reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

Your favorite mommy-blogger loves to talk about work-life-balance and that all important “self-care.” (Aside: To hear them tell it, self-care always seems to involve cheap wine? I am not about that life.)

The social media world is rife with “hacks” to somehow achieve said balance.

I’m not sure how that new water bottle, blender, concealer, or skin moisturizer someone is literally obsessed with will help achieve any measure of balance. Likewise I don’t think there is a master-course you can build that will help anyone to find that level of Zen in the chaos of life–especially a life lived externally online in lieu of that work of deep interior conversion.

Here’s the truth, if you want it (bearing in mind I am the queen of oversimplified answers to complicated questions and that I would almost always rather be a mystic than a theologian. Do not forget that I am more likely to put herbs under my tongue and practice breathing than take an advil. So, if that is not the kind of advice you are searching for, you can move right along, because that is what I’ve got. OK, enough of the fine print.):

There is no such thing as work-life balance.

Listen, I know that may be disappointing to hear. You may be more interested in me making up an answer to the question, “How do you do it all?” Yet, this is what I am offering you: There is no such thing as work-life balance. The sooner you accept that the more peaceful you will be. You can add to that mix love life, social life, parenting life, spiritual life, balance. The truth stands–on its rickety uneven legs, like the table propped up with an old unloved book.

Yes, I have nine children and I homeschool and I work and I am involved in the local parish. I have a dog. I have chickens. I have friends who I love ardently and that I make time for. And I don’t do it all. Not remotely.

My morning prayers look like this: I hardly ever wake to the alarm. Usually before I fall asleep at night I ask the Holy Spirit to wake me up by X time. And then I go to sleep, knowing I will get the amount of sleep he wants me to have. Without fail I feel a gentle nudging that it is time. If I obey, there is energy for the rest of the day regardless of how much time I spent in slumber.

If the alarm goes off, which I have set to say morning prayers, I grab my phone, scroll to my Novena prayers and say them. I sigh and tell Jesus that I don’t want to move yet. I do anyway. I say the Morning Offering and give all my prayers, works, joys, and suffering into the hands of the Immaculate Conception that she make something of them that I cannot possibly.

“O’ Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day, for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month, Amen.”

(The Morning Offering)

Then I ask Jesus which things I will neglect for the day.

Yes. You read that correctly. I do not ask what needs to be done. Because it ALL needs to be done, every blessed last thing. The homeschooling, the Bible study, the laundry, the meal planning, the grocery shopping, the run to the dump, the shift(s) at work waiting tables or mixing drinks, the call to the friends, the meeting up for coffee with my spiritual director, the editing of reels for clients, the paying of bills, the sorting out the winter clothes for the summer clothes, taking the dog to the vet, catching up with book club reading. It ALL needs to be done.

But also, I cannot do it all. I have 24 hours. Therefore, some things get neglected. Maybe today I am a bad housekeeper. Maybe tomorrow I am a bad texter. Maybe I let my client down on Tuesday, but I let the neighbors down on Wednesday. Maybe today is a stellar day of homeschooling, but maybe tomorrow all we get done is Bible reading and journalling.

Something has to ride the back burner and simmer covered until I have time for the rotation. As long as nothing stays back there long enough to languish, it’s OK. The key is only this: rotate, rotate, rotate.

Listen to me and hear me well: God did not call you to be a homemaker. He didn’t call you to be a girl boss. There is no vocation to business or farming or artistry. You are not called to whatever profession you use to pay the bills. God calls you to faithfulness. God calls you to be a disciple. The day-to-day discernment of someone with too many irons in the fire and too many balls in the air is this: which thing should have my attention today, remembering always that God is given highest attention. Periodt. Provided I don’t put the worship of God on the back-burner, we call the day a win.

And I go to sleep, exhausted and contemplative, and reminding the Holy Spirit that tomorrow I would like to be up by 5:30 to spend time with him. And I close my eyes and fall asleep whispering prayers for my friends and children, sending them off into the darkness, as my breathing slows and I sink into respite, knowing that tomorrow I will neglect something different. God will get glory.

Notice God’s unutterable waste of saints, according to the judgment of the world. God plants His saints in the most useless places. We say – God intends me to be here because I am so useful. Jesus never estimated His life along the line of the greatest use. God puts His saints where they will glorify Him, and we are no judges at all of where that is.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest, August 10

And what about those moments when I cannot sleep? Father Mateo Crawley-Boevey in his book Jesus King of Love says that when you awake and cannot sleep immediately unite yourself with the Mass being said at that moment. Say the Communion Prayers and unite yourself spiritually. The time will be well used and restorative, as the Mass always is.

Everything will not always get done. It’s just the way of the world and the time restrictions inflicted by the Fall. So my plan is this: give God highest attention and then rotate the rest of the to-do list. Jesus will make up what I am lacking. In my weaknesses, he will show himself strong.

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