Choosing Your Absence from Something You Love: 5 Things I’m Learning

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Five posts into writing a blog series I loved in early 2018, “The Sacred Art of Receiving Your Right-Now Life,” I found myself drowning in a sea of very normal roles and responsibilities. I’ve been living out the message of that series in real time instead of writing it down and hitting the “publish” button like I’d planned.

There was nothing crisis-like or dramatic about any of it, only that all the things conspired against my writing all at the same time. Or at least that’s how it felt.

  • Married with three children
  • I have a job, but it’s not full time.
  • And because it’s not full-time, a year ago I also took on a couple of freelance jobs that became triple the work of what I expected. (Lesson learned.)
  • My kids were doing all of their kid things. Two of them are teenagers, which means there’s no end to the shenanigans (and maternal angst.)
  • From February until the end of school, I lived in constant stress. Then summer and working from home with kids. Bless it.
  • After nearly 20 years of teaching Economics to college students, my husband began a brand new career last August. We’re grateful and excited; it’s such a good fit for him. But it’s meant long hours, working on Saturdays, and yours truly filling in the gaps. It won’t always be like this, but building a business requires a great deal of heart and hustle (and uncertainty.)
  • Also? Our girl graduates from high school in less than 8 weeks, and this year has stretched each of us in ways we couldn’t have known ahead of time.

 

Guys, I’m tired.

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But do you see what I mean? These are normal things, good things. Every role and responsibility I have means that I’ve been entrusted with gifts and people and opportunities to nurture and steward. But good things still come with hardship.

Which brings me to the first thing I’m learning during a season of living my stories instead of writing them down:

1. Too many good things at the same time are still too many things.

Sometimes we can’t help it. Sometimes we really are at the mercy of season and circumstance. But sometimes we let too many things in during a season that’s already sagging under the weight of all the good things.

Like a generous host throwing a grand party, we leave the door open and the lovely guests keep filing in, champagne glasses held high in celebration. Next thing you know, the floor has collapsed under the weight of this fine party. Here’s the part where I chuckle because this exact thing literally happened last year in the town where I live. It’s fine. No one was seriously injured. It’s a metaphor that works, is what I’m saying.

2. Life right now is much more about managing my energy than managing my time.

I’ve only fully realized this over the last several months and guys, it’s a game-changer. Busy as I am, I have actual time on my hands. We all do if we’re brutally honest. What I don’t have leftover is energy. And the things I really miss (like regular writing) require a mental and emotional energy that’s currently taken up by other required roles and responsibilities.

Once I realized this, I was able to let go of some of the guilt and striving, and replace it with grace and acceptance. I’m still sad about it. But all of my brain power and emotional reserves are currently spoken for. (See #4 if you want to know where it’s going.)

3. Structure is my friend.

A lot of us struggle with doing tasks that we don’t feel like doing. We procrastinate, distract ourselves, and make excuses. I have a friend who’s currently writing a book. As in, she’s under contract to write a book. One morning she texted me, “Haven’t gotten one word down on paper this morning but my hair and make-up look exceptionally good.” I laughed so hard because THIS IS WHAT WE DO.

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And some of us struggle more than others. (Ahem, it’s me.) Add to this equation that I work mostly from home, which means it’s easy for work tasks and mom / wife / home / life tasks to bleed together into an existence where I always feel “on” and never “off.” My brain is in a constant state of whiplash from switching back and forth between vastly different roles and tasks.

“Enough,” I said to myself in January. “You are a grown-up and you can do this differently.”

Now I try to have three days a week when I work full-time and two days a week that are for my other “job,” the one where I plan the meals, get the groceries, run the errands, fill out the paperwork, email the teachers and coaches, decipher FAFSA forms, do the laundry, (take a nap,) etc.

We’re all different but my brain works better when it has a long runway in the same direction. I’m more efficient with the work I do for my job when my brain gets in that zone and can just stay there for hours. The same is true for domestic life. It only makes sense to structure life in accordance with how my brain works. It’s required all sorts of rearranging and it will never be a perfect system, but it’s given me a renewed sense of hope that I can get through this season with a measure of wholeness and stability.

I can’t stress enough that this doesn’t always work perfectly. The last few weeks my rhythms have been off and I’ve had to accept it. But each week I begin again and ask for grace. Always, I try to hold it loosely.

(If you’d like to learn more about this, I highly recommend this podcast episode by Emily P. Freeman: Design a Rhythm of Work — Theme Days!)

4. If you’re living in a pivotal life season, even one that’s not a crisis, it will take up more space in your head and heart than you realize.

No one can tell you what it’s like during the last year before your child becomes, in theory, an adult.

