Letters written from a momma to her two teenage daughters.
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
You can scroll the shelf using ← and → keys
Dear Lauren and Lydia,
This letter may or may not be a piece of wisdom for you. I’ve been thinking…which is usually followed by a sigh from the two of you. Or an “oh no”. I will proceed anyway:). I’ve been thinking that my normal pep talk of do hard things, finish the job, stick it out, persevere, etc. might be good advice and a good general way of life but…if you’re anything like me, and the odds are pretty good you will be, you might need to hear a different message.
While normally I would say do hard things and be all about sheer grit and determination. What I’m finding is that my personality does that fairly naturally. Instead I’m having to tell myself lately to lighten up and relax more. I say this with caution because I don’t want the world to go to hell in a hand basket if we all lighten up and relax more and my dna tells me that hard work, determination and grit are of value. But…lately I’m thinking…maybe the ability to plan some easy stuff into my life once in awhile would be good for this momma.
If that wasn’t radical enough…I’m thinking lately, maybe I would be more healthy mentally if I forced myself to leave a job undone regularly. Actually forced myself not to finish the task before giving myself a break. I can’t tell you how crazy this seems to me because I’m a push a little harder, slug it out a little longer person. I’m the type that working outside I’ve been known to be dripping with sweat with a bottle of water near by and almost not even let myself take a water break before I do one more of whatever I’m doing. This kind of pressure is my norm, it’s what I’m used to. But it’s also what does me in. I don’t think people realize how much pressure I carry on my shoulders on a daily basis. We tend to only see our own load and not anybody else’s load around us. So when school starts for me it’s literally like…ok, buckle in and start the ride up again. The problem is I don’t care for the ride. It’s incredibly hard on me body, heart, mind and soul. Because I know I can ride the ride and because I know it’s valuable to ride the ride and I need some of what comes from riding the ride I get on. But when I step on I feel weight come down on me.
How much pressure can a music teacher have? I’m sure people wonder. But from day one it’s all about creating performances and being judged and making sure that not only are we creating great music, and me having terrific classroom management and me making a difference and on and on and on but also that I’m staying on top of whatever is new and related in my field at any given moment. In some ways my job is very natural and incredibly easy and in other ways it is intensely reliant on me being able to get kids up in front of live audiences and hoping that their performances are outstanding.
So I must find ways to take the pressure off. I must find ways in which not having the to do list done doesn’t leave me feeling stressed. I must diffuse. I must let go. I must lighten up and expect less of myself.
I can’t believe I’m even saying all of this. Because I’m a set the bar high, expect much of yourself, get ‘er done type of gal.
But I’m tired. I’m learning the value of a power nap after the school day.
My mind needs rest. I’m having to learn that the earth will still continue to move forward regardless of the details of my life and whether they are done or not.
My body needs peace. I deal with difficult situations all day long. Just knowing every students names is overwhelming at this time of year. Picture walking into a room of 500 people and having to learn all of their names, you can see why the whole thing seems stressful to me.
Today the presenter for us teachers asked us “What brings you joy?” And said whatever that is, is what we should be doing. I sat there wondering…what does bring me joy? I must focus on doing more of what brings me joy.
Sometimes if we’re not careful we get so caught up in hard work and getting a job done that we aren’t even sure anymore what really does bring us joy. Oh I laugh often and I smile all the time. I’m not a sad, depressed type. I choose laughter over crying most days. But honest to goodness joy…I wonder. What does that actually feel like? I must get more in touch with this side of who I am. I’ve buried it in work and tasks and details and persevering and grit and getting the job done.
No wonder my soul cries out each fall. I want to embrace what I do. I understand that it’s a mission field and I’m willing. I know I have the skills and talents to do it reasonably well but I’m not sure that this brings me joy.
This year I must stop more. I must leave tasks unfinished more. I must step away from the table more. I must be willing to let go more. I must notice what makes me feel alive and gives me joy. Today for me…it was opening new pieces of music and playing through them for the first time. I love holding a piece of new music in my hands. I love listening to each part as I play through it and seeing how it connects with the other parts. I love hearing the unique places in the music…the times when I’m playing and think…”Oh…that’s going to be good, or oh that’s sure different.:)” I love the variety of music we teach. Today I loved playing through a chinese proverb about light in the soul and then playing a Jewish song about peace and then enjoying the funky rhythms of a latin diddy we’re going to do this fall. I enjoyed thinking about it all coming together.
I don’t enjoy thinking about assessment. I don’t enjoy trying to make sure I cover a certain amount of music theory. I don’t enjoy knowing that I will have students in my classroom this year who two weeks in will decide they don’t like choir and because they don’t like it they will make it difficult for those around them and for me the rest of the semester. I don’t enjoy thinking about the same students being tardy day after day and how nothing will be done about it. I don’t enjoy thinking about the details of what I need to get done, field trips, bus requests, letters home, shirts purchased for performances, fundraisers, meetings attended, etc.
My joy comes from making great music with kids who love music and are willing to be all that they can be. If the million other things that could happen this year don’t get done to completion maybe it’s alright. Is completion always the goal? Does it always have to be? I wonder….
You know me girls…I’m a bring it on, I can do it, pull myself up by the bootstraps girl. I’ve never needed outside pressure on me because I have far more internal pressure than most. I just think at my age and station in life it would be healthier for me on a multitude of levels to take the pressure off.
What if I start a book and don’t care for it and just decide not to finish it. This is just a small example…but honestly the thought behind it, the letting myself off of the hook would be radical.
What if I stuck with my cleaning plan of a room a night and didn’t feel like I had to have the entire house in order every day to host restore group on Monday nights?
What if I looked at all that needs to be done for school which is a lot right now and just occasionally said…I don’t have it all done and I’m alright with that.
What if I decided I didn’t have to be up on all of the latest practices and decided to just trust my instincts more?
I never dreamed I would say this to you girls…but if you’re like me I think you might find value in slacking off from time to time, lowering the expectations and letting yourself not complete the job whatever it is. I’m not sure how much you can do this and not have your world fall apart. But this momma wants more time to relax, to be healthy, to rest, to be whole. This momma wants to live and do what gives her joy. I’m really, really good at responsibility. And it’s a good thing for many people I am…but it’s surely not my job to carry as much as I do.
So slack off, don’t finish the task, let it go, care less. Could these actually be words of wisdom? Well…if you’re anything like me they might be. Just be open to the fact that this might be you in twenty years:). When it all comes down I’m not sure how important it is that we add one more performance to our lives, or that we add more to the load we already carry. I have this feeling that much of what I consider necessary is really not and maybe if I spent less time on what I think is necessary I might find more of what brings me joy.
This would not be my message to most of the world. For most of the world I would say…”hey get out there and do hard things and persevere and get the job done and take responsibility.” But…I think I’ve often taken on all of this for far more than just myself and that needs to stop. And I just have this sneaking suspicion that I’m teaching you to live like me. I can look at my parents and see the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
There is beauty in rest, in relaxing, in releasing. There is wholeness in letting go. These are things that I need more of in my life.
From your momma who plans to leave a few things undone this year, who plans to rest more, to relax and release more. I want to be more in touch with what brings me joy.
Love this one, Ruth. One of your best.
Love this one Ruth. One of your best, IMO.
Thank you Dave…who knew slacking off could feel so good:).