The clean black and white lines of the cafe stand in contrast to the dappled shadows on the wood floor of the trees as the midmorning sun streams through the wall of windows. The familiar din of low conversation is punctuated by the hiss of espresso machine and the clinking of mugs behind the counter. There’s a smell in the air I can’t quite place—the coffee is obvious, but there’s also eucalyptus and something else, probably from a plant I don’t recognize. There are a lot of those here. I sit at a small, square table across from Jill editing a post for tomorrow as she works on lesson plans. Jill and I are, by any personality indicator we’ve found, the same person, so sitting together and being introverts is the most comfortable and natural thing in the world. As I sit here immersed in beauty and comfort, I think, “I am living my best life right now.”
Immediately, the guilt hits me: This isn’t my best life! My real life has kids in it—a lot of them—and I wouldn’t trade them for anything! There are happy giggles and less-happy sibling fights and hugs and chubby hands and babies who have somehow turned into whole people with clever senses of humor and opinions about everything.
As I process more, though, I think the guilt was misplaced. This is my best life. The whole thing. It’s the one I have, so, by definition, it’s the best I’ve got. But also? It’s a really, really good one.
I don’t need to feel bad about enjoying time away from my “regular” life. When I’m home, my time is carefully organized around getting space away from my children. It’s not that I don’t love them (duh), but as an introvert (and a highly sensitive one, at that), I need to pull back a little in order to show up for them as their best mama. During the day, I have “bathroom breaks” for a few minutes here and there—usually about three before the shrieking begins—and nap time. Only one of my children actually sleeps during naps, but they all do quiet things—screens, often—so I can have some space of my own to think my own thoughts and get my own chores done. Each week, I have a morning where I get up at an unholy hour to go to the gym before arriving at Starbucks as soon after their opening (at 5) as I can manage. There’s a tiny chunk where I pay a 13-year-old to watch the two who are neither in school nor napping while I stay in my room for an hour and a half. Every other week, I get a Monday night “out,” which is usually spent hiding in my room again, because who wants to waste precious time driving somewhere? Not me.
Do I feel selfish about this?
Yes I do.
Am I being selfish?
I don’t know. Probably sometimes. But most of the time, I kinda doubt it. I know how I get when I haven’t had any space. It actually feels more like I haven’t had any air. Like I’m being suffocated under all these needs and noises and children and I love them and also I can’t breathe. It’s hard for me to love them well from this place.
So I try not to have to.
So here I am, sitting on the curtained-off porch at my Airbnb. I had the morning with Jill (at the coffee shop, among other places) and the rest of the day is mine to use as I please. I hardly know what to do with discretionary time, but the day stretches ahead of me, blank and full of options, all of them good.
Do I miss my kids?
I miss my husband’s company, and I enjoy thinking about my kids. I love the photos I periodically get from whoever’s watching them now. I look forward to getting home to see them. But do I wish I was home with them? No. Do I wish they were here with me? Also no.
And it’s fine. I’ll probably miss them about the time I need to leave, and the long travel home will accentuate my desire to be there. Once I arrive, I’ll be better able to mother them well than I was when I left.
In the Wilderking trilogy by Jonathan Rogers, a phrase appears routinely:
Live the life that unfolds before you.
So that’s what I’m doing. And it’s my best life for sure.
This post is part of my series, 31 days of speaking the truth. You can find the whole list of them here on the first post of the series.