We've been here for over eight months now. I can't believe it's already nearly a year and that that's all. The places we have explored, the activities and events we've gone to, the summer camps we walked to, all make our time seem faster than it is. The grey skies, the low-hanging fog for long, continuous days, and the simple routine we've gotten ourselves into has slowed down time in our favor.
I don't remember saying 'yes' to things I didn't want to say yes to back in Lincoln, but I remember having to quit something every so often just to catch my breath. I was over-booked and our days were going at warp-speed. There was never enough time for too many things. At least, I felt that way. I made lists every day of 10+ items that I thought had to be done that day, instead of that month. It was pure nuts. I look back at that time and I wonder how we didn't drain the life out of our marriage, and our family.
After moving here, we had nothing but time. We had no commitments, no church involvement, and nothing 'on the calendar' except Stefan's job and commute aside from a few old friends and some family get-togethers (thank you). We had a wide, open schedule with no particular rules, regulations, or expectations other than to see the area and go play at the beach once in awhile. This was relief and anxiety inducing. Equal parts. Do you see where I'm going with this?
We had to make our own fun, and stretch our time out during the days. Stefan was leaving the house right when the kids got up, and getting home about an hour before their bedtime. Those six months were really hard. I hadn't been that exhausted since they were infants 18 months apart and both in diapers. The thing most taxing? Just trying to keep calm and cheerful for a suspended 12 or so hours. Can introverts even do that without spontaneously combusting? Our evenings together, also blank slates, were a welcome relief but interrupted fairly often with needy children, who had too much of mom and too little of dad.
I knew that the long days wouldn't last, that he'd eventually be able to have better hours (he does, it's awesome), and that we'd settle into a better routine, and we have. I just can't believe how long all of that has taken us. I'm an efficient 'get things done' person, perfectionist inclined, internally motivated, with the work ethic of a draft horse so for awhile I was a little lost as to what I was supposed to be doing.
Turns out, not much. I was 'on leave' from my regular life and I have learned a lot about how I want to handle my future time: my own, and my family's. I stopped making those ridiculous lists and gave in to "it'll get done later". The laundry really doesn't ever end. There will always be a dirty dish somewhere, and it will be lumped together in the next load. Did you know there's an app for USPS to pick up your mail if you live in an apartment? I felt like I had tricked life into squeezing me a few extra hours with all this freedom.
Gradually, we have added things to our weekly routine. Community meals every Wednesday night, a Bible study and some homeschool co-op classes for Lukka once a week, and little by little getting involved in our community and church life where we can is what we've found enjoyable and worth our time. I'm glad I have the knowledge and drive to find things fun to do in our area, because we've enjoyed so much out of this place. I'm also thankful for the quiet aspect of small-town living, where each evening we have to share together. Just last night we (all four of us) made dinner together, ate an enjoyable meal together, and often go around the block on a nightly walk. We put the kids to bed after a few stories and 'jam time', and we have a few hours to linger together, just him and I, before we turn in (early) for the night.
This transition has brought peace and time back to our family. I have always had Big Thoughts About Intentionality, but we've really honed down what is important to us these past few months. We've trimmed the fat even more, and we've been able to start projects we've laid aside in the rush of our culture, our mentality; 'I'm just so busy'. I used to say, think, and feel that all the time.
We're not anymore, and I've realized when you stop saying that about your situation a few things happen: 1) If you ARE too busy, you realize you're doing too many things you don't want to be doing; 2) you are making yourself feel busier than you are by looking at simple, enjoyable, or life- tasks (i.e. laundry) and trying to check them off every day without ever feeling caught up; lastly, 3) you are being busy at the expense of those you love or 4) you don't feel busy at all, instead, you just feel content and your time feels reinvigorated with gifts that matter. Which sounds like the best scenario?
Have you ever wanted to throw your daily to do list? I have gone from a 10+ item daily list, to a weekly list, and now, to a monthly list, and it has been a huge blessing in my life. I have margin. I don't feel self-imposed pressure to get non-consequential things done, and I have put back Important Things in my life. If you don't feel like you could do this, just try it for one day, and see how rested you feel. I dare you.
*This blog post's title, Wide Open Spaces, comes from a Dixie Chicks song of the same title.