Slowly, perhaps painfully, we discover for ourselves that our struggle against unhealthy egoism and self-centeredness, against the materialism and acquisitive individualism of our society, against the apathy and the indifference of our culture, is really a struggle about just who we are and who it is we hope to become. – M. Shawn Copeland
Which is my authentic self? The ideals that fill my quiet thoughts with longing, or the procrastinating and the settling that ends up taking place? I feel like if I am not striving, than I am not living authentically to who I am and what I value.
This is different than just your standard New Year’s resolutions. I am not idealistic in the sense of imagining a better version of myself that will never exist. There are choices I could make (with four kids, with chronic illness, with this little house) that are entirely in the realm of possibility, that would lead me closer to capturing some of those values that I think are important. Yet I allow myself to be pulled further and further away.
I have different ideals:
Comforting home atmosphere. I want the glow of candles, the buzz of activity, instrumental music playing, and something baking in the oven.
A state of enough. Of functionality. Not keeping any more than I use. Yet a feeling of abundance that we have what we need when we need it.
Family relationships, and being close to one another. Everyone feeling included and vital in a multi-generational setting. Family members living and working together.
Time spent in nature in the spring and fall. I am restored by the sun and a hammock.
A spirit of peace. In my home, in the world, everywhere.
I used to be a very nomadic person. I don’t know if it’s because we moved often when I was a kid, but I love the fresh start that moving brings. By going through all of the closets and touching everything you own at least once, you re-evaluate why you choose to own it in the first place. We have lived here for nearly 8 years, and the accumulation of belongings (especially when you have no attic or garage space in which to store them) is suffocating me. Being tied down to stuff–even if it’s good, useful stuff–stresses me out.
We all hate cleaning. The constant management of our stuff keeps us from doing what we really want. A more radical me wouldn’t have any problem chucking more of this stuff out. I’m not really sure what holds me back, except of course, the disabling fatigue I struggle with everyday.
You know those moments when you hear about something awful that has happened to someone else, and it makes you clutch your children closer to you? You are awakened again to life’s frailty and preciousness. I want to carry that with me all the time, so I don’t keep getting hung up on stupid frivolity. Those things that spring to your mind when there is a call from the hospital—that’s the real stuff in life. The shock, adrenaline, and fear. I have felt it a few times: hearing my grandma’s breast cancer diagnosis, finding out my dad was being brought into hospice care with “do not resuscitate” orders, rushing Jonas to the hospital when he fractured his neck. Why does it take something bad to finally break through our crusty layers of anesthetized indifference?
My ideals become hidden under the daily drudgery. I want to make time count, but I waste it thoughtlessly. I want my children to feel in their bones how much I am captivated by them and love them, yet I glance back at the screen as soon as they have finished their sentence. So many bad habits; lazy choices made over and over, that need to be dismantled one by one.
What can I do? I can limit my social media time, and quit consuming other people’s lives, creativity, and ideas. I can schedule time to pray with more focused intercession. I’d like to declutter. Limit my hobbies, interests, goals, and obligations, and/or bring the kids into more of them. Find ways to help my mom transition to retirement so that we can enjoy more time together, because we’ve missed out on a lot with her working full time my entire life.
I’m thankful that I am at least aware, though. I have talked to people whose eyes were not opened until their kids were grown, and they have a lot of regret. I won’t get it right every day. But each choice I make towards living out my authenticity, which in its simplest form is following Christ, will bless my family and lighten the burden I carry.