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The other day I realized that our guest room is sort of a museum to things I used to love to do. There is a cupboard filled with left-over fabric from quilts, curtains, pillows and Halloween costumes that I made. There is a drawer of paper, ink pads, stamps, embossing supplies, special pens and a hot glue gun from the years that I made my own invitations, Christmas cards and thank you notes. Another drawer is filled with paints, palettes, small canvases and brushes. The piano that I practiced on for hours and on which I spent even more hours teaching my three children to play also sits in this room.
All of these activities happily filled spaces in my days. Pauses in my hectic pace while working for a start-up software company. Quiet moments in the early days of my marriage when my husband would sleep for hours after I’d awaken. Windows of time when my children were napping. Mornings when they were in pre-school.
If you asked my mom why I don’t sew or make cards or paint or play the piano anymore, she’d tell you I was too busy. But I rebel against that word. Busy is a dirty word for me. When I feel busy, I feel reactive, out control, and like I’m three steps behind all day long. I feel like a victim.
So, if you asked me why I don’t sew, make cards, paint or play the piano these days, I’d tell you my life was full right now. There are simply fewer spaces in my days that I choose to fill with solitary activities. When my children are at school, I choose to work – to share my passion for yoga with students and future teachers. After their school day and sports practices are over, I choose to spend my time with my children. I take them to lessons. We run errands. I cook for them and we eat together. I help with homework (except for math). I listen while they talk and I stay nearby when they don’t. We watch TV together.
To try to squeeze sewing, making cards, painting or the piano into my days right now would make me feel busy. Instead of giving me joy, these activities would distract me from what does give me joy – my family and my work. Instead of making my life feel rich and full, these activities, each of which I thoroughly enjoy, would make me feel stretched thin.
I know this because, at one point or another, I was trying desperately to maintain them. I did this for way longer than I ought to have because “my momma and daddy didn’t raise no quitter.” I know this because, at one point of another, I chose to set each of these loves aside. When I did, I didn’t miss them. Instead, I felt relief and spaciousness and freedom. In short, my life went from feeling busy to feeling full. And choosing to live a full life, for me, is the best way I’ve found to express gratitude and thankfulness for the gift that is my life.
There will come a time (in a blink of an eye, I suspect), when my children will no longer live with me. My days will have more spaces in them because I will again be sharing them with fewer people. I can’t predict what supplies from my guestroom (if any) I will pull out to fill the new spaces and pauses in my day. I can guess that whatever I choose to do will be creative, as throughout my life that has been the case. I have faith that I will choose carefully. I trust that these years of practice selecting fullness over busy-ness have served me well. I am confident that I will continue to make choices that allow me to go to bed at night feeling happy and filled up by a day well-lived.
I wish the same for each of you.