During my faith sharing group this week, we had a discussion about values and choosing what we value and pruning away the things we don’t (or shouldn’t). Pruning by its definition is the cutting away of dead or overgrown things to increase fruitfulness and growth. It naturally led to us talking about ways to simplify, of knowing when to walk away from something that was no longer productive or joyful.
This discussion is helping me examine a few areas of my life and consider some people or activities from which I need to distance myself. It’s often perceived as a bad thing when you walk away from an activity or person. But it’s not always, sometimes it can be the healthiest thing for you – even when the regrowth takes a while. All of this reminds me of a discussion (many discussions) I had with my husband 14 years ago.
K was one year old and I was enjoying being her mother more than I knew would be possible. At the same time, my job that had once been completely fulfilling – the sort of job where I thrived, was the first one there at 6am & worked many Saturdays – wasn’t quite so fulfilling anymore. We began to talk about me staying home. It was a scary decision. I still very much valued my career and wasn’t sure how I felt about giving it up. There was also the very real question of how to give up that second income when we knew we wanted to have more children.
As we know now, I walked away from that career. I started working for myself less than 24 hours after leaving that job and I’ve never looked back. I found the perfect balance between work and family. I know how incredibly lucky I am. Lucky that we were able to afford those first few rocky years of my roller coaster income. Lucky that I had the connections and discipline and ability to make my own business a success. Lucky that I got to choose.
It didn’t come without pruning though. That decision 14 years ago still affects us today. We’ve never taken our kids to Disney World. We don’t take beach vacations over Spring Break. We don’t go shopping unless we need something and then we don’t go shopping at the trendy, expensive stores. We don’t go out to eat very often. I’ve been driving the same car for 9 years and will do so for as long as I can. We still use hand-me-down furniture in some rooms of our house.
That decision also means that I’m home when each of my kids walk through the door at the end of the day. I get to look them in the eye and see how their day went even when they aren’t in the mood to do more than grunt about it. And those days when they are in the mood to talk? That rocking chair by my desk (the same one in which I rocked them as babies) is the perfect place for them to sit and chat.
I get to volunteer in the school whenever I want. I get to chop vegetables for soup while I’m on a conference call (the mute button on my phone is a wonderful invention). I get to have fresh-baked cookies waiting for my kids at the end of their day just because I feel like it.
Sometimes I have to work at odd hours of the day or night or early, early morning. But I also get to take off at 2pm on a sunny day and go play at the beach with my kids or go sledding in the snow. I can front load my work week so that on a beautiful, warm Friday I can run the dune trails and sit on the shores of Lake Michigan for my “lunch hour.” I walk my kids to school and carry on great conversations with the other kids from the neighborhood before I head back for a conference call where I carry on great conversations about projects. I get to train for distance races and then sit down in my exercise clothes to do some work before I take a shower.
I had no idea the fruitful growth that would come from that pruning back in 2000 but I’m so very thankful to reap the benefits today. As I stand at a point of another pruning (though not as drastic) I feel strong enough to weather the regrowth and excited at the potential of its harvest.