Sunday, May 16, 2010

White Space...

... is my new mantra for life.

In the past few months, our crazy schedule has really gotten to me.
Throw in a move and now making our crazy schedule plus extra driving time, (since we haven't finished up all of the activities we started on the complete opposite end of town) and I have about gone over the edge a few times. Okay, so I have gone over the edge a few times (just ask my kids, they'll tell you!). At times I really have become the "mean mom miss Hannigan" from Anne (as one of my children ever-so-bluntly puts it when I tend to get a bit "edgy")
... But in my defense, this was one of our days: up and out the door - yes with all FIVE dressed and ready at 6:45 AM to get to 7:00 violin lessons (again, don't ask me where my brain was when I thought that would be a good time to schedule lessons way back when!), during which I got to try to feed a baby, wrangle a 2 year old, and keep a 5 year old quiet for an hour while trying to listen and take notes during the lesson to know what to practice the next week...), to drive back home, reload for 15 min, take off again across town to get the kids to school, then to the gym to teach 2 classes, then home to get Ben changed and get him to preschool, and attend their annual 'family picnic' (read: trying to feed baby again, while wrangling 2 year old and put on my happy face for Ben to show off his school), back home, then back to school (which is now across town) to pick up kiddos, to come back home and start dinner, to then load everyone up again and take Sarah to soccer (AGAIN, clear across town), run to old house to clean, to pick up Sarah, head back home, finish dinner, put kids down, and crash. C'mon - even Polyanna would struggle singing a happy tune at the end of that one, right?!

Part of it is just getting through things, but part of it I have realized is my inability to say "no" to volunteering, or added things at (my supposedly very part time) work. Since I wear two hats at the gym (the aerobics instructing and the dietician), things can get very hairy just in that arena if I'm not careful. And in the past few months, I haven't been very careful.

I had a little epiphany when I was flying home from a quick weekend to attend my parents mission report. As I was holding Elizabeth and reading (not really being able to believe that I could actually travel and READ, instead of trying to man a plethora of children), I came across an article in one of the dietetic journals about a dietitian who lost her job, and then realized how busy she had been and how much she really needed the 'white space' that this job loss had created for her. (as in, not over-filling the 'page' with words - letting the 'white space' highlight the few words on a page...)

The light bulb suddenly popped. (and it wasn't just seat belt light...)
That's it!
White space.
That's what my life has been missing.
That's what my life needs.
That's what the mother of my children need.
White Space.
Free time.
To just BE.
To be able to be a mom.
To be able to be a mom IN THE MOMENT.
Not just the taxi driver, nurse, judge and jury, policeman, maid, cook, homework monitor, laundress, crazy, fly-off -the-handle stressed out woman that they have become accustomed to.
I need time to not have anything on the calender, but my children, myself, and some goals.
Time to be able to say "Okay!" instead of "In a minute," "not right now," "Not today," "No, we don't have time," "Hurry, we have to leave now!"
Not only to be a mom,
And a wife,
But to find Jen again.

Ahhh, white space.
Not blank space (if you know me well, you know I would go completely crazy without something on the agenda)
Just less chaotic space.

This theme has been running around inside my head ever since that plane ride back.
Partly wondering if I could do it
Partly wondering if I really wanted to do it (would clearing out too much business make me go crazy in other ways?!)
Partly wondering if I could really make my lips form together to say the word, "No."

I started by putting on a shirt my dear friend gave me:

ahhh, Sue, you know me too well :).
Then I started practicing: "Nnnnn..." "N..." "Oooooo..." "Nnnnnoooooo" "Nnnnoooo," "Nnnoo," "No."
I did it.
That wasn't so bad!

... now all I had to do was actually say it to someone when asked to do something that I knew would cause me great amounts of grief (and therefore cause my children great amounts of grief).

Could I do it?

A few days later I got our summer schedule for the gym.
When I looked it over, I knew the time had come.
I was on the schedule about 6 times just for aerobics (coming in every day m-th), plus the two nutrition classes (16 week courses) I am currently doing, plus the other 16 week course they want me to start (in spanish...). (All very flattering... but not conducive to my new mantra)
Which meant I would be loading my kiddos in the car for trips to the gym 2 times a day, 3 days a week.

That was the straw.
The back was officially broken.
I knew I had to actually say my new-found vocabulary to someone other than my mirror.
I admit, I balked a bit.
I tried to reason, "well, it wouldn't be too bad, I could probably make it work..."
and then sat at the computer and repeated my mantra:
"White space"
White space does not include a carload of kids heading back and forth to the gym everyday.

So I did it.
I picked up the phone.
I got the answering machine
Phew! I didn't have to actually say my new word to another human... just a machine!
Then I followed it up with an email, just to be sure.

And then the magic happened.
She responded.
And said they could work it out.
My 6 classes suddenly got cut back to two - back to back, on the same day, which meant 4-5 days of mandatory gym time suddenly got cut back to 2 (with the nutrition classes).
And Spanish nutrition class - we will hold off until at least next fall.

And just like that
My summer suddenly transformed from cramped calendar to wide open white space.
I think my heart rate even went down a few notches!

My summer suddenly has become a blank canvas.
My kids get to wake up and play in their pajamas!
Swimming time
Down time
Hang out and read time
Picnic in the backyard time
Get back into studying the scriptures time
Reading the ensign time
Tiring the kids out so I can finally finish my book time!

Family space
Mommy space
Hubby space
Jen space
White space.
My space.

And that is my "deep thought" for the day :).


i'm h.mac said...

the moments i treasure most from childhood were the unscheduled nights. be it by a warm cozy fire, or on the tramp with my brothers. i think i blocked out the crazy days because they stressed me as a kid as much as they did my mom. i have tried to keep the laziest schedule possible with my kids. they get to do one to two activities a year (gasp). if they play softball they don't do soccer. they will remember much more the picnics on the tramp and the book reading before bed. i am exhausted just reading your post, i don't know how you do it happily!!!!!

Kristen said...

Jen, I'm proud of you for saying "no!" Ta-da! You deserve a lot of white space this summer. I'm excited for you and your "white space summer."

Sue Howe said...

Way to go! You deserve alot of White Space!

佐志 said...

Beauty, unaccompanied by virtue, is as a flower without perfume..............................................

Steph & Wade said...

Great words of wisdom Jen! Here's to a spontaneous summer!

4kidsandcrazy said...

I need that t-shirt!!! I just agreed to play for 2 different operas at the school which will require hours of practice time before they perform. Not only with them, but on my own to learn the music. Again, can I just say I NEED THAT t-shirt!!!!