Here are two stories that will become one.
I am a finisher. This will be important for you to remember as you read this article. Being a finisher is a blessing in my life and the lives of those I live with and serve. But it has its drawbacks. I can get caught up in projects and leave people behind.
I needed a mammogram. Ugh, I would like to be done with that forever, but whether I like it or not, I needed one. On the appointed day, I showed up and was pleasantly surprised by the technician. She was awesome! Vicki and I had a fabulous conversation about interesting and important things while we took care of this slightly unpleasant task.
I could tell that in some ways, we were alike. She is also a finisher. Our conversation got around to the topic of being patient with people when they got in the way of the work at hand. This was a problem for her at home and work. Boy, could I relate. Projects or work can supersede the very people we are serving. We laughed about it.
Then the conversation took a serious turn. Vicki was down on herself because she was new to the ‘I need to be more responsive to people’ party. She said, “I’m never going to get this.” I have felt this way myself. I told her, “You will get this and have a change of heart if you keep working on it, if it is a true desire of your heart. I know because I have been doing this work of changing for a long time.”
The next day I was at my neighbor’s home picking mulberries. I had gotten up very early to do the job because I oversaw getting Maggie up, dressed, and into her wheelchair that morning. I had almost finished one section of the lower branches of the huge tree. I had a clear thought come into my mind, “Remember, Jodie is working, and you need to get Maggie up and dressed.” I have a good handle on time, and I had already felt that it was close to the time that Maggie would need me. But I kept picking. I told myself, “It’s just going to take a minute. I’ll be quick.” Sound familiar? Maggie can do nothing for herself, and she was dependent on me, and so was her working mom, but I wanted to finish.
I heard a ping on my phone, but I ignored it and kept picking. Five minutes later I was so pressed by the feeling that I had to go that I checked my phone. Jodie had gotten a message from Maggie saying she was awake. Fortunately, Maggie’s iPad was propped on the bed in front of her just in case she woke up and needed to let someone know. Jodie was texting to tell me Maggie was awake and to give me a few instructions for getting her dressed and out of bed. Maggie had just had surgery so I needed some coaching as it wouldn’t be a routine morning. Another reason that putting Maggie ahead of the mulberry picking was important!
I can’t believe it, but I began picking again. I mean, I was almost done with this section. I wanted to finish. Then I could pick up where I left off later. But again, I was pressed to STOP, and this time I did.
As I walked home, I felt slightly irritated. When I was in Maggie’s bedroom it all changed. She and I have fun conversations and laugh when I am caring for her. We use our system of questions and answers to communicate. I like working with her. She is funny and so cheerful. As I was ‘talking’ with her and getting her dressed I was overcome with a sense of gratitude. I felt grateful that she was my granddaughter and that I could serve and love her, talk with her, and laugh with her. I felt in a real way, the value and importance of what I was doing. It eclipsed any satisfaction I would have felt had I completed that section of the mulberry tree.
Learning to STOP what we are doing in favor of something that is truly more important, usually having to do with our spouse or children, is a process. I worked on this for many years as I parented and I am still working on it as I grandparent. I am certainly better than I was in the beginning, but I have had to learn to give myself space and time to keep practicing. Changing one’s way of being, whatever that may look like for you, takes intention, effort, consistency, and time. I have had to learn to forgive myself when I must be reminded that something else matters more than my current project.
A change of heart, a new way of being, can take years to achieve and then it isn’t usually a done deal. We must be reminded occasionally of what we know and our new way of responding. Perfect rarely happens. Changing our way of being is not the same as ticking something off a list, like making your bed every morning. It is deeper and it matters more.
As you work on STOPPING when your child needs you, it will impact your relationships hugely. It can make all the difference as they move from childhood to adulthood. It can and will cement relationships, and your children will be able to trust you. They will come to you when they are in need because you will have sent a clear message that they matter and that you value them over all the projects you must do in a day.
I would rather not have confessed to this crazy mulberry experience with you. It would be cool if I could tell you that I always put people over projects. But helping you understand what change takes, how important allowing yourself to make mistakes is, accepting your imperfections, and keeping going compels me to be honest, and vulnerable. : )
We all have ways of being in our family and with others that need to be adjusted. We all do! So, take heart, decide how you want to be, and then go for it even if you are still working on it decades later. Reaching the end isn’t what matters. It is your children watching your journey that in the end will make all the difference.