I wake up, fully aware that it is Monday. Monday has a different air to it than all the other days — the smell of potential. Hope.
Dreams staring me right in the face daring me — no, willing me — to accomplish them, this week.
The taste of a sweet life yet to be lived lingers on the tip of my tongue.
I walk quietly downstairs, drink my water and grab my coffee and head for a space that allows my mind to flow from thought to thought — or to not think for a while — before the expectations of the day take over.
I have coffee with my husband. We discuss various things and then part ways so I can relish the solitude I need to survive as a peaceful human being. I check my calendar for any appointments or notes that need to be addressed earlier rather than later. I listen to the birds outside singing their loved ones home.
Soon, my daughters wake and we go about the morning routine of this and that until, finally, they are out the door and I’m waving to them from the front porch to have a great day and they’re waving back, creating a distance we’re still always getting used to around here.
That’s when I start my work day. My creative work. And put on my family wellness coaching hat. And that’s also when I start to struggle with the battle of getting things done … that might not get done such as putting dinner in the crock pot, calling the doctor’s office and insurance company, cleaning up the spilled dirt from this morning’s plant watering, etc.
Like every other mom, I have struggled with getting things done in motherhood — the battle of what needs to get done versus what I’d love to get done versus the time and space to just LIVE and enjoy this life we’ve created.
But I start with one thing first: Pleasure.
Today it was grabbing a second cup of coffee, my journal and heading to the front porch to dream, doodle, sip and breathe deeply for just 10 minutes. Last week it was working in the yard, weeding and tending the plants outside. The week before that it was meditation.
Because at the end of the day if pleasure is the one small thing I was able to fit in in the margins of my life, I’m pretty satisfied.
What’s collecting dust in your unlived life?
In his book, The War of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle, Steven Pressfield starts out talking about what he calls the Unlived Life. (affiliate link)
“Most of us live two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us,” he writes.
He goes on to explain that many of us have good intentions — we buy the treadmill, dream of writing a book, long to start a yoga practice — but fail at achieving those intentions.
What stops us?
He says that resistance stops us.
And resistance and willpower DOES have a lot to do with that untapped life within us.
Beyond the land of resistance, though, is the fact that modern mothers who are busy working, raising children, taking care of a house, family and more often than not a partner, are lucky to have a few moments to stop and breathe long enough to keep the marathon of living going.
Modern mothers are at war with time.
There’s never enough of it.
We run out of it too quickly.
We wish we had more.
On top of that, one of the most common sentiments I hear from moms is that they long to do important work in the world, but can’t … they don’t have the time, energy, money or support for getting things done that they really long to do.
So they feel stuck in their life, stuck in motherhood, and stuck standing in their own way.
Falling Prey to the Seduction of a Big Life
The war of motherhood, though, is not that we don’t have enough time. It’s that we think there is a more glamorous life out there beyond our reach and we can’t get to it because we’re “just mothers.”
The war of motherhood is not that we have trouble getting things done. The war is in our mindset that we have to get things done in order to be happy or happier.
It’s that we think we will eventually have time once we do all these other more tedious things like the dishes and picking up toys and straightening the blankets and pillows that never seem to stay straightened.
And when we finally get to do those really important BIG things, we’ll be happier.
The war of motherhood is not that we don’t have enough time. It’s that we see motherhood and raising children as a small act, a small life — and that those other things are so much more glamorous and desirable.
We easily fall prey to all the things we cannot do rather than embracing the small yet beautiful life that we have right here, before us, each day that doesn’t make headlines or make for fancy Facebook updates — but it’s a life lived.
In a recent blog post titled In Defense of the Small Life, Erica from Let Why Lead wrote, “For so many of us in the trenches of raising children and earning a living, life has never felt so small. But small doesn’t have to mean unimportant. Small doesn’t translate to without meaning or purpose. Small can be beautiful. And profound.”
Every single breath, every move we take and every dream we have inside of us can only see the light of the day if we take a moment to stop and look around and see that all that we’re doing is worthwhile and beautiful and amazing.
And while all those big dreams are grande they are also none of the things we’ll look back on and wish we did more of …
Even now, my own unlived life contains so many more small things. Walking hand-in-hand with my husband. Doing art with my daughters, including reading and writing poetry together. Learning to bake pie.
Winning the Battle of Not Enough Time
In the afternoon of my day, I’m sometimes scrambling to do as much as I can as my girls walk inside, drop their book bags and head for the kitchen where we’ll spend many minutes catching up, sharing stories and eating a snack.
When I lay down to go to sleep at the end of my day, I won’t look back and cringe at what I didn’t do. I won’t dwell on what I did wrong or could have done better.
Instead, I pull out my gratitude journal — a daily practice I’ve kept for six years — and I start noticing and paying attention to the small life I’ve lived.
The lived life is easily found in the nooks and crannies of playing tic tac toe, eating grilled cheese at the counter and saving a scared child from a random bug or spider.
The lived life is often found in brushing someone else’s hair, making them smile and encouraging them to try something new.
The lived life is often found in doing very little. A lot of watching. Waiting. Standing by, ready. Or running toward those who need us. The lived life leaves a worn path toward those who need us most.
We can walk away from this war of time in motherhood — of not being enough, not doing enough, not having enough — by simply realizing that we always make time for what we want to do in life. We make time for the people who matter most. We spend our days doing what we love.
And for many of us that means spending our days working hard, keeping a decent house and raising our children.
That is the life we’ve created.
That is the life we’ll need to tend in order to see it prosper and flourish.
Sure, I’d love to write another book some day, we’d love to travel the world as a family … and maybe there will be time and energy for that in our days down the road.
For now, each day — every single day — for me is about cherishing the very moment I’m in and choosing to live it the best way I can, starting with pleasure first and ending my day being thankful for every single person I’ve crossed paths with in this one busy, crazy day.
And no matter how slow I move, it’s clear life is moving faster than I’d like, especially as I see the hair on my girls’ legs growing thicker, their stories so much more layered and detailed and their dreams of what their lives will be like several years from now when they are grown up and far out of my grasp.
Signs, in other words, of a life that needs to be cherished so deeply that all of its tiny details are imprinted on my mind so I can remember them forever.
Yes, I give thanks to the life I’ve created and built and embraced — even if it’s a small life, imperfect and flawed and not as productive as I might have thought or envisioned.
This is how we tame the time monster.
This is how to overcome the war of time in motherhood.
By savoring the smallest details so they are tattooed in our hearts to last a lifetime.
And cherishing them for what they are: A life well lived.