A very wise soul once told me, “just because a field is fallow doesn’t mean it’s not working, that nothing is going on.” Actually, it’s quite the contrary. Below the surface, deep within the soil, balance is being restored. A whole plethora of life (microorganisms, earthworms, beetles, etc.) is working overtime to produce the essential environment and nutrients needed to grow the plants that sustain us. Without these fallow periods, the soil will become overworked, stressed and malnourished under the constant demands of production. The same is true for our own lives. The seemingly unproductive, slow periods we face at various times throughout our lifetime are essential to our long term growth, health and sanity. We need these fallow periods to replenish our soil.
I am at a crossroads in my life, a junction between mothering small children (an all-consuming job that left very little time for self-work) and nurturing a more self-reliant brood. The path before me is uncertain as I contemplate the “what’s next” phase of my life. For thirteen years, I have been constantly on the go juggling the demands of raising three young kids. While hectic (albeit rewarding!), my path was clear and well-marked: keep these kids alive, entertained and happy; teach them to be beautiful human beings. Now, I know I’m making it sound like my job is done. Far from it! My kids need me just as much now as ever, but the demands are different, less physical and more emotional. I find myself with more free time during the week while they are all in school, and to be honest, this free time left me very restless and uncomfortable in the beginning.
Oh, the nefarious plateau Is the view really always better at the top? So much time spent climbing, striving Where is the assimilation? The time to absorb the knowledge of our quest Must we not hit the wall, engage a rut to fuel our ascension once again Much like the dormancy of winter preluding the frenzied rebirth of spring And dare we even mention the fall? If done with grace, we are buoyed by the clouds No need to demonize flat ground Instead let's take the time to catch our breath before propelling upward once again
American culture conditions us to believe that, in order to be a good citizen, we must contribute to society by working at least 40 hours a week. We need a job title, a vocation, some label by which the world can define us and put us in a neat category. “Stay-at-home-mom”, a tenuous title for many regardless, doesn’t really cut it when your kids are not home all day, or so I have been made to believe. What was I to say then? How was I to rationalize “not working”? Setting aside the fact that, as a parent, I am always working, I have come to understand how important this fallow time is for me. I am a classic introvert. I perform best with regular bouts of quiet alone time to feed my creativity, spirituality and introspection. And, again, if you are a parent, you get how there hasn’t been a whole lot of quiet alone time these past thirteen years! That was my choice and exactly where I wanted to be, but now it’s time to commit to some serious self-work. When I am not submerged in household duties, I am spending my time walking (lots of walking!), writing, teaching yoga, volunteering, and generally feeding my soul (soil…see what I did there!). I am keeping myself completely open to the signs and possibilities of “what’s next”.
As I read back over this, I realize how privileged I sound. Not many people have the luxury of taking time out to work on themselves. Please, please understand, that not a day goes by that I don’t think about how unbelievably fortunate I am to do this, to be a stay-at-home mom, to pursue the things that really matter to me. There is no limit to my gratitude. And, this is why I am so committed to giving back through my writing, teaching and volunteering, through my actions and words. (Well, I guess I haven’t totally lost the need to rationalize my circumstances after all. And, as much as I don’t buy into the American way- the rat race, the needing a vacation from our lives- I am not completely immune to its pressures. I guess I better go take a walk and think about that!)