A Time of Possibility and Responsibility

In her retelling of an ancient Potowatomi story about maple syrup, Robin Walls Kimmerer ends the tale with this reminder:

“Today, maple sap flows like a stream of water with only a trace of sweetness to remind the people both of possibility and of responsibility. And so it is that it takes forty gallons of sap to make a gallon of syrup” (p 63). Braiding Sweetgrass

IMG_0503We are three weeks into Bea’s school year and one week into Elle’s. On Tuesday, I came home to a quiet house and got more writing done in those couple hours than I had all summer long. On Thursday, I had a meeting at 10:30, right in the middle of my morning. I read and checked social media and wasn’t very productive until midmorning. And then the meeting got canceled. I had another hour or so before pickup.

What to do? I thought about calling the morning a waste and finishing my book. (Which I think would have been a totally acceptable option!) Instead, I checked the list I had dreamed up midsummer and picked one thing to do on it. It wasn’t much – just cleaning out outgrown clothes – but it felt like a good accomplishment.

I had to put into practice my head knowledge: I knew my list would take a while and that I’m in this two-morning-to-myself routine for a while. And yet, when confronted with actual practice, I spent an hour flailing and unsure.

This season reminds me of Kimmerer’s description of maple syrup. On one small level, this is a time of possibility and responsibility for me personally. As I transition to some breathing space in my own schedule, I’m reminded that the sap only comes when it’s ready. That this is a process.

I want to keep the enthusiasm and wonder of the possibility of this time. And I want to it to transfer to the time with the girls. Because really, these five hours every week are a small portion of my days. They are still filled with all the wonders and disciplines and moments that filled our days before.

How do I hold this possibility and responsibility together? How do I remember that this time doesn’t need to be stressful but appreciated as the gift it is?

What about you? Does it take you a while to transition to a new schedule or season? What are your best practices? 

Linked with Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing. Today’s prompt is “rush.”

Books Referenced:
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Mapping My Hopes With a Foundation of Flexibility

School started last week for Bea and, while we have another week to go until Elle begins her preschool adventure, I’m enjoying the rhythms that the school year has to offer. This summer was pretty unstructured. Outside of a week at zoo camp, we hung out, went swimming, got on each other’s nerves, and played outside a lot. I think that freedom and boredom are incredibly important to a summer schedule, even if I get overwhelmed with the mess and chaos.

IMG_0487Now that school has started, I’m itching to get back into a productive routine. This first weekend of the school year arrived and I found myself out of sorts and frustrated. I looked back on the week and saw all the things I wanted to do that just didn’t get done. Elle and I went to the zoo but I didn’t write as much as I was hoping; we didn’t clean the playroom; we just kind of hung out.

With Elle starting preschool two mornings a week, I’ve been imagining all of the things I’ll get done with those five extra hours each week. I have big plans! I’m going to practice French and work on a project that kept getting shelved over the summer and really go through the closets for a good purge. Frank and I want to have morning-dates and I want to try to find a workout rhythm. I want to volunteer in Bea’s classroom and go to the art museum regularly. I absolutely recognize that I have more planned than I have space for.

Before preschool begins, I’ve started making lists of my hopes for this year. Things I want to accomplish and rhythms I’d like to create. I’m hoping to map out this time so that it’s not wasted away doing things I could do with Elle around.

But I also want to be intentional about this time with Elle. I’m recognizing that these goals and hopes need to be flexible and fluid. I see how quickly the time passed before Bea started full-time school and I want to savor these moments with Elle.

In her reflections on summer routines and the beginning of a fall schedule, author Addie Zierman says,

“And so I’ve come to accept that this summer, for me, was not supposed to be about being productive, or even really functional. It’s been about being grounded.”

Addie Zierman: Field Notes from the End of Summer

As I plan my fall and our new schedule, I need to remember these words. I have hopes of productivity and I know our routine needs to be functional for our family. But above all, I need to find the ways in which we all stay grounded and rooted. How am I building a schedule that leaves me energized and fulfilled for those days I spend with Elle? How can I feel as productive as possible during my alone time so that the after-school flurry feels more energizing rather than draining?

I have a feeling this will take a good amount of trial-and-error and I need to remember that this is part of building rhythms, as well. What is working? What clearly needs to be fixed? How can I read my family and myself through this shift in seasons?

For now, I’ll keep scribbling my lists and goals as I assess what makes the most sense for us, at this moment.

How do you set goals at the beginning of a new season? How do you tweak your plans along the way?

Lazy Summer Days

Frank and I laugh that, if we could create a new branch of the extrovert/introvert labels we’d add “lazy extrovert” and “active introvert.” On the occasion when we have no weekend plans, our personality differences are more apparent: I’m content to lounge and read but also get energized when we have brunch plans with friends. Frank would be happy hiking or working around the yard all weekend, outdoors and active without having to talk with anyone.

This was a point of frustration when we first fell into our roles as extrovert and introvert. I expected Frank to be happy reading, napping, and resting during the weekend. After all, he is energized by alone time, right? I also figured that, once he was rested, I could pack in the plans with friends, since we’d had a quiet day.

Since I’m not an extreme extrovert, I still need that quiet recharge time. But once I’ve been able to be alone, I’m up for meeting up, for socializing, for connection. What I failed to see is that Frank would be content without the second part of my day. Sure, he loves dinners with friends and the community we’ve built, but I think he’s equally happy when it’s just our little family. I’m the driving force behind our social calendar.

We went on our first family-of-four camping trip this weekend with friends and as we played in the dirt and explored the forest and lay in the hammock, I found that this activity met all of our needs. We were away from the city, out in nature, relaxing. We were with friends and socializing. We had an activity but it didn’t include many other people or stimulus.

IMG_1252We’re at the point in the summer where we’ve had a few weeks of quiet rest, some visitors, and a small lull before a family reunion with loads of activity. We’ve caught up with friends and have had playdates with those we missed during the school year. People are traveling so we see friends but it’s not with the same urgency as at the beginning of the summer. In many ways, our playdates seem more organic and spur-of-the-moment. Rest hasn’t gotten old yet, and unstructured play is still welcome.

I have a friend who said that the last week of summer before school starts should be the most boring so that the kids are ready to go back to activity and structure. I can totally see that. I’ve caught a glimpse here and there of that safety found in routine. After a week of VBS, Bea was ready for preschool to start again immediately. The structure and definition of autumn can be welcome after the laziness and spontaneity of summer.

I’m certainly not wishing away this time together, and I’m thankful for this week of calm and rest before a packed one of good chaos and stimuli. But I’m also starting to feel the tug of autumn and its lure of cooler weather, structured days, and the excitement of something new.

Do you identify with the labels of lazy extrovert or active introvert? What’s your ideal pace for summertime? Do you get anxious for autumn to arrive?