Joy, week 9
I’ve avoided writing this post all day, especially since I need to give an honest summary of my successes in February. It goes like this: January was a great month; February owned me. I’m not proud of it but it’s how things worked out. My list of goals for February was shorter than January’s and I got less done. The only thing I have to offer in my defense is that my husband’s new job, answered prayer that it is, completely changed daily life at our house and most of my time and energy has gone to working through that adjustment.
Isn’t it interesting how we can have things we’re so grateful for, things we need and pray for, that simultaneously make our lives SO much harder? Like the answer satisfies one question but asks another, equally large and significant question of us? That’s my February in a nutshell.
For the past few years my husband has been able to work from home about 75% of the time. It didn’t occur to me that having him working at an office would represent a major life change for my children, but it has, especially for the younger ones who have had access to him as long as they can remember. Even if it’s just to wander in, say something silly, get a hug, and walk back out, he’s been nearby. Suddenly he’s gone 12 hours/day and his absence has created behavior challenges and emotional swings in every one of my children. I was so grateful to be finished with the uncertainties of unemployment that I failed to see “daily life without Dad” as our next big hurdle. Our after school commitments doubled in February, adding to the messes and the stress and the general grouchy state of most of them.
I’ve been in the trenches with some of my children, trying to help them with challenges they’re facing in their personal lives. Pretty much the entire month felt like living in the trenches, but I know there were moments of sunshine and I need to do a better job of noticing them, polishing them and tucking them away for safekeeping. I believe that we made some progress in these essential areas and feel grateful for it. It’s not enough but progress is progress.
February was the month of weekly victories. If the daily schedule felt all wonky due to sad little people and the monthly goals were hardly touched, I did manage to rally weekly and get important things done.
Yesterday I attended a baptism with my daughter. While we were there I saw a woman I haven’t talked to for a few years and we chatted a bit. When she asked how our family was doing I tried to sum up the general craziness and goodness of it in just one sentence. Her response is something I’ve been thinking about ever since. She said, “My mom called them the bottleneck years.”
I’m not sure why or how, but that sentence was like a gift to me. Like someone had found the perfect name and description for my current stage in life and wrapped it up simple imagery to share with me. I keep feeling like I have a little treasure in my pocket, one I get to take out and wonder at every so often. Why does it feel like such a treasure? I guess because its simple name adds a feeling of legitimacy, a sense of being on the map, which gives me the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I’m more normal than I think. Suddenly I don’t feel quite so alone. The intensity of it all makes sense too. My bottleneck is a little more like rush hour all the time due to numbers, but the bottleneck in general is normal.
So in these “bottleneck years” I’ve just had a wild bottleneck month. I’m expecting much better things in March. I made a noble effort on the house this weekend and hope to keep things under control this month. I hope that daily life will be less emotional for all the little people I live with. And I’m planning my garden. Seriously, if you’re planning that, how bad can life get? I am so very blessed.
I am also so very tired. It’s off to bed I go and a fresh start in the morning!