It is four in the morning and I am typing, invigorated by the ideas mulling in my head and apple cider vinegar-honey tea. There are lots of things that I might be doing right now (such as sleeping). When one has four kids and a husband, there are always things that I could do but that would mean that the steeped thoughts would never pour out and life for me would be defined by chaos rather than order.
Life and work for me involves a lot of doing. After rising at 4:45am for some quiet time and a run, I dress and make breakfast before waking the kids. They rise at 7:00am and the day begins in earnest. We are never “busy,” for to me busyness implies that I am caught in the activity without regard for people. If my doing means that I have no time for people, than I lose the purpose of all my work. I “do” to create opportunities to love people – family, friends and neighbors, my husbands’ colleagues, and strangers. We are NOT busy, but we are always doing something. For my kids, there are acorns to gather and bikes to ride, outdoor places to explore, books to read, pages to color, structures to build, and questions to ask. Oh, the questions!
On an ideal day, the older kids play quietly or nap in their room from noon to three, while the youngest naps from noon to two. This period is mama’s opportunity to do housework without interruption and maybe spend a few minutes reading or napping herself. It remains far, however, from being a solid two-hour block of time. This weekend provided a typical example. After washing dishes and beginning a load of laundry, breaking to assist two older children with going to the bathroom, I sat down to touch the piano with more than a feather duster. Playing fifteen minutes revealed years’ lack of daily practice, but this felt good nonetheless. Removing to the couch to read, I had turned my first page when my husband entered the room and needed to talk to his best friend. Break again. Minutes later I greeted my precious baby, who nursed and then joined me for dinner preparations. The nature of my “quiet” time made me laugh.
A daily routine brings order to what could otherwise be chaos. It sets a rhythm to life in which my kids can do the unexpected while having a sense of what will happen next. In theory it gives me time too – time that I need to be a human being rather than a human doing.
In a similar way, words bring order to the confusion in my mind. They help me thoughtfully live even in the most mundane of activities (think washing dishes), because words help me bring meaning to what I do. For example, I can remind myself that a house is a tool that is cleaned to be used, not an ornament to showcase. The kids do not “mess up” my tidied house, but use it for play and learning. So when I feel consumed by the doing, when two hours shrinks to two minutes, and my thoughts become muddled, expressing experiences and feelings in words helps me put everything in perspective. I remember the gift that this life is and I capture its joy.