To follow up on Part 1—yes, I’ve been hurting. Not like some people do, but still. It’s been enough, has lasted long enough, to finally get my attention.
I won’t get in to all of it here, but I want to share one aspect of it because of how it intersects with what I’ve been trying to do here on this blog.
I’ve been wondering recently why it takes me so long to speak up. I think it is because I deal with pain by pulling inside of myself. Closing my eyes during contractions—that wasn’t stoicism, that was me blocking out everything else so I could focus, hold myself together, ride the wave of pain. I get quiet when I’m dealing with things.
In other words, I’m an introvert. I get my energy by going inside of myself. I process internally, I respond to things internally, I prepare for big things internally. From the outside—to other people—it’s probably hard to tell what’s going on. But I’m not necessarily trying to hide anything. That’s just how I’m wired.
Aha. How I’m wired.
I love this article by Jonathan Rauch about introverts. It helped me understand a few things about myself, which in turn have helped me with this leap I’m in the middle of (that I really am going to get to if I can circle back to it properly.) This article resonated with me in a way I can barely explain, but the following bit, especially, shifted a whole bunch of things into focus for me:
“after an hour or two of being socially ‘on,’ we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating.”
The people in my life are my greatest treasure, but they also wear me out. If I don’t get away sometimes to process, re-group, re-energize, I feel kind of crazy. Often I shut down involuntarily. Understanding that this is part of my personality, not a character flaw I need to get over, has been extremely helpful.
It turns out that understanding who I am is as important as understanding who my kids are.
I love what I’m doing—homeschooling, teaching violin and making music, writing. But the pace and the intensity are too much. For years I’ve felt like I was in crisis mode trying to hold everything together, keep everybody moving, make sense of it all. It’s been clear to me for a while that something has to give, but I haven’t been willing to decide what that would be. It’s all good. It’s all invigorating and wonderful, and I’ve managed to get myself to a place where I can see how it all sort of fits together—how, in fact, one area of my life feeds into another in amazing ways.
Except for the fact that I feel like I’m running on empty pretty much all the time.
And the other fact that one thing is tugging at me harder than anything else—and if I were to cut it out of my life it would be like cutting off a limb.
That thing is writing.
When I finally got the courage to take a hard look at everything I was trying to carry, I realized that there was one thing I could let go of and still ensure that it would happen, one place where maybe all of us needed a little breathing room, a little space to flourish.
And that’s homeschooling.
Which scared me.
The idealist part of me locked on years ago to what I was convinced was the best way I could be a mother. I had no problem with other people making other choices. But I knew this was the best thing I could choose because the idea was so delicious—I would stay home with my kids, eliminate all the tension between work and family by making my family my work, and pour all of myself into this perfect thing. We would all learn and grow together. Homeschooling was a brilliant plan. Sticking to it—even when I felt pulled towards something else—felt safe. It was a good plan, we were following it pretty well, and I felt secure that I was doing Good Things.
Besides, if I made a change there was always the risk that I was making the wrong decision.
The thing is, I know amazing moms who homeschool their kids, and amazing moms who don’t homeschool their kids. Amazing moms who work outside the home, amazing moms who don’t work outside the home, and amazing moms who combine working outside the home with staying at home. I’m convinced now that the truly important factor in a child’s life is her parents’ love for her, and their continued investment in her life and growth. And for different families, different situations, different personalities even, that necessarily looks different.
When I think about what I want for my kids, it looks something like this: that they live a life of faith and purpose, that they take joy in who they were made to be and live boldly the life they were given. That they love others and live out their dreams, passionately and honestly. I don’t need to homeschool to help them with that. In fact, I’ve been so worn out with things like keeping the four of us on task each day and just being “on” all the time that I don’t have a lot of energy left over to focus on what I see as my most important goal.
Here, then, is where my leap comes in: all three kids are going to school next year, and I am reserving a good chunk of the hours they will be in school to write.
I’m excited about the change. It means new experiences and opportunities for all of us. But it feels like an audacious thing to take a risk on myself like this. I have struggled long and hard over whether I have the right to change the lives of those closest to me in order to do it—and yet it is exactly what I would want my children to do as they learn and grow and strike out more and more into the unknown to discover who they were made to be and what they were made to do with their lives. And if I—wanting them to learn how to do that—hide behind them, afraid to make a move myself—how can I encourage them to do what I won’t?
There is as much danger in hiding behind my family and refusing to take the next step as there is in making a wrong decision. And I think the danger is greater in not stepping out in faith—both for myself and for the people I love.
I have no choice but to be an example—to let them watch me clumsily work out a balance between their claims on me and my work’s/passion’s/dream’s claims on me, between who I am not only as a mother, but as a human being.
If I want them to genuinely work out their lives, I have to step forward and work out mine, as well.
This choice, I think, has been waiting for me for a long time.
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