Have you played in a pile of snow yet this winter or have you been buried under a pile of laundry or dirty dishes that needed attending? One thing this past year has taught me is to address issues as they arise to prevent being overwhelmed later, especially if I can complete the steps in less than five minutes. I also started to simplify our living space and belongings about a year ago, to decrease the stress of daily life. But somehow I still have often found myself buried by unfinished chores instead of feeling free to play. Have you found yourself in similar circumstances?
Children don’t pass up frolicking in the snow because there are uncompleted tasks! Snow is a magnet to them, whether they are watching it fall outside their window or building a snowman, they become engulfed in its wonder. Maybe that’s one reason Jesus pointed to the pure heart of a child as an example to follow, because they put the first thing first, like relationships and having fun. Children readily grab a book and quickly crawl up in their parent’s lap, not the other way around, to explore a new world found within that story. They are the ones who call us to come outside to play, who want to go to the park, who beg us to get in the floor and roll around with them. Their imaginations soar with the slightest impetus!
But do you find yourself not wanting to get on the floor to play with them anymore because it is just too much trouble to get back up? Or maybe you are too busy? If so, did you know that at least one scientist has found that aging actually accelerates when we stop getting up and down off the floor. In fact, many health care providers recommend practicing getting up and down from the floor at least once a week as you age to keep limber and work your core muscles. Could it be that somehow even a child intuitively knows that it is good to stop and take the time to play?
I am the first to admit that I don’t easily go out to play in the snow, but at what expense? When our children were young, if there was snow, my husband and children would be out in it in a heartbeat! But I always seemed too busy with meals, laundry, or obligations to simply stop and play. Even today with grown children, when my house is a mess I can feel restricted, behind, and overwhelmed, and certainly don’t feel I have the right to play, to do something just for fun. But is that an accurate assessment?
Recently I came across an interview of one of my favorite minimalist, Joshua Becker. Contrary to how some minimalists decide what to keep and what to chunk, Joshua evaluates if the item contributes to the purpose of his life. Living with less over the last year has given me a glimpse of that alignment, to have more time for relationships because I am taking care of less things, for I have also been getting rid of things that don’t contribute to my overall purpose of my life.
In the past, no matter how good my intentions were, with only 24 hours a day, something had to give whenever a new project arose. Like most women, that usually meant less time caring for me. I didn’t want my family, work, or projects to suffer, so I briefly gave up my quiet time of devotion and reflection with God. Or I gave up my exercise routine for a season, making fewer healthy home-cooked meals, because I had too many obligations. Because of my Type A personality, no matter what, I would finish on time, even if I had to give up a night of sleep or forego fellowship with family and friends to diligently complete the project to which I had committed.
After our kids were grown, when one of our married daughters and her family was visiting, I was sitting on the couch sorting socks while we were visiting. She meekly asked me why I always had to be doing something, couldn’t just sit and enjoy our time together. I was actually shocked. I thought I had always been a good example of diligence by multi-tasking to get everything done, but I didn’t realize the true message I was sending.
Through downsizing my stuff, when my favorite shirt is now dirty, that becomes an incentive to get laundry done, because I don’t have that many shirts to choose from now. And with smaller loads, I’ve found it actually takes less time to fold and put away. Who knew? Reflecting on my daughter’s question above, I realized that having too much stuff over the years had kept me ever busy, never able to fully catch up, no matter how diligent I was. But this year of downsizing has taught me that my house, my stuff, and my time are all intertwined, that there is no such thing as a super-mom with super-human strength and energy. So, if I choose to take on more than is humanly possible, there is only two possible outcomes: Either I won’t complete it all or something/someone else in my life will suffer because of it.
I don’t know about you, but for me the time has come to let go of the super-mom mentality, trying to have it all and keep up with it all. Our children or grandchildren don’t care if we can juggle everything without dropping a ball. They are longing for us to rediscover the childlike spirit buried deep within us, to simply play, create, and discover something new together with them. May this New Year find us enjoying the magic of snow, playing and enjoying life, and seizing this moment in history to make a difference for generations to come! I am praying this blessing over each of you!