And just like that, the tears start flowing. (I was doing fine until now.)

I recently told a friend that I feel a low-grade sadness all the time. I miss this girl of mine already and she hasn’t even gone anywhere yet.

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I think it’s because of this. When you hold that baby in your arms, 18 years feels like a very long time. It’s overwhelming, how long 18 years seems when you’re on the front end. But here we are. Though I hope and pray that our relationship will be always be close, that I’ll always be a trusted voice in her life, I know that most of the formative work is done. It is sobering beyond words, partly because I see all that I did wrong, all that I omitted, all that I didn’t know and now I do.

It’s also this. Senior year means we’re all living in the tension between a child still being under our roof and soon not being under our roof. Giving as much freedom as possible within boundaries is messy. It looks different for every child and it may exhaust you like nobody’s business.

Back in October, I drew up a “Senior Syllabus,” something we could all refer to throughout the twists and turns of this year. Sure, it’s been somewhat helpful but the truth is, there’s no real guidebook for this. We’re all simply making our way one day at a time. I pray a lot and I process it with a couple of trusted people in my life. I probably need to have a good cry or ten but I’m afraid that if I give myself permission to do that, I won’t crawl out of the corner for days.

5. Sometimes you have to choose your absence from the thing you love most.

Because there are people you love more.

For me, that thing has been my own writing. Again, it’s not that I don’t have leftover time. Monday I spent six hours of my day writing and editing content for my job. By 8 pm, I had no mental energy left, even though I didn’t go to bed for another two and a half hours. Sure, I could have come downstairs to my desk for personal writing time, but with what brain-power? (See point #2.)

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Five-ish years ago I read a little book called Crazy Busy by Kevin DeYoung. He said many wise and timely things but here’s the phrase that’s stayed with me.

We must choose our absence, our inability, and our ignorance – and choose wisely. The sooner we embrace this finitude, the sooner we can be free.

In the last year, I’ve said no to speaking engagements that would have brought much personal joy and fulfillment. I said no to teaching a periodic  class, even though I miss teaching and would have loved it. I turned down additional freelance work even though the money was good.

And I’ve said no to regular writing and publishing my own words, for now, because it requires energy and intention I need to save for other things. Yes, it’s life-giving and makes me feel most like myself. And yes, this joy has a way of spilling over into my everyday life. But I tend to run after this joy, this work of my heart, with too much gusto, leaving my people in the wake. Though I desperately want to learn how to curb my own ambition and enthusiasm, I’m not there yet. And this high-stakes season is simply too precious and fragile to risk.

Even though I have so much to share with you.

I’ve been storing up posts and ideas in very organized and professional ways–scattered Word docs on my computer, iPhone notes, even an entire book I’ve outlined in a spiral notebook. I started it two years ago and I keep scribbling in it. I also want to write about teenagers–about daughters and about sons. I want to write about acceptance, doubt, everyday faith, and how the life of Christ has everything to teach us about receiving our right-now lives, even as we wait with hope.

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If you’re in a similar season of working, of waiting, of wondering if “your time” will ever come around, know that you’re in good company. And that company isn’t just me. It’s Jesus.

One of the things I’ve learned from studying his life is that God’s timing for our work is perfect, and that Christ himself is with us as we labor–whether it’s scrubbing the dishes (what I’m doing after I finish this,) helping with an overwhelming research paper on Macroeconomics and The Great Recession (what I’m doing after I finish the dishes #LordBeNear,) or being diligent in the work you’ve been paid to do (what I’m doing after I finish those other two things.)

As I labor in everyday ways, I invite Jesus, the one who filled the nets of his weary working friends with fish, helped them cook it up for breakfast, and then offered them a feast on the beach. This is his heart for us. He meets us as we struggle with discouragement, fatigue, and lack. He cares about all of our work, and delights to show up alongside us with compassion, grace, and sometimes a feast. (John 21:1-14)

Whatever season you’re in, I pray you will experience Christ’s presence with you, and know his heart of abundance for you.

Thanks for being here. (And for reading all the words. I sure know how to make up for lost time.)

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I do post on Instagram pretty regularly @marianvischer. It’s a little bit of personal life (think college visits + laughable school projects + how I redid my kitchen backsplash with stickers,) a little bit of writing, a little bit of everyday beauty. In the last year I’ve enjoyed writing a couple of series there.

10 Things to Tell You Series last September, hosted by Laura Tremaine. Here’s a link to the first post in that series. 

12-Day Series with Hopewriters in January. Here’s a link to the first post in that series. 

