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

ChoosingAbsence

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.

bday

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.

glasses

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.

srgirl

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.)

remote

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.

roses

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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Comments

  1. Jasmyn says

    I learn more from you than I could ever write in a comment box. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  2. Joni says

    I am so happy you’re back! Your post on how scripture is food literally changed how I approach my relationship with God and His word. Thank you for sharing your gift of writing with us.

  3. Joan Rampey says

    Wisdom. Truth. Insight. Honesty
    And to top it off…so amazingly relatable!
    We all thank you, dear one!!

  4. MeMe Birchfield says

    Yay!!! I was so excited to see your new post in my inbox this morning! I read all your posts on Instagram but this was like eating the whole chocolate bar. 😉 Your words resonate as always. I miss my college kids so much and there is nothing like when they are all home again–it just feels complete, but I am so excited and thankful for all their new and exciting opportunities. It is such a joy to now be mostly their confidant and friend and not so much their drill sergeant. I miss you, dear Marian! We might be making a trip to SC this summer…sure do miss the South!

  5. says

    hug!!!! I just need to hug you after reading this. I’m thankful to be in good company during a similar but different season. It is a deeply comforting (sacred feeling) kind of gift. I relate to the energy vs the time comparison; yes and yes. I’ve said no to 2 very good things lately and lots of small good things because a newborn and a tendency towards postpartum depression. Being gentle with myself by being firm in some boundaries right now which I know will help my mental health. I love the quote you shared from the book Crazy Busy, and on another note your love for your daughter is so beautiful.

    • says

      Melissa, my artist friend, thank you for those beautiful and kind words! Yes, you are wise to move gently and slowly through these sweet and sacred baby days. Much love to you!

  6. Reagan says

    I always make time to read your stuff because I love it so much. I will look forward to all your guidance when Katie’s time comes as a senior. I’ll be praying for you and Lance in the months to come.

  7. Colette says

    Thank you. You touched my heart and encouraged me with this post. I can feel you are living (or trying 😉) the words. You may not have been writing much, but still you ARE a writer, and life being lived ripens your words like no hurry or productivity hack ever could.

  8. says

    Thanks for sharing honestly about your life struggles. I find myself in a similar time. After a couple of years of difficult experiences in our family, I have felt overwhelmed with the responsibilities around me in our home and let my blog sit mainly on the back burner. I also work part-time and really enjoy my job, but have felt like I should therefor have the rest of my life in order. Instead, it’s been slow going and often feels like I’m only completing the minimum.

    We also have two young adult sons at home working and attending community college, and although it’s a wonderful stage in life, it’s far more complicated than we imagined. We also don’t have the energy we did before we hit middle age, although thankfully we are mostly healthy.

    I love the idea of choosing your absence and pray that I’m choosing well for this season. I also love listening to Emily Freeman and will definitely check out the episode you mentioned about designing a work schedule based on theme days; I think this will work with my brain and help me to be more productive.

    I take comfort in the fact that God’s timing is perfect even though we aren’t. Praying that we will embrace where we are and move forward in joy by following him one little step at a time.

    • says

      K Ann, I think there are more of us in this boat than we realize! Life is lived in seasons, isn’t it? May grace help you to receive this one with acceptance and gratitude.

  9. Kim says

    So good to hear your heart. I have missed your words. I too have a senior and the thing saving my life is a challenge that was presented at the start of the school year. Pastor suggested for parents to not just pray for their children, but to literally lay hands on them and pray out loud over them each morning before school for at least a few weeks. I didn’t think I would actually remember every day until after she was already gone, but we have not missed a single day this entire school year. It is a most unexpected, positive and life giving practice for us all. We will look back on this with full hearts for sure.

  10. Christy says

    Thank you so much for this post. I am crying as I relate to all you have written. I have a junior in high school and it is tougher than I imagined. I would love to see your senior syllabus. 😉 I feel as a parent to teens there isn’t much relevant books/resources (that I have found) that help you. I always want to point my kids towards Christ but sometimes the world has a stronger pull on them. If you have any suggestions, they would be more than welcomed! Thank you for your sweet words that have soothed my weary heart this morning. This was much needed.

