Recently one of my best friends and I met up for happy hour. We try to do this as often as we can because each of us comes away feeling a little bit more like ourselves. Throughout the course of the evening we covered every inch of our present lives. From motherhood/parenthood, to workouts, Jesus, marriages we are grateful for, and the general busyness of life. As we chatted there was a point that I went off on a rant and it went a little something like this:
“Okay, so I am over people talking about finding balance. It’s like a mythical creature or a unicorn. Everyone swears they have seen one but no one has proof in real life. Balance feels mythical, like it truly doesn’t exist. I think we should be working towards living in the tension of our real lives instead of chasing unicorns.”
Now that I reflect on the moment, that is most likely not at all what I actually said. All I can honestly remember is feeling a shift in my body as we discussed this idea.
Tension vs. Balance.
When I think about balance, all I can see is some circus performer, holding and spinning all these different plates in the air or maybe someone walking a tight rope. So you either have plates requiring you to look at them for a split second to keep each one spinning but not really observing what the plate is doing or what is on the plate. Or you are walking on a tight rope, looking down missing what’s right in front of you. Whereas tension feels different. Tension feels more real to me and less like a show.
Let me take you into my little world for a moment. Most days I spend my time trying to remain present in my physical body. It’s a struggle to not get locked in my head that is swirling with thoughts and/or tread water in my hearts pool full of feelings. (I mean I am a 4 on the Enneagram after all.) I am gonna focus on the spinning plates here for a few minutes. This idea literally gives me the visual of never looking down or out, only always up which is the exact opposite of what I have found to be healthy for me. There is no end in sight when spinning plates. Pointless, busy, and screaming of urgency.
Then there’s tension.
I imagine tension as a rope tied at one end to an unmovable object while the other end is attached to my waist. I know that may sound like an anchor to some but in a way, that’s kind of what we all need don’t we? Something solid to hold us in the midst of the chaos catapulting us into the ever present, always changing future. This image brings me an odd touch of serenity and grace. Knowing that my life has flex and bend while remaining in tact feels energizing, purposeful even. Each day that rope tightens and loosens, some days by the second. That rope though is closer to the ground, closer to the dust. (There it is again, that word, dust. What we are all made of. I digress.) That rope keeps me looking around instead of up or down. It keeps me in the present because it’s tugging at my core, where my intuition resides.
For example, there will be some mornings I wake up and immediately there is very little slack in my day. From the moment I open my eyes till I crawl into bed that night. Then there are other days where the rope is a little slack in the morning or the evening, there is room to breathe and wiggle if you will. I can sit, stand, and move fully in my life with a rope around my waist. If I choose to spin plates I can barely move an inch for fear of disrupting the little bit of balance I may have imagined I found.
This picture of a rope works wonders in my brain and maybe it will in yours too. This imagery gives room for the both/and kind of perspective, for the now and not yet. Overall there is more room for the grey parts of life which if I’m honest is where I believe most of this life is lived. Sure we all would love black and white, we all want nice neat, tidy boxes, or tidy spinning controlled plates. We want certainty and clarity but I’m not really sure that is the actual point of living. When we choose to spin plates it feels like choosing to look away from the gaze of Christ and instead doing it all our own way in our own strength and ability.
In other words friend, I never want to be a plate spinner, constantly looking up while missing the life all around me. Spinning plates is not my jam, oh and did I mention it creates false drama too? What if I let a plate drop? What then? Well my friend, you break a plate. Did you really need that plate or were you spinning it to keep up appearances, please your dad, fulfill an unnecessary obligation? It may be time to break some plates and find a rope.
Growing up I went to a lot of rodeos. My Papa always loved horses and that love was passed onto my younger brother who took it a step further. He became a calf roper and traveled all over competing in rodeos. Over the years I don’t know how many times I saw him tie a calf but it was a lot. He would fly out of the shoot like a bullet, with his rope loose, swinging in a large circle above his head. He would be positioning himself to throw and catch the calf. As soon as the calf was caught, he was off the horse in a flash sprinting towards his calf, hand gliding along the tightened rope towards his next move. It’s the picture of that rope pulled taut that gets me. My brother at that point had laser beam focus moving towards a goal. When just seconds before that same rope was loose, creating the space and momentum needed to stretch out ahead and lasso that calf. The moments of slack in our life create the ability to pull the rope of life tight when we need to. We can’t have one without the other.
So yes, I will take the rope life over striving for balance any day. I am interested in looking and living in the tension of my life. Some days will look more chilled, while others will feel militant. Still I will take it over the balancing act because it’s just that, an act. You never catch your breath that way. You remain scattered and distracted, never fully present and what a shame that truly would be.
Have you become a professional plate spinner? Has this been your own choice or does it feel like life was thrust upon you in this way? Would you like to stop spinning plates and pick up a rope? I hope so! If this post feels like an invitation you have been waiting for, send me a message. I would love to encourage each of us to move into this way of living.