When I do publish here, or if you’d like to stay in the loop with news I only share with subscribers, sign up in the email box and you’ll be the first to know all the things. : )

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5 Things I’ve Learned this Fall

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It’s time to dish about the life-changing (not really) stuff I’ve learned this fall! I’m joining one of my favorite people on the internet, Emily P. Freeman, to “reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future.” There’s a whole community of us and we’d love for you to join in! #wwlcommunity

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Here we go, 5 things I’ve learned:

1 .My family will eat the same thing over and over again if they love it.

I started making this soup last summer, which is crazy because who eats soup in the summer? It became a thing due to some dietary changes one member of our family made. It’s one of the few things the entire family loves and, bonus, it’s super healthy. I’ve been making it almost weekly this fall and everyone is still loving it.

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You can find the recipe here.

Pro Tips: I double it and add a splash of balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, and red wine. Also? Just buy a bag of shredded cabbage because there is no sense in unnecessary chopping. About cabbage, I’m the only one in my family who likes it, but chopped up and simmered in soup, they don’t even know. Also, my mini-prep food chopper is my best friend because carrots and celery can be chopped up super fine and in less than 5 minutes. Final lazy tip: buy chopped, frozen onions. They’ve changed my life. I haven’t chopped an onion in months.

 

2. I love collections of short stories and essays.

I read Ann Patchett’s This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and I loved it so much. There’s something satisfying about being able to finish a whole story in one sitting.Yet each one had me looking forward to more words from the same author. (Rick Bragg’s All Over But the Shoutin’ was another one I read and loved this year.)

 

3. Getting stronger is empowering.

I’ve been in a state of injury for the last 3 years. I’ve been able to run a little bit but not consistently or in the way that I used to. I’ve experimented with some other types of exercise and also experimented with doing nothing at all. These are first-world problems, to be sure, but I knew I needed to take better care of my body. A bone density test finally drove the point home.

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As women, we need to get take care of ourselves by strengthening the places where we’re weak.

I’m only about 6 weeks in, but I’ve been pursuing fitness in a way that’s kind and accommodating to my body. I don’t get the same kind of endorphins that I did from running but I feel like I’m laying an important foundation for long-term health and for (maybe) running more in the future.

Yesterday I noticed that I could do things I couldn’t do just a few weeks prior and I felt empowered by my own budding strength the rest of the day.

Sometimes we have to let go of what we’ve always done if it’s no longer serving us. I’m out of my comfort zone for sure. But it also feels good and right to be on a slow and gentle path toward greater strength and less pain.

 

4. I love helping others discover who they are and pursue personal growth.

I’ve become an unofficial Enneagram Whisperer.

The Enneagram is all the rage these days. If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, it’s a personality framework with ancient roots. I’ve been using it as a tool in my own life for 7 or 8 years now and it’s been a total game-changer. My husband will tell you the same thing.

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In the last year, I’ve shared the Enneagram with a couple of different groups and we’ve also introduced it to our own small group. It’s been delightful.

I’m not an expert, just a student, but I’ve learned that I really enjoy helping others understand who they are and how to pursue growth and compatibility with those they love.

(The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey of Self-Discovery is a great primer on the Enneagram. You can also learn more and find a comprehensive assessment at The Enneagram Institute.)

Also, if you’re already an Ennea-fan, you have to check out my friend Sara’s Ennea-collection!!! Mugs + prints + tees + totes for your kindred Enneagram lovers. : )

enneaproducts

 

5. Being a shopgirl is so much fun!

I started with The Real Pretty Shop sales several years ago. I think I’ve done 5 shop sales and they’ve been such fun.

In October, I offered something new — a way for each of us to “wear courage” in our everyday lives.

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I sold out in a little over 24 hours.

I started this blog 9 years ago because I love sharing ideas, resources, stories, and beauty with readers. Though I’ve mostly shared my own words across the years, I love having a space where I can continue to share other offerings that inspire and encourage you right where you are.

Next week I have a new word and style that you can wear for yourself or give to others. I think it’s the perfect word for this season and beyond. Stay tuned. : )

As you reflect on the past season, what are some things you’ve learned? You can share in the comments section.

 

posts from this fall:

A Few of My Favorite Things for a Peaceful Holiday Season

Finding the Unlikely Path to Gratitude

Remember Who the Real Enemy Is

How to Wear Courage in Your Right-Now Life {a personal post + wearable reminder}

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10 Things I’ve Learned This Spring

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It’s the start of a new season and that means it’s time to share what we’ve learned lately. These posts are some of my favorite to write because the serious and the silly get to hang out in one post.

“What We Learned” is hosted by one of my favorite people, Emily P. Freeman. It’s an invitation to “reflect on the past season before we move ahead into the future.”

