Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Lost Art of Lingering

When Jay and I were first married, we perfected the art of lingering.  We would linger over dinner, even sit and have dessert.  We would linger on the couch, holding hands and talking.  We would linger in bed in the mornings, holding each other until the very last second before getting up and facing the world.  And we would linger in God’s Word.  From the moment Jay and I met, he’s been my favorite person to discuss the Bible with.  We would have long talks over the words of Jesus, what they meant, how they impact our lives.  It was treasured time for me.

Eight years into our marriage, Hurricane Micah entered our world.  And even though things were disrupted for a time, we got our groove back.  After all, there were two of us and only one of him.  We even taught him the fine art of lingering.  He learned to climb into our bed on Saturday mornings.  We took our time with bath time and bedtime (Jay – THIS is why he STILL stands in the shower letting the water run over him for 30 minutes every morning and why he STILL makes a million excuses to stay up late.  Case solved!)  We played music during dinner.  We strolled through the grocery store.  We had picnics in the park.  I even found time to start this little blog.  We were pretty chill.

Those days seem like a lifetime ago.

We’ve added three people to our family in three years.  With the addition of two miracle babies and Pop, we have filled the Spalding family to capacity, and to keep everyone fed, clean and happy, things have to stay on a schedule.  I, the keeper of said schedule, most of the time feel like a dictating, bossy, killjoy.  You can turn the world from order to chaos by missing one day of laundry.  Don’t check the big kid’s agenda the second he gets home?  You might find yourself making a midnight run to Walmart for supplies for a project we knew nothing about.  Don’t keep a careful diaper inventory?  You may be pulling out those very well intended but very seldom used cloth diapers at 3:00 a.m. – which adds to the laundry you don’t have time to do! 

And lest you think that you can rest easy when you’re all caught up… beware!  Spalding’s Law (like Murphy’s Law!) will come into play.  Like the rule that if you have a great morning, a flat tire is awaiting.     Or on the day you wash bedsheets, someone will vomit (that’s an exaggeration – last week no one threw up.  Asher did pour an entire sippy cup of apple juice on my bed though)

My day basically goes like this: I wake up in a state of terror because I hit the snooze button one too many times because one (or two or three) of my kids have been up through the night several times.  We begin the delicate, frantic dance to get everyone dressed and ready and where they need to be at the time they need to be there.  No one can be out of step or the morning will just implode.  Jay and Micah have to leave by 7:30. The little boys and I have to be out the door about 8:15.  No one can be lagging.  Almost Teenager, you can do without your Axe body spray cloud today, we are out the door! Silly Potty-Training toddler, there’s no time to go to the bathroom now!  Nursing Infant, don’t be crazy, no one has time for that!

Jay rushes in one direction, I rush in the other.  When I finally land at the office, I fall down in my chair and tear into my annoyingly color-coded to-do list, which I must subconsciously set up for failure since I’ve never, not once in fifteen years, crossed off every single item.  I try, at some point, to be in God’s Word – usually using some aptly named book, like “Devotions for You Slackers Who Think You Don’t Have Time to Do Devotions.” At about 3:45, Micah arrives at the office from the school bus.  I nag him to start on homework.  He rarely does.  I try to tie up loose ends and finish a few things so that I can bolt out of the office at 5:05 so I can get to the littles by 5:15. One minute later and I’m the last parent there… and no one wants to harbor that guilt.

We roll up to our house at about 5:45 (unless there is grocery shopping to do, church programs or basketball practice).  One of us (usually Jay!) starts dinner while the other one tends to the kids and gets Micah started on homework.  It’s our goal to eat before 7:00 on “regular” nights so that we can start bath time before 8:00.  The kids go to bed at 8:30 (ish) for the little ones and 9:30 (ish) for the big one.  Then Jay and I start on our night – picking up, dishes, laundry, lunch-making, and then trying to watch some TV (although I make him clean during commercials – sorry, sweetie) before stumbling to our room a few minutes after midnight – just in time for Silas to wake up for the first time to eat.

I end most days knowing there was so much I didn’t get to, and yet feeling like I couldn’t have possibly given anymore. 

Even at times when lingering is forced – sick kids, waiting rooms, long drives, food taking forever at lunch (I’m looking at you, Chilis!), the thought of not doing something productive makes me so anxious.

This inability to stop, this crushing guilt of what I couldn’t get done, this exhausting feeling of failure has been weighing heavy on me this last year.  I keep telling myself that in another month, when XY and Z happens, I’ll be back on my game.  But the reality is, the game has changed.  And it may never be the same again. 

After some middle-of-the-night reflection and prayer earlier this year, I told my husband that he and I need to figure out a time to Sabbath.  To just stop.  We need some linger in our lives, some dawdle in our days, some idle in our existence.  So we pulled out my annoyingly color-coded day planner and blocked off the next Friday afternoon.  And the next.  And the next. 

We have decided to come in on Friday mornings like normal. Check emails and messages, deal with any pertinent issues, make sure Sunday is planned, and then around lunch time, we leave and we are free until Micah gets home from school.  The “rules” of the day are simple.  No work, no chores, no grocery shopping.  Just linger.  Some days we go out to lunch… and have dessert.  Some days we go walk around a store we don’t usually have time to go in.  Some days we go home and watch a movie or even take a nap.  Some days we spend time talking about the things we like to talk about with each other – old times, future vacations, politics and current events, and most importantly, God’s Word.  It is our time.  It is a gift.  It’s four measly hours in the week… and it has been a game-changer for me.

I’m not going to pretend that we are perfect at it.  Obviously there are a lot of times we are out of town (like last week and the upcoming one), but we do our best to guard that time.  I block it out in my planner so we can’t schedule meetings or appointments.  It’s sacred.

This busy life we have created is not showing signs of getting any less busy, but I am determined to no longer wear my busyness like a badge of honor.  The I-did-more-than-you-did martyrdom that has unwittingly set itself up as such a point of pride in my life is no more.  It is time to unplug and reboot.  To revisit the lost art of lingering.