week of work. In every sense of the word, it was the sweetest gesture. It buoyed my weary soul. When I profusely thanked her, she reminded me of how I had made her family a meal when she had returned to work, soup when they were ALL sick and cared for them when while her husband was traveling for work. I knew this but had forgotten. The cookies were her way of saying thank you and remembrance of the early days of work. I have been carried by so many over this past year. The biggest area has been needing help with Caleb. I have sent out text messages which might as well been typed in all CAPS and had moms immediately respond with a “of course Caleb can hang out with us.” Caleb has been quick to let us know he is an extrovert among introverted parents. He needs his people. Before I could even ask, moms have given me a place for Caleb to be on no school days or late openings or school breaks. It simply makes me teary by how much this has meant to me, to us. Right now, it feels very out of balance and I have no way of repaying them. But then I remind myself how others were in the same position and I provided a soft place to land and it probably felt like a teeter totter heavily weighted on one side. Teeter totters rise and fall, thank you friends and family for lifting me towards the sky.
    And thanks for a husband who among other great things seems to always be bearing a basket of freshly laundered clothes. Blessed.

    • Make your desert island list.
      When life gets rearranged, essentials matter. What would you take if you were stranded on a deserted island?The question is designed to draw an arrow towards what is valued. I have thought about my loves and needs. I am going to change the question to: What would I take if I was working on a deserted island?
      I would take my God, my people, my books and my creativity. Actually God would be there, I wouldn’t have to ask. So my people in their various forms of family and friends because I see a big island. I envision a secluded place for my hammock where I refuel with solitude and a good book. Although, I haven’t figured out on the mainland a way to up my steps with lots of sitting at work,I think the island living would provide the right amount of fitness while I survey the beauty helping me to create.

      *****

      Cheers to the past year of change and a new year in which to sink deeper into all its many nuances. I am grateful to be on the other side of a year. Thank you for continuing to read this blog during the silences or lengthy posts. I deeply appreciate your faithfulness and friendship to no end.

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5 thoughts on “a year later

  1. Jill says:

    Helen, you nailed the truth by asking — what would I take if I was working on a deserted island?
    Faith in God & prayer, truth and integrity, passion and creativity, idealism, optimism, people God places on my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Felicia Gaskins says:

    Helen dear daughter, I know how much you think about others no matter how busy you are. I am so grateful to the wonderful friends you have made who love you and your family back. Your post reminds all of us of what is most important in life; God, loved ones-family and friends.

    Love you Mor

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ci says:

    What a year filled with new and AMAZING things learned. I can’t imagine how difficult the daily grind has been for you, but I have seen you walk it with a tremendous and unending grace extended to those around you. You represent God’s heart so well, Helen, and I want to say thank you for looking like Him even when your daily routine has been so interrupted. You are a blessing and you are a gift!

    Like

  4. Susan says:

    Helen, I am a month in to working full time for the first time in more than 20 years. This post so resonates with me. I am trying to get into a groove but sorting what stays and goes in life is not easy. It has forced me to drop some things I should have dropped long ago like too much TV and going to bed too late but I miss the freedom, cooking and coffee with friends. Oh, and trips to Costco on a mid week morning! Thank you for your transparency, sweet spirit and heart for the Lord. You are always an encouragement to me. Thank you!

    Like

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