You can find this community link-up over at her place, so join us!

On to the things I learned, in no particular order:

 

1. The Fitness Marshall is just as delightful and infectious in person.

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My sister-in-law turns 40 this year and each month of 2017, this sweet, laid-back, homeschool mom of 4 is trying to do something a little bit crazy. She introduced me to The Fitness Marshall months ago and it only felt right that since he was coming to Charlotte on his spring Tour of Booty {not making that up}, we’d join in the fun.

And IT WAS INDEED SO FUN. It felt like church. Or at least the way I want church to feel. All ages and shapes and sizes and colors all gathered together, showing up as we are, getting lost in the wonder and experience of it all.

There’s something magical about being in the presence of someone who is doing what they were made to do and sharing it with the world, whether that “world” is a giant stage or just the small gathering of a few. Caleb Marshall loves to dance, loves to encourage, and loves people. I’m so grateful he didn’t keep all of that to himself. {His cardio hip-hop videos are free on You Tube and so super fun.}

2. Sometimes it’s good when people have too much time on their hands.

Because they invent the wonderful ridiculousness of things like the Magic iPod. My brother sent me this text a couple of months ago.

“Themagicipod.com. You’re welcome.” : )

If you’re familiar with late 90s / early 2000s music, you’ll love this. You drag one of the songs on the left to one of the songs on the right and it mixes them.

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My favorite? Mix Bubba Sparxxx with Vanessa Carlton. But not when your children are listening because the Bubba Sparxxx song is called, “Ms. New Booty.” {As if the 3 X’s in his name weren’t enough of a clue.} I know, this is a family blog and I’ve already typed “booty” twice. My apologies. Will I get illicit comment span after this?

 

3. You can return your most recent Audible book if you didn’t enjoy it.

I subscribed to Audible this year because I have a child who struggles a bit with reading and we needed a better way to get through some of the assigned books for school. But I’ve actually enjoyed having it for myself. I find that a lot of the “mundane” work in my life {driving, cooking, laundry, etc.} feels less mundane when I have the companionship of story.

Here’s the thing about audiobooks. Sometimes books should be read and not heard. One book that I won’t mention had lots of relational conflict and yelling. Guess what? Hearing someone do all of that yelling stressed me out so bad. But I had to find out what happened in the story so I finished it. It wasn’t one of my better decisions. So when I found out that I could return the book for credit simply because I didn’t enjoy the experience, that felt like a win.

I’ve now returned two Audible books and chosen other books in their place, all for zero dollars.

{If you’re interested in giving Audible a try, click here and you can get two free audiobooks for signing up. And yes, that’s an affiliate link but I’m a fan regardless.}

4. The 10-10-10 principle for prioritizing.

Historically, I’m terrible at prioritizing. All the things feel important all the time. Sometimes this lands me in a place of anxiety and sometimes it lands me in a place of paralysis. I’m always on a hunt for the “secret” that will unlock a cure for this disorder of mine. I don’t think it exists but sometimes I stumble across something that helps shift the way I think.

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Recently I was reading through a January 2014 back issue of Real Simple and I came across an article, “Balance or Bust” by Marjorie Ingall. The subtitle reads: One indefatigable woman takes on a marathon research project (2,330 pages of self-help!), determined to master life’s juggling act — even if it kills her. 

It’s one of my favorite features they’ve ever done. She boils down all of the wisdom she’s binged and shares the basics with her readers. This one has stuck with me.

Whenever you face a tough decision, find your answer by considering the consequences of each potential choice in the next 10 minutes, the next 10 months, and the next 10 years.

I’ve started using this principle for everything from taking the time to read to my youngest, to choosing not to write as much because my scant spare is better spent on relational opportunities that are fleeting. Sometimes I apply this principle when I’m in a moment of panic, “Ten minutes from now I’ll still be in a bad state but ten years from now I won’t even remember. Deep breaths.”

Books she mentions in this article that I actually purchased {and have not yet finished because no time #irony.}:

In Search of Balance: Keys to a Stable Life by Richard A. Swenson, author of Margin, one of my favorites.

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz {her favorite of all the self-help books.}

 

5. How to take vitamins.

My friend wanted me to try these vitamins so I took them for a week and actually felt better. {I’m going to buy some on my June order and see how I feel long-term. I’ll keep you posted.} Anyway, while doing some research, I stumbled upon this video of a darling gal with the sweetest accent and purple hair telling me how to take 6 vitamins at a time.

Y’all. It’s magic. It totally works. And it actually makes taking vitamins or any pills seem less daunting.

