Waking the Dead

Yesterday at church we talked about being a better person by being fully present in our lives. Our pastor discussed how so many of us are walking around like zombies, rushing from one activity to the next, rarely taking the time to just stop and enjoy the moment we are in…we’re afraid to put away technology for even a moment, because we don’t want to miss out on anything. We also may think we’re simply that important that we can’t be out of touch for very long, so we forget to take the time to really live and engage with the person who is directly in front of us. He even demonstrated this by stopping his sermon several times to check the news and game score alerts that popped up on his cell. Even though I knew this was just an illustration, as I sat watching this happen for the third and fourth time, I could feel myself disengaging and feeling frustrated that he continued to stop his talk to look at his phone. What a great picture it was for me and a reminder about how present I am when I’m face to face with others and choose to check my phone or divert my attention elsewhere rather than being 100% with them in the moment.

I remember watching a Dateline NBC episode once where children were filmed with their parents. The first part of the show was how children respond when a parent is fully engaged, and the second was how the children responded when their parent was on the telephone talking or texting. The change in behavior was drastic and immediate as they lost attention and their little faces were full of obvious frustration, irritation and disappointment. All the children wanted was for their parent to be present with them rather than shushing them away while they were on the phone. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about harping on parents to never be on the phone when their child is awake or in the room. I’ve done it myself…my nephews will want my attention and I’ll be texting someone…they’ll bring their tiny little fingers up to my face and pull it towards them until our eyes make contact…their eyes, which are full of expectation and a need to be acknowledged are focused on making sure my attention is on them alone! Those are the moments when I need to make a decision between them or putting the other person who is on the other side of those messages on hold while I discuss the latest enemy on Star Wars or observe their next move on Angry Birds. It’s obviously impossible to be at a child’s beck and call every moment of every day, and I firmly believe there are times a child needs to be patient and learn it’s not always about them. All I’m trying to communicate is that there is a time and a place for everything.

Which brings me to my next thought. Right now, I’m in a place of rest and quiet in my life, and I’m doing my best to learn to adapt. Last week as I painted my nails for the second night in a row, my husband started chuckling and said, “You went from taking care of children to painting your nails.” I had to laugh myself as I explained, “Well, when I did the dishes last night it messed up my nails, so I had to fix them!” His comment had me thinking though about my “former life”…the one I eagerly walked away from to begin the next chapter as a married lady and current stay-at-home wife. My life before was full of deadlines, reports, hours sitting in Court for a five-minute hearing, telephone calls and emails from law enforcement, attorneys, teachers, physicians and a lot of angry parents wanting their children home yesterday. I’ve gone from talking all day everyday, to hours upon hours of silence. I’ve gone from dressing in my Sunday best in order to follow Court requirements to spending most of the day lounging in comfy, get the housework done kinda clothes. Even as I sit here writing, I actually hear the lawn mower outside and the ticking of the clock inside and once in a while, I’ll hear the sound of the jet engines as the Thunderbirds fly around the Las Vegas sky. The difference now is the clock is no longer a source of anxiety for me…it no longer taunts me with the turning of its hands. What used to be a constant reminder of how much was left to complete on my “to do list” before the close of a business day, is now a gentle excitement of when my husband will be home or how many minutes left before my latest culinary creation will be done baking. One month ago, I turned in my CPS Investigator badge for an apron and cleaning solution, went from writing forty page reports on child abuse to writing thank you notes…I went from hoping for enough time in the week to cook even one meal at home to cooking all of our meals except on “Eat out Sunday.” I went from making case plans for families to making cookies for the soldiers in my husband’s unit. I went from “let’s see how long I can make the clean clothes last before doing laundry” to making sure the laundry is caught up every day.

I went from chaos to quiet in a very short amount of time, and while most of us say we’d give anything for just a few days of rest, the truth is, when we carve out that time to rest, we end up filling it up so that we don’t feel lazy or unproductive. The reality is most of us have created our lives so that there is no TIME to be still. In the quiet of today, I am learning to fight the thoughts that sometimes tell me I’m no good “just being at home” or “I’m lazy because my husband is our sole provider right now.” I have to combat thoughts of panic that the longer I am without work the more I’ll be looked down upon in society. But the truth is, this time of rest in my life is extremely important, and I’m ENJOYING IT! Taking care of the needs of my husband is one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. I love knowing he will be properly nourished throughout his work day, because I made him breakfast and lunch. I enjoy maintaining the house so that he can focus on the things he needs to get done during the day. I love creating an environment where he’s excited to come home and it is a refuge from the stressors of the outside world!

I am learning to embrace this new life I have, because I know all too well how life can change in just one moment, in one phone call from the doctor…in one treatment of radiation, and I’m determined to live each day to the fullest, no matter what that day holds. I’m determined to wake the dead, discontent part of me that is always looking ahead to the next stage of life…the one who thinks about what my next job will be or about how life will be when I become a mother, or the part that looks around our two-bedroom apartment and wonders what our house will be like once we move. I’m determined that today will be about the lessons and experiences vital to right now and not tomorrow. I’m determined to enjoy every moment of quiet as that time will one day come to an end. Our pastor ended the sermon with a point that really touched me. “A better life is when you are WHERE you are SUPPOSED to be…fully present and fully alive!” Stop living in the guilt and shame of the past and don’t worry about the future! What a challenge for all of us!