Confession time – for about a year now, I’ve been dissatisfied with my life. It’s very hard for me to put that in print and admit it to the world. It makes me feel very ungrateful to God.
God has blessed me with everything I’ve ever wanted – an incredible husband who loves me, eight wonderful children whom I adore and am so proud of, the farm of my dreams, and a successful business. With all of those blessings, how could I possibly be dissatisfied?
And then a few months ago (after a lot of prayer), I finally figured it out. I’m not at all dissatisfied with my life. I’m dissatisfied with the pace of my life. And that is a HUGE difference.
There’s nothing wrong with my life – it’s how fast it is going by and how little time I have to enjoy it that is robbing me of my joy and a lot of the pleasure I used to feel. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m watching the children get older and closer to complete independence. But I can no longer handle how “fast” my life is with a joyful heart.
Right around the time that I realized it was the pace at which I was living that was making me dissatisfied with my life, I came across a quote that leaped out at me.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates
How profound is that? It describes my life and my dissatisfaction with it. With all the success that we’ve had, my life has gotten far too busy. And with that busy-ness has come a sense of dissatisfaction that springs from the barrenness of my busy life.
I hadn’t really realized that my life had become so busy that there was very little time to just sit and “be” with my family. And that “do nothing” time is super important because it is what fuels me. The unplanned moments with Jim or the children or friends gives me immense satisfaction. And it gives me a chance to remember the joys of the past and dream about the joys the future holds.
And so I am slowly shifting away from the barrenness of a busy life. How?
Setting smaller goals. I’m a big dreamer. Always have been. I’m forever thinking of huge things that I want to accomplish and then I drag the family (usually with their consent) along with me! But it’s time for me to start setting smaller goals (especially for Goat Milk Stuff) and to start allowing the children to set their big goals. I’ll always dream big, because that’s the way I’m wired, but if I want to make a big dream reality, I’ll start with smaller pieces.
Setting longer time horizons. Along with setting smaller goals, I’m also learning to set longer time horizons to achieve those goals. I am very guilty of trying to implement projects way too quickly most times. There’s always a good reason for it, but I’m learning that I don’t have to push so hard. Even if it takes twice as long and costs twice as much, that’s ok. A slower pace has its own rewards.
Spending more money. Many of you know how frugal I am. I don’t spend much money and the money I do spend (beyond the essentials) usually has to have some sort of payback to make it worth it. While I doubt I’ll ever become a spendthrift, I have started spending more money than I normally would. For example, I took the family to New York City this summer just so we could go and see Hamilton. That was a trip we looked forward to for months and is a trip we’ll never forget. For this upcoming Christmas, instead of getting just practical gifts, I bought the family tickets to a Beach Boys concert. The children have never been to a concert before and they are all super excited. The money I’m spending is on memories and time with the family. And that’s one of the best uses of money that I can think of.
Sundays completely off. Goat Milk Stuff is open 6 days a week and Sundays are our only day off. I’ve been very guilty over the past several years of trying to fill Sundays after church with as many family chores as possible. It’s super, super hard for me to not be constantly doing stuff. I’m really good at letting the children just play and be and do nothing. But I’m not so good at turning things off myself (unless I’m reading – and then I can shut out the world!) And so I’ve been learning to just sit and not have a to-do list for Sundays. That requires forward planning because I hate starting Mondays off behind on anything. So I have to make sure that I finish what needs finishing on Saturdays.
More time with Jim. Jim and I used to walk together every day. It was a time for us to get away from the children and the stresses of life and just reconnect with each other. We would talk about anything and everything and it helped to keep us in tune with each other’s needs. And then over the winter we drifted away from that regular practice and didn’t start back up again in the Spring like we usually do. Fortunately, our new bike path is now finished and almost every day, Jim and I have been walking on it. It takes us about 50 minutes to walk about 3 miles round trip. It’s been wonderful.
More time doing what I love. One of the biggest changes I have made is to pass on some of my tasks to the children to free up more time for doing what I love. For example, I love to garden, but I usually have Emery and Greyden do a lot of the garden chores. This year, I gave some of my computer tasks to Brett, Colter, and Indigo and I spent a lot more time in the garden. I also love cooking for the family. Various children had been doing a lot of the cooking and so I took some of that back and traded some tasks.
More time doing what my family loves. As the children are getting much older and are starting to leave the house, I’ve been trying to do more of the things that they love. We’ve cooked at the firepit more this year than we ever have. Sometimes we have really nice meals like salmon and grilled veggies and sometimes it’s just hamburgers, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. But we’ve had a lot of fun out there.
Saying Yes. As important as it is to say, “No” to the things that distract you from what is truly important, it’s just as important to say “Yes” to your family even if you don’t feel like it. It’s difficult to say “Yes” when all you want to do is put your feet up. Since Colter graduated and can no longer run with the cross-country team, he’s started playing ultimate frisbee with a bunch of young adults. He regularly asks me to toss the frisbee with him and while I never want to say yes, I regularly do and I always have a lot of fun with him.
How is it going, you ask? I’d give myself a C+.
It’s hard to slow down. It really is. Especially when life around me hasn’t slowed down at all. In fact, if anything it’s gotten busier. The children are growing and are starting to live their lives independently of the family. We are planning Brett’s wedding. We’re building a new barn for the goats because the herd is growing and the goats need more room. The business is growing and more customers need my attention. The website is being migrated to a completely new platform.
And yet, I am making progress. I’m getting less accomplished in a day. I’m focusing more on myself (so hard to do when you’re a busy mom!!). I’m getting to bed on time. And I’m saying “No” more often (which is saying something because I’ve always been good at saying no).
And over time, that sense of dissatisfaction is starting to lessen. It’s not completely gone, which is how I know there’s still a lot of work to do. But I’m taking baby steps. And consistent baby steps over time will get me where I need to be.
How about you? Are you suffering from the “barrenness of a busy life?” Are you doing anything to try and change it?