While You Were Sleeping…

 

Do you ever feel like one of those old rubber bands in your junk drawer? Over-stretched, bent out of shape, old and brittle, and just one good tug shy of breaking?

Yeah, me too. There are days when I feel like whatever it is I’m using to hold things together is at the end of its days. What was once packed into a neat, comfortable little bundle is now bursting at the seams. Schedules and events are bumping into each other. Lunches and conference calls are vying for time. And now someone has the gall to try and shove more stuff into my pack. My well-shaped rubber band is about to blow, all its flexibility suddenly spent, and it all seemed to happen overnight while I was sleeping.

There’s a name for this phenomenon, this season of the year. We call it “back to school.”

After months of settling into a nice, easy-going Summer schedule of baseball games and visits to the pool, now we get to climb out of bed earlier, drop the kids off at school, pay the bills, rush to work, and try not to spill our coffee on our shirt in the process. The kids are screaming about eating Corn Flakes instead of Fruit Loops, our boss is somehow confused about why it’s suddenly so difficult for us to get to work on time (even though I’m pretty sure he had young children once, right?), and our spouse is begging for one-on-one time – “Just us, honey…no kids, no school, no work…doesn’t that sound nice?”

Sure it sounds nice. Seemingly impossible – even mythical – and something we’re pretty sure only really existed in rumor and altered memories…but nice all the same.

So what happened? How did our lives suddenly become so difficult? Is it the rubber band that’s to blame, or the stuff we keep trying to cram inside it?

As I write this, a metaphor comes to mind:

“No one puts new wine into old wineskins, or else the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed.  But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.” Luke 5:37-38

Often times in life, when we encounter a season of change, we instinctually cling to a pattern or “way of life” that’s been working for us. When we feel stressed or stretched thin, we quickly blame the number of things in our lives and rarely look at the way we approach our lives at all. The answer seems so simple. “We’re just trying to do too much. We have to drop something. Something has to go.”

The reality is that sometimes we find ourselves in a situation where nothing can go and everything is important. There are times in life when the problem is not the stuff in our bundles but rather the way our bundles are packed and the obsolete method we’re using to hold it all together. What worked when our children were six and eight years old doesn’t necessarily work when they’re fifteen and seventeen. What seemed to keep things moving when one spouse worked and the other was in school doesn’t necessarily do the job when both have careers.

Sometimes we just have to change the rubber band.

This month, as the kids adjust to their new schedules and locker assignments, instead of asking yourself “What can go?,” take a moment to sit down with your spouse and ask yourselves “What can change?” What assumptions need to be questioned? Are you trying to pour new wine into old, bent out of shape wineskins?

Maybe the answer is as simple as a schedule change – or just a schedule period. Maybe it’s about role swapping or task assignments. Does she always have to be the one to put the children to bed? Is taking out the trash really something only he can do?

Or maybe it’s more complicated than that. Is your life philosophy really working for you? Is it working for your spouse? Are you and your spouse even on the same page? What would it look like if you both started pulling in the same direction?

This is not an easy discussion, I know. Changing how we approach life is always more difficult in the beginning – like the first week you gave up caffeine – but maybe it will help if we think of it a bit differently.

Tonight, when you lay your head down on your pillow and fall restlessly to sleep…what if a miracle happened? What if, by some act of God, all those schedules and tasks and challenges and obstacles…what if they all fell into place? What if everything worked together all as it should, in the same home, in the same day, in the same week? It happened overnight while you slept, and you couldn’t explain how it happened or who was responsible, but it definitely happened.

Now ask yourself these questions:

What is the first thing – the very first, small little thing – you notice that shows you that life is different? What is the first clue telling you that things are better?

What clue does your spouse notice? Are they the same? Are they different? Are either of you surprised by your answers?

When you have the answers to those questions, answering the question “What can change?” comes a bit easier.

–          Kevin Reynolds, MS, PLPC

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