Saturday, May 14, 2011


1 : activity in which one exerts strength or faculties to do or perform something: 

It's been a busy, if interesting, few weeks.  A and K danced in their annual spring recital last night.  For the third year in a row, I organized the volunteers for the recital and helped with planning, scheduling, set-up and other assorted jobs.  After a few days of working on spreadsheets to get every dancer a chaperone, a seating assignment, a rehearsal time and more, I noticed something surprising: it was addictive.  Sure, it took time, energy and focus.  But I was good at this.  I copied, I pasted, I formatted.  And I got a satisfaction from it that has been missing from my life for several years.  Excel didn't complain when I asked it to alphabetize my dancers.  The computer didn't roll its eyes when I needed help organizing more than two dozen volunteers.  And no one came behind me to undo the work I had just done.

I mentioned this to a friend who works part-time in addition to parenting four daughters and homeschooling.  She immediately understood.  It's exhilarating to use your skills, especially when they've laid dormant for weeks, months or years.  I had planned to write an entire post on the word addictive, but as the week went on, I found a few other qualities about work that paint a fuller picture.  Work can be addictive, but it also promotes a false sense of self-reliance, inhibits my creativity and yields a disaster zone of a home.

To say that I've not had a lot of time this week is an understatement.  The time not consumed by recital preparations has been devoted to teaching A, keeping my children fed and getting us all where we need to be.  The effect of that on my home?  It's not pretty.  This morning started with a sink full of dirty dishes, a dishwasher full of clean dishes, a living room overrun with books, dirty laundry waiting to be washed and clean laundry waiting to be folded.  In fact, it still pretty much looks that way (although the kitchen looks considerably better because J unloaded and loaded the dishwasher while I watched Toy Story 3 with the girls over breakfast).  The recital - and any event - does require a big time commitment as the event nears.  I know not all work is like this, but I was completely ineffective this week at maintaining our home and getting my work done.

I also failed miserably at making time to do anything creative.  While this was partly due to time constraints, I think the bigger issue is that I am unable to use both sides of my brains in quick succession.  When working on a project that requires organization, linear thinking and problem solving, I find it nearly impossible to switch over to a more creative, open ended, peaceful mode of thought.  This is why I haven't written a blog post in over a week, fully completed my Bible Study or made a collage of any sort.  The most frustrating part of this side-effect of work is that I have wanted to write, study and create.  I've been thinking about this post for ten days, but haven't been able to string together coherent thoughts until now.  I want to make cards for two of A's teachers who are leaving Nashville.  I want to be able to think again.  

My thinking has deteriorated not just creatively, but linearly as well.  I chalk this up to the exhaustion brought on by trying to work, homeschool, parent and manage our home over the last two weeks.  Yesterday, I took A to the library for a quick trip.  We were mainly there to pick up some books on hold for our curriculum for next week, but we made a quick trip to the stacks as well.  While there, I was so tired, so exhausted, so completely drained, that I struggled to properly alphabetize in my mind as I looked for books from a specific author.  When my brain is so tired that I can't function well in the library, it's a sign that I need some serious rest.

Earlier in this cycle, when I was enjoying the short-lived high of work, I felt capable.  It felt good to stretch my mental muscles.  But as the work wore on and the recital drew nearer, I was aware of the less desirable results of work.  I saw how work robbed me of some of the things I have come to value in my day to day life.  A few days ago, I read this in one of my favorite devotional books:

Although self-sufficiency is acclaimed in the world, reliance on Me produces abundant living in My kingdom.  Thank Me for the difficulties in your life, since they provide protection from the idolatry of self-reliance.
 As I read this, I knew these words were for me.  I can look back on my life and see how one of the gifts of my career path has been a gradual loosening of my grip on the idol of self-reliance.  While I left the full time workforce almost nine years ago, it took nearly seven of those years for me to stop mourning the loss of a job and celebrate what I've been offered instead.  I liked my work.  I was good at it.  It allowed me to travel and see dozens of cities.  It let me use my mind, hone my skills and feel capable and self-reliant.  Some of this was a gift, some of it was not.  After leaving full time work, I transitioned into part time work for several years.  When I left my most recent job, I thought of it as a sabbatical.  I'd always imagined I would, at a minimum, return to work when K started kindergarten.  But God had a different path in mind for me.  One that involves work with my mind (I love the teaching component of homeschooling), work with my hands (I don't love the housekeeping part as much) and work with my heart (parenting, writing, creating).

This journey is a gift.  I don't know where I'd be had I continued to follow my own path for my life.  Surely not where I am now.  I don't regret the work I've been given.  Last night's recital was beautiful.  I cried nearly all the way through it as I noticed how dancers have grown and matured from one year to the next, how my own daughters were beautiful and radiant on stage and how the organization has given children and parents the chance to see the fruits of working hard toward a goal.  I'm thankful for the work I did over the last two weeks - for the yield of the work and, more importantly, for what it taught me about myself.

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