Do you ever feel like your life is a funny jumble of assorted realities? As I lay on my back on the living room carpet, trying to combine a pre-run stretch with listening to an audio meditation I’d been wanting to find time for, I had to chuckle to myself. Life is such an odd assortment of weird juxtapositions.
Any parent knows this well. We are constantly being batted from one level of conversation (“Mom, I’m thinking of turning vegan; do you know our stomachs don’t even have the right sort of enzymes to digest animal products?”), to another (“Babe, did you think about whether we should use our savings for that trip?”), to another (“Mom, I’ve lost my football boots!”). Quite frankly, any single family conversation could be fuel for a cartoon strip.
Recently, after some months of sharing little quality time together and with no prospect of suddenly having chunks of free time, Tim and I agreed to simply make the most of the moments we have ‘between things.’ We’re making a point of grabbing a coffee in between dropping the kids at their activities, or meeting for lunch on a workday instead of just having lunch at our desks. Of course, this does mean that there are times when one of us is hastily re-dressing while the other stifles their smiles in order to answer the Skype call they have scheduled about some regional crisis! As I said, life is a jumble.
I guess it should come as no surprise, then, that at times it is difficult to reconcile these disparate realities. Right now, I’m aware of the irony of feeling called to create times of contemplation and reflection for others, when my life leaves very little time for me to be reflective myself. Surely my work lacks a certain authority when I am struggling to slow down enough to live reflectively in the midst of an over-stuffed daily life?
Maybe what I am really asking is this: what do you do when you feel like a fraud?
It is easy to present to others just one aspect of who we are. But is it possible to live as an integrated whole in some ways that bring health to all the elements of what our lives look like? I don’t mean that everyone needs to know everything about us - God save us from Facebook levels of self-disclosure - but something more subtle might be achievable, surely?
Is it possible for me to more consciously bring all of who I am into my various interactions?
In many ways, we learn from a young age not to do this. We swallow our sorrows because we’re told to put a smile on our face. We fake breezy insouciance when we’re dying of anxiety. We laugh with our spouse at the dinner party, having just had a big row in the car on the way over. And, perhaps most deadly of all, we pretend we have it all together for the people at church, because we think that’s the requirement for fitting in there.
I’m not saying it’s not appropriate to put certain emotions or experiences to one side for a while. But I do think it’s easy to become fragmented, with multiple, slightly schizophrenic versions of ourselves being called on for different contexts. Somehow I want to learn to bring all these parts of myself together as I go through life.
So I’m choosing to embrace the life that I have, with all its busyness and challenges, and to press into my calling to contemplation, reflection and art-creation. And it goes both ways; what I’m learning about living reflectively and creatively must be infecting my day-to-day reality too. Even when that means getting up an hour before the kids because it’s the only time I can be sure of being undisturbed as I sit with my coffee and journal.