It (finally) Satisfies my Soul
Five years ago this fall, I went back to work after maternity leave with my first son. Although I loved teaching, it left me little energy for anything else. An undiagnosed thyroid condition, along with mild post-partum depression, was partly to blame. But the fact remains that when I got home from work, I was beat.
That feeling of lifelessness, stress and anxiety continued for a couple of years, and then things gradually began to change. A turning point for me was when I attended a workshop for teachers about managing stress. The speaker had us examine what “energizes” us. I realized then that I need a certain amount of time to pursue creative endeavors in order to be truly happy and I need friends who can commiserate, problem solve, and laugh with me.
I started focusing on spending my free time in a way that fed my creativity. I took up photography and used it as a way to spend time with my kids and appreciate their childhoods, while also nurturing my hobbies. I rearranged accessories in my house when I felt overwhelmed, because the process relaxed and revitalized me. I made digital scrapbooks for my boys, a pastime which fulfilled my creative needs and preserved my family’s memories.
I became more active in our church, helping with Sunday School. I became closer to God and close to many of the other moms who are now some of my best friends. I joined a mom’s group and met more women who had children the same age as mine. And I blogged. I shared my ups and downs and bonded with women across the country.
Along the way, I was lucky enough to be able to quit teaching. I told myself (and everyone else) that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. But the truth is, I wanted to let go of the hectic lifestyle and stress that teaching provided, and have more time to nurture my creativity and relationships.
Now, I’m able to do that. I am working and I don’t consider myself a stay-at-home mom anymore, but I have a flexible schedule with lots of time with my two boys and husband – the most important relationships in my life. And I’m actually able to enjoy my time with them, because I’m not stressed out and exhausted anymore. When I have time by myself, I use it to “fill my cup” and I’m more emotionally prepared to handle life’s challenges because of it.
Many, many times throughout each week, I thank God for the life I have. I am so blessed to be able to spend my time doing what I love with people I love.
You’ll be happier for the trouble.
Bill Watterson, the comic famous for creating Calvin and Hobbes, gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College in 1990 that has a powerful message:
Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive. Ambition is only understood if it’s to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth.
You’ll be told in a hundred ways, some subtle and some not, to keep climbing, and never be satisfied with where you are, who you are, and what you’re doing. There are a million ways to sell yourself out, and I guarantee you’ll hear about them.
To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.
Think for a minute. What energizes you? What puts you in a good mood? What makes you truly happy?
Do more of that. Whatever it is, make time for it. Cut out the things that don’t “fill your cup,” even if it means that you uninstall Candy Crush from your phone and spend your time in a way that rejuvenates your spirit.
Things may not change overnight, but as you start to differentiate between things that lift you higher and things that drag you down, you will begin to see what is most important to you.
And before you know it, you will have created a life that satisfies your soul.