It's been one hell of a week, hasn't it? I'm sure I'm not
alone in feeling a bit "fall'd out"...every weekend from now
until Thanksgiving is booked like a library and each Sunday night I sit there
going, "Whew! Now, what the heck did I do all weekend??"
I've been contemplating this lifestyle - the one where you
hit the orchards and punkin farms, volunteer for at least two or three charity
events, participate in all the festivals - downtown, all the neighboring towns,
work, school, church, extracurricular groups, social circles, and family
circles, do bonfires and hayrides, and do all the things on the
stressmeoutihateyoubucketlist Fun Fall Bucket List. My conclusion? It's a tad bit insane.
Crazy - in a panicked, not-so-enjoyable way.
I think to myself, "What about the stuff I need to get
done? The grocery lists? That new money-saving-canning-thing I wanted to try?
Cleaning up the yard before the snow comes? Marketing my business? Playing with
my kids? Flossing my teeth? When do I do those things?"
"Maybe," I always think, "I'll have time to
do those things when life slows down a bit." Oh yea. For a while, it was,
"...when I can finally quit my corporate job." Now it's,
"...when both the kiddos are in school." Soon it will be,
"...when the kids are grown." I imagine I will even be saying,
"...once we're retired." Always waiting for the next step. Hustling,
hustling, hustling, but never making cash like TuPac.
Some say screw the responsibility stuff. Live life now, in
the moment, because you never know when it's all going to end. Others say
happiness comes from action, not dreaming. Work hard and you will achieve your
dreams. I feel like I've got one giant Jen foot in one theory and another giant
Jen foot in the other.
By nature I am a worker bee. If I commit myself to
something, I will never give up, ever. It will consume me until I've
extinguished any flame of doubt with cold, refreshing, hard-earned knowledge.
Some call it "dramatic," others call it "passionate." I
like to think I'm just absolutely my own kind of nuts. "Letting go"
isn't natural for me. I don't like to start stuff and not finish it. I will
stop mid-project if I have to, I do all the time (helloooo, baby books!), but I
can't stand it. I don't forget about them. Those unfinished things haunt me and
drag me down like anchors.
I also have this thing for cleanliness. I feel most relaxed at
the end of the night when I know the dishes are done, the sink is clean, and
there's no clutter sitting out in the living room. Even if that means just
shoving stuff into a box and putting it in the closet, that's fine. The clutter
is gone. Now I can breathe.
Plus, to be honest, I feel better about myself when I've
done responsible things throughout my day. I feel accomplished.....like, whoa!
You did seven loads of laundry and included all the bedding - nice work! Or,
hey! You literally just made a pie from scratch - and it's delicious! And gadzooks! Your blog post is written, your freelancing work completed, and it's
Those types of things, those exercises in responsibility,
make me feel good. They make me feel like I've done good things with my day. I
once thought, "Hey, maybe that's the problem? You allow cleaning to make
you feel accomplished?" but then I thought, "No, man. Feelings are
feelings and cleaning makes me feel good. Nothing wrong with that."
Except the whole "live in the moment" thing. I
have a cleaning schedule and sometimes, people want to hang out, or I need to
run to the store, or it's randomly gorgeous and I want to take the kiddo to the
park. I ditch the cleaning, of course, knowing it is good to "get
out" and "live in the moment," but I'm not gonna lie, I have a
hard time coming home and looking at the dirty floor, knowing I didn't do what
I was "supposed to do."
I am awesome at going out there and living in the moment,
but completely suck at returning to reality. Clothes do need to be washed. Dogs
really do track footprints all over the floor. Kids really do get sick. Friends
really do need help. I adjust like a pro - but always end up feeling like a
So how do we do it? Just say screw it? Responsibilities
suck, I love my dirty house, we love chowing down unhealthy food, no I don't
have a life-sucking business, I love to play all day, and do things, and spend
money, and see people all the time! This is living like I'm dying, Tim McGraw!
I don't think so.
What if instead of "be in the moment or be
responsible," we change it to "be responsible by being in the
I mean think about it - I have a responsibility to be a good
mom, a good wife, a good business owner, a good friend, and a good sister and
daughter. These are the pillars of my life - family, friends, and writing. So
it makes sense, doesn't it, that being responsible in those relationships means
ensuring I am happy, content, and enjoying this life I am in?
So if that means cleaning my floors, and structuring my day
in a way that works for me, so be it. If I can't handle missing a cleaning day,
I either need to clean faster or back off from mid-week social events. This is
my job, staying home and getting this stuff done. Nobody bats an eye when
someone says, "Sorry, I can't make it, I'm working that day," but
when a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom says, "Sorry, I can't make it,
I've got things going on that day," there's a problem, yes?