    • says

      Christy, thank you for being here. One book that really helped to ground my perspective was Grace-Based Parenting. I remember zero details but the overall message was that parents have to live out a real and robust faith with our kids. It’s not about rules and strategies, etc. It’s just living real lives of faith within the walls of our own homes. I was like, “Okay, this makes sense. We can do this.” And that’s what we’ve tried to do–use real life (and our own shortcomings as parents) to point our kids to Christ as our only hope and answer. And I pray a lot for my kids and that God will bear fruit in their lives. We can’t do it.

      I’d love to write a blog post on this at some point!

  11. C. Cason says

    How I wish encouraging blogs like this one (or even computers!) would have been around 33 years ago when I was going through similar circumstances! I was desperately trying to finish my last year of college (after going part-time for 20 years), sitting at a manual typewriter (‘ever heard of those?) in the bedroom, with 3 children knocking at the door, & a husband who worked constantly. The result was that I felt NO one, not even strangers like you on some science-fiction idea called a “blog,” supported me & ALL the “things” I loved. So, I had a massive melt down, left & moved into my own apartment & eventually got a divorce. I went on to get 3 degrees, write, teach & retire. But my life has been a train wreck, & I would give ANYthing to have those “5 Things I Love” back again. So, Marian, thank you for this blog, albeit 33 years too late for me. You hang on to your “things” for dear life, keep listening to/reading encouraging blogs & send up prayers for those of us who weren’t successful at being able to “love it all.” (I was & am a Christian through it all. Praise God for His grace & fresh mercies each morning.)

    • says

      C, your comment made me cry. Thank you for vulnerably sharing your story with me and for your encouraging words. YES, his grace and mercies are new every morning! This is surely one of the most beautiful promises we have. Thank you for being here! May God richly bless you with grace and peace.

  12. Pam Anthony says

    Choosing your absence reminds me of a quote I recently encountered:
    Living a full life, at work and at home, is about doing the right things well, and confidently missing out on everything else.
    —Cal Newport

    I’m in a season of extended caregiving.

  13. Lesley Lang says

    This is the first post I have read by you and I am now a huge fan! I would love to see your Senior Syllabus!

  14. Kathleen Jaeger says

    You have summed up how my life is better than I have been able to describe it to others or really even to myself. Managing my energy… a low-level of sadness (I launch my three in three years in just a few weeks). And leaving something I love because my people matter more. I know I will feel a little lost….but I also know Jesus is here every step of the way…

  15. says

    I just popped over from FB where one of my friends (who’s serving God in Mongolia) shared your post. I can’t tell you how much I needed this. For months I’ve been carrying the invisible ball bat around for self-flagellation. Guilty of feeling that I was caring/focusing too much on my husband recovering from a stroke (and for months before when he just wasn’t himself and I was in full stress mode). Guilty of not finishing a critically important blogging class that I paid significant money to take. And guilty of procrastinating on my demand freelance work that isn’t my passion but pays for some of our needs. And then there are my own health issues with adrenal fatigue and thyroid imbalance (hello stressful life for too long). Offering myself grace is nothing like freely giving it to others. It’s incredibly difficult. I’m going to go back and re-read your post and let everything soak in. A few things you mentioned really hit me: “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.” Thank you for helping me come to grips with the fact that I AM in “a pivotal life season.” And that I’m not alone in choosing “absence from the thing I love most.” This isn’t the first “pivotal life season” I’ve been in, but my blog gave me my sanity and purpose in a previous season and I miss it dearly. Yet, I’m struggling now to be present in the writing. There is just no energy for it which makes me sad. Thankfully, you pointed out that my issue is not a time-management issue, but an energy issue. That is the biggest revelation ever! Yes, it seems obvious, now. This just isn’t the season for the “Free to Focus” system to be working for me. Instead, I need to give myself the freedom to LIVE, gracefully. And now take baby steps to block my time so that I can somehow breathe and create and work.

    It’s so nice to have “met” you, Marian. I look forward to following along. See you over on IG, soon.

  16. Richard Rogers says

    Occasionally I drop in and read what you are thinking about. I hope all continues to go well with you and your family.
    Rick Rogers

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