Today G was home sick, again. Or, at that stage, anyway, of still needing more rest, but moving at the speed of normal life (with slightly puffy eyes and sniffles proclaiming his progress through the house). Best guess is a sinus infection that just doesn't want to let go.
It's a struggle for me when one or both of the boys are home sick from school. Being an introvert, I soak up those quiet times with no interruptions and the ability to make unilateral, not multilateral decisions. Beyond that, I love routine, I love knowing what to expect, and when that expectation is turned on its head, it drops me on my head, too. Still. Even after six years. You'd think that I might have adapted a little more by now. But I haven't, and it does.
Some days I recover better than others, and thankfully this was one of them (having gotten over the bulk of the frustration yesterday). In a lot of ways, it was actually a really good day. Having dropped D off at school, G and I had a good chunk of time to spend at home, minus a doctor's appointment. I have an unreservedly prolific patch of lemon balm that I've been eying for a while now, to begin to prune back and replenish my supply for tea, and this morning I did, after a game of “helicopters” with G, which consisted entirely of me watching him drop whirlygigs off the top of the play-set and pretending we were riding inside them. Later he helped me hold the stems as I tied them in bunches to hang-dry. He eagerly helped me make granola. He brought me an experiment out of his chemistry kit and I actually said ok, even though I was doing at least two other things as well. And so we made an egg float in salt water. He was so proud and big-boyish in many ways that he helped me with little things all day long, and tried to figure out (using Wildcraft cards) what could help with his brother's mosquito bites, and did we have any of them? He also talked non-stop, which is his want, thereby giving me a chance to practice my patience a time or two...
It was a good day. It was like a little window: see, it can be like this. Tending to the basic, and then a little, needs of the home, putting up some of what we have grown to take in as sustenance, working alongside and together with G, weaving in and out.
As I was leaving for a meeting and then some time to myself this evening, I glanced at my to do list for the day (which I knew was at least ambitious, even when I made it this morning), and there were three glaringly clear tasks, no lines to be seen. Three. That's it. But those three things glared at me and no matter how much I rationalize them (contradict them with reality), with the extra not-listed things I did, with the reduced time and ability to focus – they still bring me down. From their perspective, my day was not so successful.
I do this a lot: focus on the nots to the exclusion of the rest. Even one small not is enough to shift my perspective on the day. I realize this is not a good way to be, especially given my proclivity for wildly ambitious, lengthy to do lists.
It's something I have been thinking about these past few weeks. The way I wanted to go about this experiment was to take each day as if it was a normal day – what would it be like if this was daily life? What would be realistic, sustainable? As opposed to looking around me at all the things I'd like to have done and diving in head first expecting significant, eye-popping changes at the end of the month. That is so tempting to do! Goodness knows I could come up with quite a list (see what I'm saying?). But what I really want to know is what would it be like to live with my focus being tending to our home(stead) and our family. Putting my heart and mind into the purposeful work that can begin to change this haphazard, teetering on complete chaos, often resented and neglected space into one that is cared for and respected, treated with a certain reverence and intention that in turn nurtures us. What goes into the space is what comes back to us.
But we are inundated with the message that to be successful we have to do more, have more to show for our time and our efforts. Be productive. It's the same for time: every minute must be accounted for, filled and justified. That message worked its way deeply into my thinking over the years. The thing is, as I've been thinking about it, it is pretty much antithetical to what I just described. There are two ways to look at my day today. From the message of do more and have the results to show for it, my day was only marginally successful. (Not even getting into the whole issue of value (or not) placed on different kinds of work...) Which leaves me frustrated (at myself and at G) and discouraged. But if I step back and look at it from a holistic perspective, it was a pretty darn good and successful day and I feel proud of it: I cared for my son, and really worked with him, giving him the chance to shine and be reminded of and strengthened in his growing abilities, and giving me the chance to feel a deep pride in him and his abilities. I tended to our home. I returned to the practice of self-sustenance through the lemon balm in my hands and now hanging from the drying rack and in the cloches we managed to scavenge and place over a few of the pepper plants. I was curious with my son, in his chemistry experiment, as we wondered what healing herbs we have around our home and as we talked about getting some books out of the library on Mars.
I'd pick the latter any day. When I lay it out there it seems so obvious. But working out those hooks of the expectations of others, of the entrenched need to prove how good and successful I am by the amount I can cross off a list at the end of a day; that is going to take some time, I'm sure, and not a few days of wondering why I just “can't” “measure up”, and berating myself over it much too harshly. It's interesting how easy it is to believe one thing deeply (the ideal), but when it comes right down to it, to come up against the opposite, throwing up walls and making it hard to wholeheartedly, in confidence, follow through.