May 092012

In his sermons, whenever he’s about to make an important point that he really wants us to remember, our pastor always says this. It’s kind of like a wake-up call, to let us know that if we’re spacing out, it’s time to sit up and pay attention.

“Don’t miss this….”

In the last month or so, I’ve had a bit of a real life wake-up call. As I slogged through my days, feeling tired and cranky, tense and resentful, God was opening my eyes to the fact that I was missing something pretty important.

My life.

In the 4 years that I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve always tried to be completely honest and transparent with you. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I struggle to achieve balance and moderation in all things, just as I suspect most of you do. But there is one area where I try, and try, and consistently fail, and that’s in limiting the time I spend online. As a blogger, this can be difficult, because obviously my work is online. I need to moderate comments, respond to emails, research post material, and that’s fine….except it never stops there. The internet is too full of distractions, and it’s so easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just check Facebook for a couple of minutes,” or “I’ll just check this message board and see if there are any new posts.” Then there’s Pinterest, and blogs, and countless little dramas to get caught up in. You can live a whole other life online, but the problem is that you have to sacrifice your real one.

One night last week, the time I was squandering was troubling me so much that I couldn’t sleep. My tossing and turning was even keeping my husband awake, and finally he asked what was wrong. I promptly started bawling, and told him emphatically, in between sniffles, that I could not live one more day like this. I confessed that I felt like such an unbelievable failure, at everything. My house wasn’t as clean or organized as it could be, should be, and used to be.  I was always short, snappish, and distracted with my children, and I too often felt resentful of their constant interruptions when I was “busy” online. More than anything, I was frustrated with what I perceived to be my lack of “success” as a blogger, and I think, subconsciously, I had convinced myself that if only I had privacy, and quiet, and more time to write, I could really “make it.” I could make connections with important people, promote myself more, and get a blog-to-book contract like all those other bloggers I keep hearing about. I could really live my dream.

Unfortunately, I’d lost sight of my real dream in life – to be at home with my children, the precious babies I prayed and sacrificed for, and suffered to bring into the world. I guess, in a misguided attempt to make my mark and leave some sort of “legacy,” I’d forgotten about my 3 living legacies. Raising them right is the most important and valuable contribution I can make in the world, and I’ve only got one chance. If I screw it up, I won’t get a do over.

When Bee was a baby, a sweet, elderly lady took me aside after church one day and told me how much she enjoyed sitting near us during services, because it warmed her heart to watch me smile at my baby, and speak softly to her, and stroke her peach-fuzz hair. She put her hand on my arm, and said,  “Anyone can see how much you love her.” I was moved to tears by her words, because that’s the kind of mother I always wanted to be. Gentle. Loving. Engaged. Present.

When I look honestly at myself, I can see that I haven’t been that kind of mother in quite a long time. I’m ashamed to admit that instead, I’ve been a mother who shoos her children away because she’s “busy” online, or distractedly says, “Mmmmm….” or “That’s nice,” instead of really listening when they try to tell me something. I’ve become a mother who yells too much, and is too often frustrated or annoyed because my children are interrupting my online life. I can see that little by little, I’ve been withdrawing from my actual life. I’ve been here, but not really HERE.

But no more.

The very next morning, after my mini-breakdown, I banished the computer to the farthest corner of the basement, and took back my real life. I reclaimed this space in my kitchen.

I took a nap.
I met Bee at the door when she got home from school.
I played with my kids.

I was here. I was really here…because the computer wasn’t.

It’s difficult and inconvenient to use the computer now. I can’t easily pop online for “just 5 minutes,” which will then suck up an hour of my day. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that with it gone, I feel like I can breathe again. I have more energy, I’m less distracted, and I feel calmer, and just…. happier. I don’t have a phone with online capabilities, or a laptop, or an iPad, so this computer is my only gateway to the internet, and most of the time it sits, dark and rejected, while in its absence, the rest of my life lights up.

I plan to reduce my blog posts to only 2 a week, and I no longer read message boards or blogs. I basically just check my email, quickly scan Facebook, and then shut down. I know that this might bother some people, and I’m sorry….but I have to do this. I have to be the mother my children deserve. I want them to remember that I smiled, laughed, and played with them, and that I was happy to be at home with them, because I am. I’m not saying that I’ll never blog full-time again, but right now I just can’t. When my children go to school, I’ll have plenty of time to work, but until then, I don’t want them to feel like I pushed them aside so I could achieve “my dreams.”

I want them to know that they are my dream.

When Bee saw that my computer was gone, she said, “But Mom….when I come home from school, you’re usually right there on the computer. Where will I find you now?”

My heart broke a little bit, because I realized that I couldn’t remember the last time my daughter came home and saw my face, and not my backside because I was staring at the damn computer screen. So I looked her in the eye, and I told her….

“Don’t miss this… I’ll be right here.”

For real.