When the kids were little, I used to fantasize about reading a magazine on an airplane. Or taking a leisurely shower without getting up in the middle of the night to get the alone time. Those were such busy years, but I loved them very much. Our house was never totally clean, our laundry was never totally done. A friend once wondered if she would ever come to my house when there would not be glitter under the kitchen table.
Slowly but surely, there was less clutter, less noise, less carpooling, and the washer sometimes sat silent for days. That void in the soundtrack of our home was the lack of a ball bouncing somewhere. I traded sitting at ball games and choir concerts for phone calls and emails as Josh went off to college. A couple years later, I really missed Sally's music-making and companionship when she left home for year 'round adventures at college and camp. Then, I traded driving 160 miles a day, 5 days a week, for praying Katie was safe, alert and careful on the highway. When she left for college a thousand miles away, the nest was not only empty, but terribly, terribly tidy and quiet. One day I was cleaning under Katie's bed and found a little white feather. I sat and held that feather for the longest time. No need to put it back in the nest. I'm sentimental, so I keep it in my jewelry box.
They say our belongings expand to fill whatever space we've got to occupy. The same is true for busy-ness. Projects of all kinds took the place of hands-on mothering. Together, Bob and I learned from my Uncle TL as we built a mountain cabin. It was a project so big and so consuming, it lined that nest that used to be lined with little feathers. The lining was sawdust, grout, and physical exhaustion, but it was a lining. I had a purpose for those three years. I was a finish carpenter (apologies to real finish carpenters, for whom I have the utmost respect) and I had a job to do. The first summer we went to the cabin to play and not build, the rhythm of life was a little wonky. When you've been working really, really hard on something like raising kids or building a cabin, the time when that work is done can feel like it comes out of nowhere.
I poured myself into getting a book published. I wrote like mad for any and all who would read. I wrote poems and hymns, stories and articles for children's magazines. I had a little success, got a couple things published and made a little money. When my picture book came out last fall, I had new job. Marketing. Sally and I wrote a young adult novel, and I decided that life was short and I had no patience for slow moving publishers so I honed my own patience by learning to self publish. I grew new brain cells. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That is a cliche' for a reason.
One of the strangest things about the rhythm of life is one that I heard from older people many times when I was young. It is very odd, and so very true, that time seems to pass more quickly every year, even as I have more time to myself. I can fill my days with projects and busy-ness all I want. And, I can stop and listen for direction, meditate and breathe and learn and sing and pray for serenity. But the days go by faster and faster anyway. Sometimes I fight the desire to dance faster, to hurry and scurry and worry that I won't get finished in time. But the part of me that remembers, the part of me that is just above the current, looks for the rhythm of this part of my life. I recognize that beat. It belongs to me. I may not always choose it, but I recognize it. And I can do this part. I can dance to this.