Monday, January 21, 2013


I've finally settled on my theme (go here for clarification on that), and decided that 2013 should be centered around the word "Invested."

The last 3 years have been defined by feelings of powerlessness, despair, disconnectedness, frailty, distraction and the overwhelming need to RUN AWAY.  My son is wonderful, but parenting can be TERRIFYING in its totality and you never, ever stop being responsible for your children. Parenting has a way of, simultaneously, making you want to flee in fear and also focus in to the detriment of everything else. Anticipating and living through Cliff's trial was not only nauseating but it also shattered my concentration and made everything else in my life seem trivial and shallow.  

And the days since then, the 797 days since the police first contacted Cliff, have had a tenuous quality.

I've done my job, but my heart hasn't been in it.
I've parented my son, but kept my smartphone in hand to distract me from the focus in it.
I've managed to keep us both fed, but rely too much on processed foods and last minute sandwiches   Also, the same three meals, recycled over and over and over.
I've kept my house in a semblance of order, but too often let it slide over the edge into embarrassing disarray (that is, till someone comes over to visit).
I manage to spend time with friends, but too often neglect my own needs by vegging out in front of the TV.

It's like I'm skating around the edges of all of my responsibilities, doing just enough to get credit but refusing a deeper commitment because it seems too painful.  My internal logic seems to be something like this: you threw yourself into your marriage with Cliff, you committed yourself deeply to your vows and look what THAT got you! Pain, regret, betrayal, shame! Don't make that mistake again!

Which, of course, is stupid.

Committing to keeping a cleaner home (both physically and in regard to eating habits) is not going to lead to betrayal or shame.  Committing to focused time spent with my son is not something I will regret or experience pain from.  Committing to doing my job with more emotional authenticity is not a mistake that leads to wrenching loss.  I cannot draw analogies from my relationship with Cliff to other parts of my life.  They are internally autonomous from that complicated place in my soul and have to be addressed so.  It is time to be invested.

So here are some steps I've decided to take:

Menu PlanningEvery Saturday/Sunday I will plan dinners for the next week.  I will also stop relying on my own kitchen creativity (which is close to 0%) and find websites or apps that will help me expand my food horizons. I'm also resolved to start purging the kitchen of our processed foods and integrating more items that are made by hand - baked, cooked, roasted, whatever.  The food I serve my son shouldn't have a recipe list that seems strangely similar to the ingredients in my shampoo.

Clean House
I'm going to create a cleaning plan which includes things that must be done everyday (tidying up the kitchen counters, loading/unloading the dishwasher at least once, one load of laundry), things that must be done once a week (sheets on the bed, windex windows & mirrors, dusted surfaces), and things that need to be done monthly (changing filters, deep cleanings, etc.).  Every day will also have a room that is the focus.  I'm a a grown woman and a homeowner - it's time to STOP acting like a maid is coming to help out.  

Phone-Free Time
My son is growing quickly and needs to know that I love and value him.  It's one thing to say it and another thing to do it, and I've grown too addicted to the distraction of my phone.  I work full-time and Gareth is in daycare, so the hours we have together (6-8am, 5-8pm) should be treated preciously.  So I'm resolving to put my phone away when my son is home, and only answer it if someone calls.  Texts, Facebook  Twitter, they can all wait!

Pastoral work is....bizarre.  There are some things that can be counted on, some duties that always have to be done.  Sunday is ALWAYS coming, so prayers and sermons and meditations and children's sermons and Sunday school lessons always need to be written.  But there are also lots of wild variables that make it hard to plan - denominational, area, pastor meetings that have to be attended.  Surprise weddings, baptisms, funerals, memorial services that have to be planned.  Mission opportunities that need to be supported.  Counseling sessions that have to be fit in.  And it's much harder to be flexible when your focus is off.  So I'm resolving to only check my social networking stuff on lunch breaks.  I'm resolving to immediately respond to emails.  I'm resolving to keep firm work boundaries that include personal devotional time and dedicated time-spans to work on upcoming events.  This is my job and my congregation deserves to have a focused minister.

I'm not just a mother. I'm not just a wife (whatever that means in my situation).  I'm not just a pastor.  I'm a woman.  And my needs, my hopes, my dreams, my passions, they matter.  I will not be healthy - bodily, spiritually, mentally - if I'm constantly neglecting myself in fits of self-pity and doubt.  I've resolved to regularly exercise, even if it's just walking with my son.  I've resolved to take pride in my appearance, to care about my hair and skin and clothes even though I have no audience to appreciate me like a husband and lover would.  I've resolved to make time and space for friends, to make my home a place where more than just I and my spend time.  The loneliness I experience in my marriage does not have to be replicated in my friendships.

So there it is, the places where I'm choosing to invest: my home, my son, my work, myself.
Please pray for me, that I would keep my commitments and that I would extend grace to myself when I fail to do so.

Have you chosen a word yet?  And how will you be living it?

1 comment:

Jennifer Hanson said...

Excellent Elizabeth.

I made a daily/weekly/monthly chore chart and it really helped me out. I made a whiteboard and gave myself five check boxes to fill in for each day. That helped me to stay focused and organized, but not over-committed (except occasionally when a sixth or seventh check box needed to be scrawled in).

I probably should pull that puppy out again now that we've moved... I've been seriously lacking motivation and don't quite know where I fit as the "guest/renter" in my sis-in-laws house. Gotta start somewhere though. Gotta start period.