Earlier that night, I’d tried to explain to my five-year-old why, in fact, it was fair that I got to go out to dinner. “Are you just my daughter?” I asked her. “Is that all you are?”
“Yes,” she replied defiantly.
“No, actually,” I said. “You’re also a sister and a friend and a student and a Tae Kwon Do almost-yellow belt. You’re a lot of things. But let’s say you only did Tae Kwon Do things. Then you’d be in trouble at school and not learning anything. Your friends would miss you. I would miss you. So it’s the same for me. I’m a mommy, and that’s great, but I’m also a wife and a daughter, a sister, a friend, a writer and a woman. So if I only do mommy things, I miss out on all those other things I am.” I felt like I was making good traction.
“Mom, when Mirabella gets out of dance class, can I have a lollipop?”
But it made me think maybe my little lecture was falling on the wrong ears all along. Maybe it was actually for me. And maybe it’s for you too.
Now that I know this, I’m usually pretty good about making sure I get it. But I started the year with a togetherness hangover. All I wanted to do was hibernate. I’m all for giving yourself grace and space and not “shoulding” on yourself and all of that. It’s my main mode of operation. But sometimes I also need to be shaken or stirred or something. Brought back into the fold.
On a recent Sunday, after a few days of travel for Daniel and of my daughters fighting seemingly non-stop, I had to get out—alone. But as we got home from church, enormous snowflakes started falling. It was chilly and slushy and gross outside, and I couldn’t bring myself to go. I pouted around, lamenting my lost opportunity for recharging until it was time to get ready for our dinner company.
Then, a funny thing happened. We hosted dinner for friends who are new to the area, but whose family is at home in my heart. Their wonderful parents, whom I’ve known since college, had come to help them move, and they carved a couple hours out of their exhausting work schedule to linger around our table. I made chicken and rice and tzatziki and gooey brownies and our five kids tore apart the playroom and the whole thing brought me such joy. I made a mental note.
Later that week, Deacon woke up earlier than usual from his nap, crashing my typically quiet afternoon. I grumbled, until I opened his door and saw his rosy-cheeked face. “Hi, Mommy!” he shouted. I brought him to the kitchen where he stood on a stool and “helped” me make muffins to surprise the girls. When the phone rang, an old friend, calling even though I never return her calls, I actually picked up (I’m not the only one who screens calls for no reason, am I?). And we talked excitedly and laughed and lamented our discomfort with this strange culture we’re living in, and when she had to go, abruptly, to collect her boy from school, I felt lighter somehow.
This life is too difficult to be lived all alone. We were made to live in community, woven together, walking alongside each other. When we walk alone, always looking down, we can only see our shoes, the ones that don’t fit like they used to, the ones that are scuffed and not as nice as we wish they were. When we only look down— at our shoes, our problems, our kids, our life—we miss out on the larger world around us. We miss our calling to help others, to listen, to be present for them, yes. But we also deny them the opportunity to do the same for us. And that’s not fair.
So that night over taquitos and sangria, we forgot to take a picture. We squinted at the menu because the restaurant was too dark, and we annoyed our adorably and obviously under-thirty blonde waitress—Brinkley or Berkley—by taking too long to order and not ordering enough drinks, and then we shut the whole place down, got in the minivan and drove home to our sleeping people, hearts full. And I made a promise to myself not to wait so long to do it again, because I returned to those sleeping people better prepared to serve and love them.
I’ll always need my solitude. But lately I’m so grateful for people who help pull me out of my self-dug rut. I’m glad I chose let them. There’s power and comfort in a life lived together, and it's worth every bit of the work and time occasional heartache it takes to get there.
"so, give it just a little time
share some bread and wine
Weave your heart into mine..."
--Josh Garrels, Bread & Wine