Recently I read a book by Jeff Goins entitled The In-Between. The gist of the book is a discussion of what we do with the time in-between big events (birth, marriage, graduation). Most of our lives happen in those in-between moments, Goins asserts, and how we live in those moments will influence us in ways we never thought possible. This book appealed to me in that this is something I have thought of a lot as I have grown older (and older, and older). I have realized in me the tendency to wish away for my children to grow up, home schooling to be over, my husband to retire, etc, etc, etc. When I allowed myself to think that way, I failed to truly enjoy the moments we had along the way. Life is fleeting, and each day is a gift. Tomorrow is not promised. So, yes, I understand the need to live in the now. Because I preordered his book, I was invited to be among a select group on Facebook in which we were given opportunity to encourage each other and interact with the author on a more personal level. I don’t recall for certain, but I think at some point Jeff asked our group to share our own experiences with waiting. Whether asked directly or not, there became a trend of people posting their in-between moments. So here is mine.
Presently my life is one of waiting to be needed. What I mean by this is that because my husband is dependent on me for certain tasks, I have to be here in this house, available when needed. But he doesn’t need me all the time. So a lot of my life is waiting for him to call. Most mornings I get up not knowing whether he will decide he is up to going to the pool to exercise, so I have to wait to plan my day until it is halfway done. If we are going to go to the pool, I don’t want to start projects that can’t easily be put down in the middle. If we are going to the pool, I can’t plan to have someone over at that time, or plan for repairmen to come, or make a run to the store. I can’t plan to go to the gym for my own workout. In addition to this demotivating factor, I also have to contend with the lack of urgency that being here waiting creates. If I am going to be here all day waiting, then I don’t really need to clean the kitchen now, I can do it later. A little more sleep, a little more slumber as the proverb says. There is something about not having a sense of control of my time that makes me very demotivated.
I can remember more than once in my life saying, “I wish for just a moment to remember what it is like to be bored.” Well that wish has been granted. I have gotten a very heavy dose of bored. In the process I have picked up some bad habits; eating when I am not hungry, watching too much TV, playing stupid games on Facebook. These are habits of mindlessness and escape. After days of this, I get to feeling despondent and resentful and discontent.
Lately, I have been working toward making better use of my time. I am still not sure how to make a real schedule – too many factors that won’t stay consistent. But I have begun to think of ways to be more purposeful. First, I have laid some ground rules for the man in the bed. I will make swimming a priority, to the extent that real life allows. I will do my best to plan other things around that time of day in which the pool is most accessible for us. Having done this, I will only wait so long in the day for a decision to be made, and then, I will get on with my life.
Second, I start my day by reading. I have three basic categories for reading: spiritual enrichment, creative inspiration, and sheer entertainment. At this time I am reading, God’s Love: How the Infinite God Cares for His Children by R.C. Sproul, Pencil Dancing, by Mari Messer, and Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles by Don Felder. I am also making my way through the Bible a chapter at a time.
Third, I go from reading to writing. I do my best to write something every day. I am convinced that practice in that area is vital to my being able to some day write a book I won’t be embarrassed to publish. I have to confess that this is still a discipline for me. I don’t wake up most days dying to write. I don’t have to force myself to stop writing in order to tend to my other responsibilities. In fact, I often find reasons to put off writing. Once I get started, I really enjoy the process, and most days I like the finished product. But for some reason, I have to make myself sit down and get it done. Usually I write for my blog, but I have dabbled in children’s stories, letters to loved ones, and poetry as well.
As with my writing, my daily household responsibilities are something I have to talk myself into. Once I get started, I do pretty well with follow through, until I get interrupted. Right now I am looking at my desk that has been cleaned off and organized. But there is a pile of stuff that needs to be filed on top of the file cabinet, and a bag of trash on the floor. This is as far as I got before swim time the other day, and I have not made it back to finish it up. There was a point when I had the house looking pretty good, and was on top of it enough to keep it organized. But then life happened and demotivation set in, and here we are.