 

6. How to cook spaghetti squash.

As I type this I’m 26 days into a Whole30, something I swore I’d never do. I’m an “all things in moderation” gal and I don’t have any food allergies. I may have actually made fun of restrictive eating trends and regimens like this one.

But I turned 44 this week and let me tell you, hormonal shifts are no joke. Over the last year I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the sugar / bread / junk I consume and my mood / energy level / yelling. More protein and less other stuff keeps me stable..ish. Plus someone I love wanted to do Whole30 so I took it on as an act of solidarity.

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What my afternoon pick-me-up looks like. “I’m jealous of that awesome snack” says no one.

Which is why I’m eating things like spaghetti squash. There are a gazillion links on the internet about spaghetti squash but here’s the big thing I want to tell you. Most people are cutting it wrong. If you want long “noodles,” cut the squash width-wise instead of length-wise.

This post and video from “Eat Within Your Means” taught me all about it.

 

7. The Popcast with Knox and Jamie is everything.

I know. Could I be any later to the party? So I’d heard about The Popcast for ages but didn’t check it out because I thought it was just a podcast version of People magazine. I love People. But I’m sooooo out of the celebrity culture loop that I figured it would all be lost on me. Also? People without the pictures had zero appeal.

But it’s not that at all. The Popcast “is a weekly podcast that educates the world on things that entertain, but do not matter.” And they absolutely live up to that bold mission.

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Knox and Jamie could talk about how to boil water or how to make your bed and guess what? I would still tune in because they are that hilarious and endearing. I started listening in January and haven’t missed an episode since. My favorite so far: Episode 181. “Misunderstood Songs and Misheard Lyrics.” 

 

8. Hemp Protein Powder is the worst.

On a quest to pump up our smoothies with extra protein that didn’t have a bunch of fillers {this was pre-Whole30}, I bought Hemp Powder. Thinking to myself, “Well, the more nutrition the better so I’ll just load these smoothies up with several giant scoops of health.”

My husband thought I had made his smoothie with soil and drywall mix. If you must use Hemp protein powder, for the love, moderation.

 

9. We need silence, not just rest.

I loved this article because it unpacked what I’ve found to be true for myself but am so quick to forget.

For a number of reasons, in April I took a 3 week hiatus from social media and the internet in general except for what I needed to do for work. And instead of listening to podcasts or stories or music, I mostly didn’t. It felt like a reset button for my brain and my spirit.

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The Harvard Business Review article explains it this way.

Cultivating silence isn’t just about getting respite from the distractions of office chatter or tweets. Real sustained silence, the kind that facilitates clear and creative thinking, quiets inner chatter as well as outer.

This kind of silence is about resting the mental reflexes that habitually protect a reputation or promote a point of view. It’s about taking a temporary break from one of life’s most basic responsibilities: Having to think of what to say.

Yes please.

Silence is free. It’s simple. But it’s also awkward, foreign, and even uncomfortable for us moderns who have a constant feed of information and noise at our fingertips all the time.

For me, choosing silence is a discipline I want more of.

 

10. The small griefs matter too.

Despite all the gifts of the past year, I’ve also wrestled with loss. I was telling my husband Sunday night that for twelve solid months, I feel like I’ve lost all my rhythms and some of my identity.

Because this season of life and motherhood and responsibilities has been surprising and unique in what it’s asked of me, my life-giving disciplines have been (at best) haphazard and (at worst) non-existent.

I’m not able to write as often. Certain creative projects that mean the world to me are sitting on a shelf. I crammed for my Bible study way more than I wanted to. I had little occasion to journal and be still. Some weeks I’d exercise 4 times and then go three weeks without doing anything. My days and weeks have been highly scheduled yet also wildly unpredictable.

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The internet hasn’t helped. Sometimes social media has felt like a sea of people all going one direction, passing me by with their pursuits and fulfilled dreams while I sit in a rowboat, working hard but seemingly getting nowhere that I’ve deemed worthy. I know this isn’t necessarily true but my perspective has been fueled by envy and self-pity, both of them terrible counselors.

I’ve faced far more painful things in my life than this. I’ve experienced real grief and walked hard roads. Which is why these lesser griefs and frustrations are embarrassing to admit. Recently I’ve confessed and processed with a couple of trusted souls who have been kind to affirm that the lesser losses are also worthy of our tears. Something about bringing them into the light has felt freeing.

If you’re feeling the same way, I wrote a little while back about overwhelm and these lesser griefs — and how I found safety and consolation in a strange and unexpected place. You can find it here.

So what have YOU learned this spring? I’d love to hear. We can dish about it in the comments and don’t forget that you can also join in over at Emily’s.

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