My jeans are tight. They are tight because I live long stretches of discipline followed by a few days of none. I am trying to find a middle ground, but my life is driven by normal responsibilities which are then eclipsed by unexpected needs. When too many days like this stack on top of one another, I eventually collapse into a puddle of exhaustion. When I’m too tired to keep moving, I am wooed by snacks that aren’t good for me, things that make me puffy and sluggish and unhappy. But in my exhaustion and inability to run away, they seduce me. This time it was sickness that prompted the exhaustion, and with my whole family sick, there was no where to go, nothing to do, and those seductive siren calls won.
So my jeans are tight. I had to leave them unbuttoned while I wore them until they gave a little. These aren’t my stretch jeans; those are always forgiving and welcoming. But then again, stretch jeans don’t serve me as both shaper and pants the way older jeans do. Stretchy jeans just spread out when you do, making extra room for your indiscretions.
The jeans I’m wearing today are both my favorites and also remind me of my boundary lines. These are older Gap jeans, the generation X of jeans, 98% cotton and only 2% spandex… they’ll stretch a little, but not a lot. There is no real forgiveness woven into their tight fibers.
Like the Gap jeans, I often feel myself pushing against the very limits of what I can do. I don’t want to live a life that is too full or a life that is too empty. I have learned not to schedule days like that for myself. But like many of you, I am already trying to accomplish too many things in the hours that flee from me like the rushing wind. I don’t want to give up any of the things that satisfy me, and I am bound to several other responsibilities that I could not give up even if I wanted to. And all the while, the hardest part is knowing that I will disappoint someone.
Then there are the days when my energy comes to a crashing halt. On these days, I pray that no one needs me for anything at all. I pray that no one wants me, either, or even remembers I exist on this day. I want to withdraw from the world and pretend it doesn’t exist. Can I confess this out loud?
Sometimes I live a healthy blend of work and play, a balance of productivity and rest. Sometimes I manage a blend of just right living. Life slowed to where I can breathe, where I can watch the sun’s rays dance on the glass of my coffee table, I can actually smell the air I’m breathing outside, and I can feel the warmth of life flowing. Those are the blissful days when there is enough time for that day… enough time to savor the moments while still moving through them. Enough energy to not have to push hard before the energy is spent. Enough space in my soul to look forward to the hours of the day as they stretch before me. I just wish I could live this way more often than I do.
I try to live my life fully devoted to His plans for me, whatever they may be, whomever they may include, whenever He ordains. But something still isn’t right. I haven’t learned that delicate art of letting go of some things so that I can take hold of others. I just fill my already full arms with one more thing, stacked precariously on top of the teetering tower of good things… and get frustrated with myself when some of the stack comes toppling down. Like the non-stretchy Gap jeans, I haven’t learned to give myself the grace I try to give others, at least not without punishing myself with a heaping dose of guilt. The ten year old in me is like the stretchy jeans, with liberal room for whatever comes, longing for the bountiful hours of a mild summer day… a day to play in the wind and sun and not be slowed by the anyone’s needs but my own. A day to just… be.
Why am I sharing this with you? For the sake of honesty. I have different roles in this world but this is my behind-the-scenes life. This is just Tammy, not the leader or teacher, not the mother or wife, not even the friend or counselor… just Tammy – for better or for worse. I am sharing all of this with you so that I am real, and because I have learned that revealing ourselves – weaknesses, as well as strengths – unites us, matures us, and gives us substance.
Today, my jeans are tight, but I am listening, following the conviction of my Father’s truth, willing and ready to learn from Him. Teach me, Father, so that I don’t rush through my life, never being fully present, and collapsing into puddles of exhaustion. Teach me a healthier way to rest. Amen.