Here's the deal - I want to be in the moment. I want to live
with my hand out the window...but I want the other on the wheel. When I spend
time with my friends, my family, and my writing, I want to give them my full
attention - 100% rested, happy, non-stressed Jen. It's become an argument of
quantity over quality - how can I be "in the moment" when I'm rushing
out the door, yelling at the kids, cursing myself for forgetting coupons or my
I'm-not-an-old-washed-up-mom lip gloss, consumed with worry about getting
Too much, even when planned and executed with the best
intentions, is too much.
My man RJ Hastings says it better than I ever could:
By Robert J. Hastings
TUCKED AWAY in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision
in which we see ourselves on a long journey that spans an entire continent.
We’re traveling by train and, from the windows, we drink in the passing scenes
of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at crossings, of cattle grazing
in distant pastures, of smoke pouring from power plants, of row upon row upon
row of cotton and corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of city skylines
and village halls.
But uppermost in our conscious minds is our final
destination–for at a certain hour and on a given day, our train will finally
pull into the Station with bells ringing, flags waving, and bands playing. And
once that day comes, so many wonderful dreams will come true. So restlessly, we
pace the aisles and count the miles, peering ahead, waiting, waiting, waiting for
“Yes, when we reach the Station, that will be it!” we
promise ourselves. “When we’re eighteen. . . win that promotion. . . put the
last kid through college. . . buy that 450SL Mercedes-Benz. . . have a nest egg
for retirement!” From that day on we will all live happily ever after.
Sooner or later, however, we must realize there is no
Station in this life, no one earthly place to arrive at once and for all. The
journey is the joy. The Station is an illusion–it constantly outdistances us.
Yesterday’s a memory, tomorrow’s a dream. Yesterday belongs to a history,
tomorrow belongs to God. Yesterday’s a fading sunset, tomorrow’s a faint
sunrise. Only today is there light enough to love and live.
So, gently close the door on yesterday and throw the key
away. It isn’t the burdens of today that drive men mad, but rather the regret
over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who
would rob us of today.
“Relish the moment” is a good motto, especially when coupled
with Psalm 118:24, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice
and be glad in it.”
So stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead,
swim more rivers, climb more mountains, kiss more babies, count more stars.
Laugh more and cry less. Go barefoot oftener. Eat more ice cream. Ride more
merry-go-rounds. Watch more sunsets. Life must be lived as we go along. The
Station will come soon enough.
As the weeks pass by faster than I can count, I'm realizing
I am willing to sacrifice the amount of time I spend outside of my
responsibilities to make room for quality, honest, courageous, meaningful
interactions with those I love.
But wait, Jen...isn't that the opposite of what Mr. Hastings
is saying? Shouldn't you spend more time barefoot and eating ice cream and
No - see, to me, one of the most important lines in that passage is,
"Laugh more and cry less." Why that line, out of all of 'em?
A few weeks ago we had my best-good friends over for some
games. I'd had a goal that day to get all the taping done in my living room
(How to Paint your Living Room Like a Jerk - coming soon). Of course, life
didn't give a crap what my goals were and as my friends arrived, I still wasn't
done. I was embarrassed, and felt terrible, especially since nobody really
likes to just sit around and watch people tape. Thankfully, it went fast, and
we chatted and caught up a little, and my friends didn't walk out in a huff of
offense. My goal was met for the day and I found myself slowly slipping into a
warm little tub of relaxation. The kids were in bed, the chores done, and we'd
completed what we said we were going to complete.
Can I please tell you, the next day, as I woke up feeling
tired, but happy, my husband greeted me and said, "I have never heard you
laugh so much in my life. Seriously, Jen, I have never heard you laugh so hard,
so much. You were so happy."
We've been married more than 7 years. It broke my heart.
I want to live in the moment. I want to laugh like that all
the time. And that is why I choose to maintain my structure, my schedule, and
my limits. These are the things that allow me to relax, unwind, and be
responsible by living in the moment. Robert Hastings may cite ice cream and
stars, but that is not the intended message of his prose. His message is to
live, fully, in the moment and be happy. His happy is swimming in rivers. My
happy is getting things done like laundry and scrubbing the tub, trying new recipes, learning how to can, and having scheduled time to sit and do nothing - it's my way of swimming the anxiety-free lane. Not the same as Hastings, but both our methods lead to the same place - happily living in the moment.
How do you define "living in the moment," dear
readers? Are any of you like me - happy only when you've completed your tasks for
the day? Or do you find your happiness by packing your calender and leaving the laundry for another day? Have you found
your combination of responsible and free? What is it? I'd love to hear about
it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so, so much for reading