At the beginning of the year I worked really hard at doing my own workout 2 -3 times a week. I am not sure where that motivation has gone. I am at this point doing a lot of talking about getting started back up without actually making any progress. I know I feel much better when I exercise, but the truth is I don’t like exercising. If I am in a class, I know by the end I will be really irritated at the instructor. I have tried it all, and I don’t like it all. I think the fact that I can’t really plan to be there at the same time every week also serves as a deterrent. If I could just plan it into my schedule, I probably would be more consistent. But since I don’t have a schedule, that isn’t an option. This is not insurmountable, it just is.
Almost a year ago my sister gave me a book called, The Caregiving Wife’s Handbook, by Diana B. Denholm. There is a statement in this book that gave voice to my nebulous feelings about this phase in my life. “Our lives have been put on hold, and we can’t even imagine a future. The future doesn’t seem to exist. Where once ideas and plans and mental pictures filled the space, it is now all blank. We would rather be doing many things now but we can’t do them, because we’re caregivers.” There is a sensed danger of losing my own identity, as I have to exclude myself from many of the things that used to fill my life. I am pretty sure that my husband is not going to get much better in terms of physical function, although his mind seems to be improving over time. So what, exactly am I waiting for? To outlive him? To die of boredom? To get too old to care? None of my options seem all that good.
So. I have stopped thinking in terms of waiting for a better day and started thinking in terms of what I can do now. I can write. I can read. I can pray for my loved ones. I can have people over on a limited basis for short periods of time. I can take short excursions that don’t keep me from home for too long. I can go to church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night. I can cook.
Yesterday two of the younger women I mentor from my church came over and we went walking up and down the street in the heavy heat of the Texas sun. The encouraging conversation kept us from concentrating on the sweat running down our faces. I wished they could stay longer, but in the end I sent them on their way after feeding them a homemade biscuit. Marriage is about compromises, and Strokeman starts feeling pretty neglected if he has to hear me in the other room with friends for very long. And let’s face it, it’s hard to keep three women quiet for very long.
The two women mentioned above, and their husbands join a few other women (and their families) once a month for dinner and book reading at my house. We eat and visit, then the men leave with the little children, and the women sit around my table and read and discuss a book together. Right now we are reading 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. This group was initiated by the younger women in order to be mentored by me and another older woman. I agreed to it in order to serve, and give, but it has been for me a lifeline. It has reminded me of who I am in the body of Christ. These younger women have given to me much more that I ever had to offer them.
I guess what it comes down to for me is trust. Can I trust that this is part of God’s overall plan for my being conformed into the image of His Son? If so, then all the things I might be waiting for are peripheral to the real issue. There is a catechism question I remember from when my children were young: “What is the chief end of Man?” The answer is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” (1Corinthians 10:31, Psalm 73:25-26). This end (purpose) is one that does not require a particular venue, or set of circumstances. There is a way right now as I wait, to glorify God and enjoy Him.
I glorify Him by serving my husband. I glorify Him by being creative. I glorify Him by being content with what He has deemed best for me at this time in my life. I glorify him by praying for and encouraging my fellow pilgrims on the road to Heaven (which is what all believers are really waiting for, isn’t it?).
I enjoy Him by being careful to observe the gifts He has given me through my family, my church, creation and life in general. I enjoy Him by acknowledging His faithfulness to me all the days of my life. I enjoy Him by lifting my voice in song – even when there is no one around to hear it but Him. I enjoy Him by being observant: really tasting my food, studying the intricate details of a flower, experiencing the wonderful feel of warm water flowing over my head in the shower, noticing the heat of the Texas sun through the window and the swish of the fan tossing the cool air around the room, running my granddaughters around the house in Strokeman’s wheelchair and drinking in the laughter that flows from them like a bubbling brook.
These are the things I can do right now. I don’t have to wait another moment.