Can I tell you a little secret? I think I may have failed at Lent this year. Well, at least what I initially set out to achieve this season.
After a very meaningful Advent season and finding ways to connect my faith to my parenting, I was looking forward to more of the same. I started off strong with my daily readings, taking a few minutes to be silent, and then, I just stopped.
For some reason I wasn’t connecting with the readings. They felt long, tedious, wordy, and not very relevant to my daily life. If I’m honest I couldn’t relate to them. The days went by, our schedule felt busy. A few trips to Idaho thrown into the mix and my plan of making Lent come alive was left in the dust.
That’s where Lent began. Ash Wednesday. From dust to dust.
Gritty, dirty, dusty.
Now these were words that resonated deep within my soul.
On one of the trips back from Idaho I listened to a new podcast I found called The Desire Line. As the hosts spoke to their guest he shared about how there came a season where his old ways of connecting with God just didn’t seem to work.
My ears perked up.
I have experienced many different seasons and had felt this very thing on numerous occasions. As he went on talking he shared how he began walking and hiking in an attempt to begin communicating again with God in a way that meant something to him. I loved the idea and agreed with the concept. When I got back home to Kirkland and our rhythm of life, I decided to get up before everyone else and go for a walk. No music, no headphones, just Jesus, me, and my thoughts.
Those first few days it was like trying to tune into a fuzzy station to find the right channel. Things in my head felt noisy and distracted. After the third walk I could sense my mind starting to quiet and adjust to this new practice. I could start to hear God’s voice again. Speaking in single words. I could smell the fresh rainfall, hear the birds singing overhead, and appreciate the quiet of the morning. This little gritty path laying before me, letting me walk upon it while I listened, was teaching me.
Then one day I decided to take the boys for a hike on a random Tuesday. We had nothing planned except to burn off some energy. I packed up our lunch, snacks, and away we went. As we walked the easy hiking path I could feel the solid ground beneath my feet. My eyes drawn upward towards the budding branches, brown mingled with shots of brilliant green. Spring fully underway.
The boys chatted non-stop, shouting with delight at each discovery nature had hidden and I didn’t shush them. The woods were strong enough to absorb their loud way of living a four year old existence. We played Star Wars games, skipped rocks, and ran through the forest together. The rest of the day felt easier and the dirt stuck to the tread of my shoes as a reminder of why.
As the evenings have slowly gotten brighter and the weather occasionally cooperating into a mild night, I decided to start weeding the other night. The boys played in the garden as I, on hands and knees, dug up little shoots and roots, pulling them out. As each one came out I could see the remnants of last years gardening project peeking through. The bark from last year was still there and made the area look clean, tidy, and cared for. While I slowly pulled weeds I could feel my breath settle. I could feel my mind focusing on the one task at hand. My shoulders relaxed and so did I. The boys even got excited to help me weed and would take each weed as I pulled it from my hand and place it into the bin. The next morning I washed out the remainder of the dirt from under my finger nails, hinting at the calm it had ushered in.
Most recently, we took a day trip to Alki beach outside of Seattle. We walked along the waters edge. The boys and I walked on ahead as Bryan and his brother Nate chatted. The boys and I collected beach glass, attempted to build a sandcastle with sand that was too dry, and used rocks as army guys who were fighting off Star Wars characters. Eventually the boys paused to play and I laid down in the warm sand. I closed my eyes and took deep breaths, allowing my chest to rise and fall slowly, methodically. I relaxed my eyes, placed my arms behind my head and lay still. The feeling of the sand in my hair, the sound of the water rolling onto the sand close by, the boys voices bubbling out of them in excitement, it awakened my senses.
That’s when I started thinking about how different this Lenten season had been for me. Had I failed? I didn’t think so, or at least I didn’t want to. Then the thought came to me. This Lenten season had been more like a puzzle I was putting together. One piece buried in the mud on our hike, one piece buried in the soil under a weed, another piece lodged between the rocks that get stuck in my trainers after my walk, and then another piece covered by sand and seaweed.
Gritty, dirty, dusty.
That’s where I found Lent this year: in the grit, dirt, and dust. I found myself buried in these simple practices that invite quiet in. In these places I did not have to try to tame the wild of my boys. I did not have to try to keep the house tidy to find a semblance of peace. The grit, dirt, and dust of my life were welcome in these places and so were my boys. I could feel myself rising to the surface in these moments. Not the me that is rushed, stressed out, but the me that pauses, the me that takes in the beauty of the ordinary. These practices had a way of settling me and I was thankful for the discovery.
Maybe this Lenten season what God was resurrecting in me was me. Maybe I had to walk to hear His voice. Maybe I had to take my boys outdoors to be a more engaged mother. Maybe I had to pull weeds up one at a time to appreciate the length of time it will take to grow that which can never be uprooted in me. Maybe like the beach glass, that becomes smooth and polished after being pummeled, I am being made smooth and less abrasive. Just maybe.
