It is 8 AM. I walk into my quiet house, and I stand in the kitchen. Breakfast dishes are piled next to the sink, waiting to be loaded into the dishwasher. The stools around the kitchen island are pushed out, a reminder of the people sitting on them an hour ago. I can hear the hum of the refrigerator; I can hear my own footsteps.
When is my house ever this still? With no one around, I wonder what I should do. When, in the last 14 years of motherhood, have I ever wondered what to do? I feel a bit lost, a bit paralyzed.
This was my experience almost every day this school year. For the first time in 14 years, all six of my children were in school—all day, every day. I thought that I was going to accomplish so much this year. I had visions of organizing every nook and cranny of my home. I had hopes of tackling those “maybe someday” projects that I didn’t have time for with young children underfoot. I had dreams of setting up an Adoration hour, blocking out writing time, and cooking nourishing meals so I could finally start healing from my autoimmune disease.
Instead, I felt stuck and fearful of the unknown. I felt overwhelmed by how many “maybe someday” projects had piled up. I felt confused about how to spend my days, now that I had more freedom to create my own schedule.
As a mom with kids at home, my routine revolved around meals, snacks, spills, and naps. I fit in the chores. I worked around the mess. I accomplished the essentials and let go of the rest. In between, I read books, sang songs, and played games. It wasn’t easy, but it was simple.
For all those years, I secretly wished for more “me” time. I counted down the years until my kids would be in school and I could have more time to my introverted self. I thought of how organized my house would be, how clean! What I didn’t realize was how much I was used to having those little people around me every day—their smiles, their tears, their spontaneous hugs.
As I faced my dream-come-true, I couldn’t motivate myself to clean or organize. I actually started to resent those tasks that I once longed to do. Anxiety grew, and I started panicking. I thought, “Is this it? My husband and my children have somewhere to go, but I am stuck here alone. Will the rest of my days be spent dusting, mopping, and decluttering?”
Whether or not my thoughts were rational, a deep depression grew. It frustrated me that I didn’t know how to embrace this transition. It bothered me that I didn’t know what my dreams and goals really were or how to discover them. I couldn’t look past the dust bunnies in the corner or the crumbs on the counter. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t write. My husband and my spiritual director concurred: it was time to talk to someone. And so I did.
I found someone who listened and offered ideas. I found someone who helped me sort through the many different thoughts that were rummaging through my mind.
One day, we talked about transitions being like trapeze bars. Swinging through the air on one is familiar, but when it is time to let go, it can feel scary.
I had been swinging on a trapeze bar for 14 years, and I felt comfortable there. But the trapeze bar in the distance was calling my name. It was ready to receive me, and it was time to let go. But what about that space in between letting go of one bar and grabbing hold of the next one? What if I fell? What if there was no net to catch me?
Letting go of one bar to reach for the next one would require faith and trust in Someone other than myself. Did I have that kind of faith to be in this type of transition? Letting go of the past but not yet reaching the future? And what exactly would I do mid-air?
There is a beautiful parable of the trapeze that describes this more in depth. The author explains that the mid-air place is where real change occurs. And because of that, these transitions should be cherished. They should not be rushed. They are the moments when we learn to fly.
As this school year comes to an end, I am still very much in the midst of my transition. Even though my children will be home more this summer, I can’t go back. I have to keep moving forward toward my new trapeze bar, even when I am accompanied by paralysis, fear, and feelings of being out of control. I am spreading my wings. I am choosing to thrive instead of survive. I am rediscovering that to be the one to cook and clean for the souls that God entrusted to my care is a great and dignified honor.
How long will my transition last? How long does God want me here? I am learning not to worry. I am learning that the projects, goals, and accomplishments will be there when I get to them. I am learning how to embrace this time of flying in mid-air.
There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky,
And you ask, “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling, what if you fly?
― Erin Hanson
Copyright 2017 Sarah Damm