Saturday, November 4, 2017

Discerning the Need for a Rule of Life

I wrote my first Rule of Life about a year ago, but my journey towards a Rule really began long before that.* 

In preparation for this blog series, I’ve been going back over my journal entries from 2016. And I’m finding that my path toward writing a Rule was even more rocky and twisty than I remember it being—and I remember it being a pretty rocky and twisty path!

Like many big changes, this one was prompted by what initially seem like negative things. Things like: 

  • dissatisfaction
  • a lack of peace
  • an inability to get everything done

But, as I started paying attention to what I was doing each day and how I was doing it and—maybe most importantly—why I was doing it, it became clear that what was really driving me was my desire for good things. Things like:

  • time with the Lord everyday (both quality and quantity)
  • time with my husband and kids everyday (both quality and quantity)
  • a desire to write good things (i.e., fulfill my vocation)
  • a desire for a peaceful home
  • a desire for health (mental and physical)

I don’t think the “dissatisfaction” would have felt so much like starter’s pistol if I’d felt it several years earlier. In fact, I know I felt it several years earlier, and it didn’t have the same jump-starting result back then.

But several years ago, I was in the middle of a “survival” season. I had lots and lots and lots and lots and lots (okay, maybe not that many—but still LOTS) of little kids, and I was their full-time caregiver. Yeah, there were things in my life that made me dissatisfied, but I knew I didn’t have room to arrange them in any super-ideal fashion. 

(Not that that stopped me from trying.)

And then we went through some family health crisesone of them minethat took up almost all our extra time and energy and attention. I just did not have the wherewhithal to make any big changes.

But then the kids got older

The kids eventually all grew up to be school-aged children. Their needs changed. Other things changed. Various energy-sucking situations changed and resolved. And now, I did have room to make some changes. I did have the time. I did have the physical energy. 

There were ongoing things to be dealt with, sure. But the crises were over, at least for a bit. 

It was time to figure out how to handle this glorious, energy-rich, potential-full time of life called middle-age.**

This was a new time of life. And I wasn’t living it well.

And I really, really wanted to.

So I started experimenting.

Next week’s blog post will be about those first few experiments, and about the way they prompted me to start keeping track of my days. (Because eventually I learned that, if I wanted to change my life, I first had to have an accurate idea of what my life was. That is, I needed data. That is, I needed to observe and record.)

But before I finish off this blog post, I need to be honest, and share the one realization that really, really started me on this journey. It's particular to me, and if you take a similar journey, your final straw will probably be a different one.

But here's mine. I found myself writing these few paragraphs (edited for clarity), right after I reread my journal entries from the time when the children were all still babies and toddlers:

…I'm realizing that back then, I just longed for an hour or two to write, and it was absolutely life-giving it was when I was given those hours. 
Now, it feels like I long for just an hour or two to write, but other, lesser things stop me.
I think this means I’ve made a mistake, somewhere.

It was that last bit that finally started me on my journey: the realization that I could now—if I really wanted to—do the things I’d been telling myself for years that I wanted to do.

There are lots of times in life where you can't do what you want. I know that. I've lived that. I'm sure I'll live it again.

But, writing out those journal paragraphs above made me realize: I'm actually facing a real choice here. Those things I wanted to do? I could really do them now.

And I wasn’t.

That meant I’d gone wrong somewhere. 

And I was determined to change direction. I was determined to make it right.

Peace of Christ to you,
Jessica Snell

*To be completely honest, I can find journal entries about a “Rule of Life” at least as far back as 2010. And I know I’d been introduced to the concept well before that—probably at least as early as 2006 or so, which was about when I first read Holly Pierlot’s book A Mother’s Rule of Life

But this blog series is about the Rule that stuck.

**No, really. I’m convinced we don’t value the potential of middle age nearly enough in our culture. It’s all made clear in the middle stanza of this Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, if you want to see what I’m getting at.  

(Bonus! That poem also contains one of the answers to the always-fun “Where-Did-C.-S.-Lewis-Steal-THAT-Narnia-Line-Or-Concept-From?” game.)

This post contains Amazon affiliate links; if you purchase a book from this link, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price. I will probably use it to buy more books. (See full disclosure on sidebar of my blog.)


Amy said...

It's been a very long time since I've commented here - life gets in the way at times. I am very interested in this series. For the first time in my life I am consistently living a Rule. Reagan (23 y.o. w/Down syndrome) have become Franciscan tertiaries. The effects have been profound. I can't wait to hear more about your journey!

Jessica Snell said...

Amy! It's so nice to see you stop by the blog again! :) How cool to hear how you and your daughter are doing. Let me know if you ever write a post about your Rule, yeah?