So maybe I didn’t fail Lent this year, maybe I found it for the first time.
How have you practiced or observed Lent this year? Was it meaningful, rich, and full? Or did it feel stale and dry? Pay attention to the answer. It could be time to take a walk and quiet yourself too.
I am a 4 on the Enneagram, the Individualist. One of the deepest rooted desires for 4’s is to be authentic and feeling special while being uniquely flawed. I don’t mind the first part of that because I value authenticity. The second part, the being special part and feeling out of place, well hmmm.
I recently listened to a pastor talk about 4’s and our need to be seen as special while at the same time feeling like we don’t really fit in. (Insert the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, his crazy dreams and yep, there you have it, a 4 in the Bible!) He spoke about how we most likely always have felt different or special. As I listened I cringed. This was me. Growing up I lived with a sense, or a weird awareness that I was special. Even as I type that I’m slightly embarrassed. Yes, I did feel special growing up but I thought that was partly because my parents did a great job at making me feel loved and yes, special. Along with feeling special, 4’s often feel fatally flawed. We feel like something is wrong with us and once again, I identify with that too.
Now that I’m older, I haven’t been able to shake the “special” feeling or the “flawed” feeling. It feels strange to admit this and uncomfortably honest. As a 4 I can often struggle with feelings of being misunderstood. By me admitting to this nagging special feeling means I will most likely be misunderstood. There in lies the dilemma.
However, as I have done a tiny bit of reading and looking into my type partnered with age and experience, I am coming to accept the special part of me as a gift along with the flawed part. By acknowledging these feelings, which let me clarify are simply that, feelings, I am not saying I am in any way more special, or more flawed than anyone else. Heavens knows that’s the farthest thing from the truth. What I am coming to terms with is that feeling special isn’t bad and feeling out of place isn’t either. These opposing feelings make me long to share my special or unique perspective with the world while also motivate me to keep trying to find the places I do fit. They are my yin and yang. By experiencing these polar opposite feelings, I long to identify with others in ways that only I can so that hopefully they feel more understood, seen if you will. I also let people know how screwed up I can feel at times, regardless of it’s truth or not, it can feel true and make a person feel isolated. These two traits are my shadow and light.
As I have learned more about my enneagram type, I see it’s impact in so many areas of my life. The other night I was hit with the reality of how our personality type can especially influence our parenting. I had been working from the afternoon through to the evening and had missed dinner and getting the boys to bed. The flawed part of me felt like I had really let my boys down by being at work, not being the one to feed them and get them to bed (the lie I told myself). When I arrived home Bryan had put the boys to bed but said they were waiting for me to come say goodnight. I walked back to their room still in my fancy work clothes (let’s be honest, I play at parks and slide down slides most days), opened their door, and I became immediately intoxicated with my two blonde headed bundles snuggled up in their Star Wars blankets.
I went to Kidran first, as he sleeps on the bottom bunk these days. He was laying face out and was already sleeping. He has been pretty sick these past few days and I could see the exhaustion on his face. I kissed his warm cheek, stared at him for a few seconds, brushed his hair away from his closed eyes, and swooned. Cohen however, popped straight up and gave me a huge excited grin. His sparkling eyes met mine and the way he looked at me made my heart explode. He could barely contain his infectious excitement about the fact that our bodies have bones in them and had to tell me all about it. Then he pointed to his ribs and told me to feel them. I obliged and he said “See momma, I told you.” As he finished telling me about the rest of his day I told him I loved him and he said he loved me too. He leaned over the edge of the top bunk for a goodnight kiss and then laid back down. As I walked out of their room and shut the door, I was overcome with emotion. In that moment I felt like the most special person in the world.
You see, one of the greatest gifts of being a mother has been getting to know these two humans who are my sons and allowing them to get to know me. They see all aspects of me daily. They see the good, the bad, the ugly. They see but don’t seem to notice the oily hair days, the days when I am grumpy or emotional, or the days I don’t want to play as much with them. Still I know that they see within me something special and they respond to that with the most unconditional love. They also see my very real flaws and accept those too, in turn helping me accept them. This is truly one of the greatest gifts of my motherhood so far.
Lately Kidran has told me on a few occasions that I am his “sweetheart” and I will take it. I am his person for now. For how long I don’t know but I will soak in that reality for as long as it remains true. Bryan is Cohen’s person but man that boy knows how to look at me in a way that already breaks down any inkling of feeling out of place. These boys help me see that I am special and flawed, but that both are acceptable and equal parts beautiful. To them, I am “their” special momma, I am “their” flawed momma and that’s what matters.
Who are you special to? Who’s eyes do you make light up? Take time today to value your own specialness. Soak in all that makes you who you are. Also take time to value the shadows of your own personality, the parts that don’t feel as acceptable for we need both to make them work.
*If you haven’t taken the Enneagram free test yet, I highly recommend it!