I try to live an intentional life. I think seriously about everything from how to manage my time, the relationships (both now and long-term) I want to build with my children, my marriage, and my stuff (a.k.a clutter).
But sometimes, the downside of all that intentional thinking is that I create an ideal in my mind that, of course, I can’t always meet.
Sometimes it isn’t even that I don’t meet it, but rather, it feels like my reality down-right collides up against my ideal.
My ideal is to get good sleep every night.
My reality is that my husband was up until past 1 am this morning studying, my 2 year-old was up four times last night (She sleep walks. Anybody have a remedy?), and my neighbors do things like sing the Star Spangled Banner at 12am (I wish I were kidding).
My ideal is to have my kids outside playing in dirt every day, finding worms, and building forts in the woods.
My reality is that I live in a populated apartment community in the middle of the city. I am surrounded by buildings, not nature.
My ideal is to live slowly. I want to actually live my life, not just race through it. You know, have time to smell the roses.
My reality is that my husband is currently doing an M.Div (that is a 96 credit hour program for those of you unfamiliar with Seminary degrees) at break-neck speed. It is anything but slow-pace.
With a reality so opposed to the ideal it is easy to throw my hands up in the air and forget about it. But the truth is, life will never meet an elusive ideal. There will always be situations, circumstances, and realities that are outside of my control.
I must learn to create a meaningful life that accomplishes my overall mission and goals regardless of the realities I face.
The goal is to be intentional about taking care of my body in part by getting good sleep.
What I can do: I can’t change my paper thin apartment walls or predict how many times kids will wake up in the night, but I can be intentional about setting good patterns. Turning the computer off and relaxing my mind so that when I do go to bed I can fall asleep easily.
The goal is for my kids have a healthy exposure to nature, fresh air, and exercise.
What I can do: Nature is not at our back door, but we can take walks and play outside in our apartment yard. And once a week at minimum I pack everyone up to take them to a park with woods.
The goal is to live an intentional life that is free form busyness. That is, that we spend more time for people and relationships than we do checking things off a to-do list or filling up our schedules.
What I can do: Ah, this is a tricky one. I think that no matter what you are doing in life, living a life intentionally free from busyness is going to be difficult. Let’s face it. Our culture values “busy.” Unfortunately, we have confused “busy” with “productive.” And in church we often confuse “busy” with “spiritual.”
The past couple of weeks have been extremely intense for my husband on the academic front. And it isn’t going to change for the rest of the semester. He has a lot on his plate. But this was our choice–to go through this degree quickly. So we have had to make provision for that in other ways.
While our lives are indeed full right now, we have found ways to intentionally keep the busy monster at bay. It’s not always easy, and we have to constantly reevaluate, but it is possible.
Evaluate what is truly essential. This is absolutely key. I think it has to be done regularly, because what I could do a year ago, I can’t do now, and I’m sure in another year it will change again.
Looking at our schedule and determining what is absolutely necessary is crucial during this intense time of life.
We do much less socializing now than we used to do. And what we do is intentionally relational. Meaning we are more likely to have another family for dinner than we are go to attend a function. The reality is that when Brian is free, we need to focus on family time. In another season those things might be possible again. For now it just isn’t.
Realizing that our lives have to look different than it used to is essential. We can’t physically do what we have done in the past while in full-time school.
Our schedules become out of control when we keep adding to it without eliminating anything. When you add something to your life, other things have to take a back seat for a time.
For instance, before beginning seminary I thought that we would do just as much at church as we used to. But it just isn’t possible. We are committed, but we aren’t involved in nearly as much as we have been in the past.
Our lives have to adjust to different seasons, or we will be completely taken up in doing and forget to live.
Our reality may seem like it clashes with the ideal. But really, it is just knowing what is important to us and then finding ways to make it happen within our individual reality.
Does your reality sometimes feel like it is colliding with your ideal?