(Creative Commons image of drum sticks by Kamal Aboul-Hosn, edited by me)
The prompt for Ann Voskamp’s reSOULutions for June (I know it’s July, but I get around to things eventually) was “daily,” and I chose daily rhythms of grace. I think the idea of a daily rhythms came to mind because I have been trying to find one for so long now. There is so much I want to do and experience before we leave NY, so much to do to prepare for moving, so much I want to enjoy with my daughter, so many good habits I want to establish, so much to research and figure out and arrange, so much to write. I’ve struggled with how I make all the good and necessary things fit. I’m not even talking about the things you get roped into but don’t want to do or the random things that don’t actually need to get done that clutter our lives. I mean things I desire to do and want happening in my life on a regular basis.
Wanting all of those things has made me realize something though: every day can’t be the same. There isn’t enough time to be a good wife, a good mother, a good friend, a good daughter, a good sister every single day and also get in my exercise, my time with God, have a clean house, spend time on all of my writing projects (or any for that matter), get all of our errands done, keep up with the budget, spend time outside, play with my daughter, read books, be good to my dogs, keep up with laundry – there just isn’t enough time in a day to do all of the things you “should” do and want to do every single day. So I have been thinking about daily rhythms, about how I want a rhythm and a balance to my life that isn’t rigid, that is free to change day to day as well as season to season. A rhythm that hits the same set of notes on repeat is soothing in short stretches but downright boring and monotonous after a while.
While I like schedules, I don’t operate well with rigidity because we like to do different things every day. For new moms or moms with toddlers, I’ve often heard the advice to get out of the house every day for a little while. But at least once a week, sometimes twice, Aeryn and I are happier if we don’t leave the house for a whole day. Sometimes I use those days to catch up on housework or try to organize some things. Every once in a while, I don’t pretend to be productive at all and I read a book and play with Aeryn. Then there are days we spend several hours shooting through errands or hanging out at the beach or going for a walk with friends. We need flexibility. But we also need a rhythm because while I can’t do it all every day, there are things that matter to every day.
For instance, I seriously need the sink clean at least once during the day (let’s be real, with the amount of dishes we produce right now, sometimes it gets cleaned 2-3x a day). My ideal is to have it clean before I go to bed at night and before I leave the house in the morning. I have learned this about myself: if the sink stays full and the kitchen is dirty, then it doesn’t matter if the rest of the house is spotless – my day doesn’t sit right. Conversely, the rest of the house can be trashed and as long as my dishes are done and counters wiped, I can live with it and clean it up another day. It sounds silly, but a clean kitchen makes my world feel less cluttered and messy.
Then there are other things that I need, but I tend to push the need to the side because it isn’t sitting in front of me like a sink of dirty dishes. I need time to decompress. I love my girl more than life itself; even still, I learned a year ago that I need time to do things that make me feel like me again. Some nights decompressing turns into a long scroll through Facebook, but those times are always hugely unsatisfying. Social media tends to stir up more discontent and other emotions that need dealing with rather than helping me decompress them. Surprise, surprise, writing helps me decompress – whether it is composing a blog post, emoting in my journal, really hitting a groove in my story, or just making a bunch of to-do lists to get that stuff out of my head before I try to sleep. Reading fiction is also a good decompressor for me because losing myself in a story takes the stress off of reality, and it doesn’t feel like wasted time. Playing piano uninterrupted is blissful. And sometimes just sitting down with a cup of tea and a cribbage board hanging out with husband talking about life is what I need.
My need for a daily rhythm is not the only one in this house though. When she was little, Aeryn had no nap schedule because she was a terrible napper, so we took them where we could get them. These days she has learned to take beautiful two hour naps most days. I try to honor that need, especially since it took us so long to get there. However, I won’t trap us to it 7 days a week. Her start time is flexible and so is the length. I try to pay attention to days when she needs it to be solid and steady more than others. I’m realizing that now that she is bigger, her other needs have shifted as well. She doesn’t nurse 24/7 any more, but she does need doses of my undivided attention several times a day or she has a more difficult time handling life. She needs to go outside if we can because this kid just loves the outdoors. None of these are rigid but I’m trying to stay tuned into the rhythm of them because I’ve noticed lately than when we have “bad days” it usually means one or both of us aren’t getting what we need. There are some notes in your rhythm you just have to hit or things aren’t okay.
The number one beat in my daily rhythm that I need to hit is often one I am willing to push aside the most and do “later.” When the phrase “daily rhythms” came to mind, the first thing I thought of was the Message translation of Matthew 11:28-30:
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
I need unforced rhythms that are fluid and not stressful, full of work and striving and constant doing rather than being. I need a rhythm of grace for mistakes and forgotten things and bad days and sleepless nights. But the key is getting away with Him and walking with Him and watching how He does it. I can’t learn it from myself, although I can catch glimpses of it in others. If I am not turning to Him daily, then my beat will be off. I’m learning to accept that this can also look different on a daily basis, but the emphasis still needs to be on daily. This many years into it and I am still learning to not ignore this most important of needs. Sometimes this looks like attempting to read my Bible while Aeryn sits on my lap and tries to turn the page on me. Sometimes it is giving in to her request to dance to worship videos and really praising along with her. Sometimes it is choosing my own moments of spontaneous worship with a song that is on my heart. Sometimes it is praying out loud in the car. Sometimes it is stealing a few moments to meditate on those verses I know are for this season of life. This is where the grace comes from.
Seasons change and so should the rhythm that goes with them. Right now I have one child who is no longer a needy infant and a husband who has the capacity to take care of her in the evenings. Thanks to his generosity and him actively seeking out an amazing teacher for me, I take piano lessons one evening a week. He’s making a childhood dream come true for me, and I love every minute of it. Another night a week I am taking a strength training class for postpartum moms with an incredible trainer who specializes in this. I’m starting to feel healthy and strong again. As a family we can hike, bike, and kayak and go pretty much anywhere together. We take ridiculously long road trips and visit people a lot. These are the rhythms of the moment. They weren’t possible last year for a number of reasons. They may not be possible next year. That’s okay. There will be new things that didn’t fit into this season.
You aren’t meant to do everything every single day. You can’t. I can’t. Find the beats you have to hit and make your rhythm. Then don’t be afraid to let it change. This rhythm of living in NY is quickly coming to a close. My heart hurts just writing that. But as the changing season looms closer, I’m soaking up these beautiful moments of a life I am so grateful to be living.