Quiet Harmony

Imagine what is possible and try to live
my days mindfully and with a sense of humor.

Being a mom today seems to require I move swiftly most of the time. Much as I may crave quiet interlude with my children, family mealtime, and meaningful ritual, I have resigned to life without it. There may be days when I barely manage to bring my children and husband together in the same room at the same time--let alone share our innermost thoughts, a joke, or a moment of quiet intimacy.

Yet I also know my relationship--with me and with each other--need time if they are to flourish. My children and I need time for solitude, time to stretch and think and wonder, time to become acquainted with myself and with the world around me. My children and I need sacred time together, time that is carved out of my busy life, protected, and honored but not scheduled. Time, instead, for just being.

I came of age in a world that was quite different from the one my children now inhabit. As a child, I was fed, clothed, loved, and cared for--and otherwise left to my own devices a good deal of the time. Even a generation ago, childhood could still be experienced as an accumulation of idle hours, hours in which we were allowed to discover the world for myself, piecemeal, and to awaken slowly to its beauty and complexity. In the process, I awakened to myself.

I can't reclaim those spacious hours, any more than I can turn back the hands of time, and return to that more innocent age. But the lessons taught by solitude and imposed leisure of childhood are still imprinted on my soul. As child, I learned the pleasure of my own company, how to be happy where I was with what I had, how to fill an empty afternoon. But I wonder: Do I give my own children time enough to absorb subtle teachings of such tranquil moments? Am I granting them the time they need to develop an inner life as well as a social one? I remember many, many ways when I had nothing but time. Yet today I find I have to struggle to give my children the very ease and space I once took for granted.

No, I cannot turn back the hands of time. But as the overworked, exhausted, sleep-deprived parent of a generation of busy overstimulated children, I can slow down the pace of daily life in my own home. I can gently reshape life that have become overstuffed and overly stressful. I can give my children fewer activities and more room to breathe, fewer lessons, and more time to make their own discoveries. I can take a good look at my own maxed-out calendars and crowded life and let go of the activities and commitments that don't enrich our days. I can be easier on myself and demand less of my children. I can protect and honor quiet, unscheduled time, and I can bequeath it to my daughters and son.

Does a quiet story told by candlelight seem impossible to manage? In truth, the story--told from the heart and shared in flickering darkness--is more nourishing for a child's soul, and for my own, than another soccer practice, a dance recital, or a pile of birthday gifts. I know this to be true. But sometimes I forget. Sometimes, I do need help and inspiration, as I try to negotiate my way from the full-scale chaos of a running-late Monday morning to a place of repose at a child's bedside at the end of the day.

A simple gesture or small goal reaps the greatest reward. I don't have to suddenly see the light and re-create my life. Out of my own needs as a mother and my desire for more space and harmony in my family, I begin mindful reflections more frequently. I live more deliberately by taking the time to put what I care about into words. I yearn to offer my children an alternative to our culture's noise, pressures, and materialism. Even a small shift in my own thinking has a more powerful effect on day-to-day life than any full-scale attempt at self-improvement. Holding a vision of my best, true self in my mind, the picture could come to reality. I create my life within my own imagination well before I ever realize it here on earth. It is not about changing my life, but, rather paying more attention to the life I already have, about taking my own life back as I protect my children from the pull of a world that is spinning too fast. I must find my own way to be in the world.

As mother, I walk a common path, through a rugged and ineffable territory of love and fury, exhilaration and exhaustion, self-doubt and self--discovery. Every mother I know wishes for close, meaningful relationships with her children, yet none is immune to the daily press of obligations and events. I fall captive to the demands of my job and family, and to the insistent tug of my fast-paced culture. I find it increasingly difficult, in the face of all this external pressure, to remember what I already know: True happiness is found within me and in quiet harmony with others. Yet if I let this inner knowledge slip away, my children may never learn it themselves, for I am their first teacher. It is up to me to set the example, to show by my own actions, my respect for intimacy, contemplation, and wonder. This is perhaps the greatest legacy I can bestow on my children: the capacity to be enchanted by quiet gifts of everyday life.

May God shine light upon our trails so we might find our own way with a bit more confidence. Happy living!

1 encouragements:

Kaylynn's Mommy said...

I love the pictures of your children! They are so adorable!

True learning-learning that is permanent and useful,that leads to intelligent action and further learning, can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
John Holt
Real heroes are men who fall, fail and are flawed, but win out in the end because they stayed true to their ideals, beliefs and commitments.
Actor Kevin Costner

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