Sunday, January 31, 2010

Part II

After Christmas I posted a blog entry entitled, "Overwhelmed." I talked about feeling like I was drowning in work I couldn't get to, about the need to bring this difficulty to God on a minute by minute basis. What I didn't tell you in that post was how it all related so perfectly to the "constructive criticism" I had for my friends during the past weeks. 

One day in the midst of the Christmas crush, in lofty tones, I told my sister all about the error of my friends' ways, even though I knew I was throwing stones at her glass house. She loves me still, which is a testament to her Godliness because I was pretty frank with her. I cannot recant my words, however. I know God is making me eat them somewhat, but everything I said, all my frustrations and grievances, are still just too true.

That feeling of drowning in work I couldn't get to has been an on-going saga all through the month of January. It is a multi-faceted issue, also relating to my homeschooling efforts with very social daughter #4. (Actually, she's child #4 who happens to be a daughter. Technically, she'd be daughter #2…but I'm going to go with daughter #4 here.) It also relates to T's decision that our kitchen is a much more comfortable office in the morning than his real office, which happens to be a 50 minute drive from home. And it has to do with my own introverted personality, which requires (apparently) a bare minimum of 5 minutes a day of quiet somewhere between 6:30 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. (I'm a very high-maintenance gal, I know.)

By the way, when I told you all about our new mattress did I mention that it came with a new TV? We haven't had a TV in our bedroom since the early days of marriage. Never missed it, but neither did it ever occur to me that it would actually be a problem to have one either. So when this monstrosity was thrust upon us, I viewed it benignly. Disinterested, really. 

T, however, was very interested. Up it went onto the wall, snip, snap – with great alacrity and attention to the minutest detail: the best height for viewing with minimal neck strain, aesthetic considerations accounted for, centered perfectly, cords (somewhat) hidden.

Well, getting back to the point, even with one kid off to college, my life is in the throes of blessing with three busy children still at home, one homeschooled, and a husband whose business life is very much intermixed with his/our social life. It is a glorious, albeit ping-pong ball-like, existence. The rush begins with opening my eyes, throwing on my workout clothes, dashing downstairs to make coffee and throw lunches together, just in time to scramble into the car and take the kids to school at 7. Off to the gym to work out until 8:30. Back home to find T getting his day rolling at the kitchen table (my office, by the way). Shower, D#4 is up and hopefully beginning her schoolwork. The hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. are spent juggling her schoolwork, my housework, and T's little needs for food/conversation/questions/reminders of things I need get done (thank you, dear), all while jumping every time he's on the phone to make sure she isn't practicing piano, trying to shush him or urge him into another room if she's trying to concentrate on her work (imagine that…). By 1:00 most afternoons, we're off somewhere – ballet, her Bright Lights group, piano lesson. Except on Friday, when we're off by 9 a.m. to a full day of home school classes. Then back home to finish schoolwork, homework for S#3, dinner, hockey practices/games, coordinating work schedule for D#2, choir concerts, etc. Drop into bed and start all over the next day.

Do I sound like I'm complaining? Really I'm not (except the parts about T working in my kitchen – okay, there I'm complaining). It is great. Life is full and busy and who would want it any other way?
What I didn't realize, however, was how much of my ability to cope with all this fullness was predicated on that 5 minutes of solitude and quiet I have just before I drop off to sleep. Well, that and having some time during the day to focus on my work without interruption or distraction, which is where my griping about T and his new office habits comes into the conversation. D#4 and her schoolwork is a distraction from my housework, but somehow that's different…she is my work. This is the way my thoughts went.

Which brings me to a tangential, but relevant, issue. Biblically, he is my first priority, not the kids. I am his helpmate. Where does it get into my head that D#4 and the others can have a piece of my day – a huge chunk of my very life – but if T asks for any, he is an encumbrance from my real work? So I've been concentrating on getting that sorted out in my head. I really like T, and I'm so glad he seems to like me. He talks to me, which is more than a lot of women can say. And apparently he likes being around me. How lucky am I? He is very much a part of what God has put on my plate – loving him and meeting his needs for conversation, food, attention, etc. And God is not such a cruel task-master that He gives an assignment without providing the time and resources to complete the assignment. Right?

So this is where I've been called on to take the log out of my own eye before I quibble about the specks in my friends' eyes. Time to put my money where my mouth is. If I'm thinking I'm "too busy," "stressed-out," "feeling overwhelmed," then one of two things is happening: either I'm rebellious about what I have to do, or there are things on my list of chores that are not on God's list of chores. Or maybe it's just that the list will take all my time, when I wanted some of that time for myself. No matter the scenario, complete surrender to God precludes being stressed-out.

Okay well, rebellion aside, my situation had put a strain on every introverted fiber of my being. The night before last that TV flickering and talking at me during my once-coveted 5 minutes of dark solitude was the last straw. The camel's back broke, and I exploded, "Turn it off! If you don't I'm going to unscrew the d*mn thing from the wall!!!" I'm not very eloquent at 1 a.m. Otherwise I might have added more about what I was going to do with it once I'd unscrewed it. But, nevertheless, he turned it off.

And as is the case in every healthy marriage, my outburst went unmentioned the next morning. None of this new-fangled "talking things out" for us, and we like it that way. (At least I liked it that way that morning.)

So it was Saturday morning and as it happened, he was off to Chicago. He had a business meeting on Monday morning, but decided to head out there a day early with his brother to visit with an old college roommate. The morning progressed with its usual hairiness, lots to do, kids to see off here and there, D#2 had a car accident, a father came by to pick up the little friend who had slept over, etc. But finally, by 3:15 in the afternoon, he was off with his brother. Son #3 was at a movie, D#2 was gone for the day (even after the car accident), and I had 30 minutes of time alone before D#4 returned from her dance classes.

Oh happy day!!! Oh glory be!!! I could hardly believe it! I went straight upstairs to my beloved bed. Honestly, it was a physical response – my heart was thumping wildly, my breath was rapid, even as my eyes closed and my muscles fairly swooned as they sank into that blessed pillow-top mattress. (Don't tell me muscles can't swoon. I'm telling you mine did.)

I lay there close to 10 minutes, torn between a physical need for sleep and an emotional need to be awake and alone…when the phone rang. T and his brother were at the Sunoco station down the road and had somehow locked the keys in the car. Would I come and unlock the car with the spare key? I answered none too gently in the affirmative, hung up, and cried out to God in a very loud voice, "LORD, HE'S TRYING TO KILL ME! HE IS! HE DOESN'T EVEN KNOW IT, BUT HE'S TRYING TO KILL ME!" I wonder if God laughed.

I survived, didn't die at all. T called as I was driving to Sunoco and asked what was taking so long? How could I explain to him, to the man who strives so purposefully to make sure he never spends a single moment alone, never has a single thought or emotion unsupported by outside noise and commotion, that I was dying of togetherness, not just with T but with the whole world, that I took so long because I needed to accuse him before God of attempted murder? 

No sense in even going there.
T's weekend in Chicago has been God's gift of rejuvenation to me. God knew my need and had plans to meet it all along. I had lots of quiet time and am a new woman already. I really am not a high-maintenance gal.

So, I was a little stressed, wasn't I? But I still maintain, complete surrender to God does preclude being stressed out. God understands about me what T cannot begin to understand – that need, that honest, visceral need for a little time alone every once in a while. And God is able to meet that need. T doesn't even have to know about it; God takes care of me, just like He did this weekend. Maybe next time I'll call on God for help (or wait a little more patiently for His provision) before I go the way of comedic emotional outbursts. But then what would I have to blog about?

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