This post is part of my Recycled Series, so it wasn’t so recently that my husband cut the watermelon. However, I have recently reminded myself to embrace the now and to enjoy the process.
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Recently, my husband volunteered to cut a watermelon, a chore I detest because of the mess it makes and due to several close calls with the knife and an errant fingertip or two.
As I watched him push the sharp blade through the juicy, pink flesh, I wondered what was on his mind. His eyes were focused, contemplative, his jaw slightly clenched. Surely he was thinking about something important.
“What are you thinking?” I asked.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Nothing,” he said.
“But you look so deep in thought. You had to be thinking about something,” I insisted.
“I was thinking about cutting the watermelon,” he said simply.
I began to think of the many times I’ve been hovering over that same cutting board wielding a knife, and I was pretty sure I’d never been only focused on the act of preparing food.
Oh, I’ve cut a watermelon and cooed to a baby in a sling. I’ve sliced and diced grapes and a hunk of cheese into miniscule, choke-proof pieces for my toddler while chatting on the phone. I’ve chopped onions while thinking about what culinary exercise I needed to tackle next. I’ve sliced tomatoes while giving my oldest the “don’t even think about it” eye as she wound up to pitch a Lincoln log at her sister.
But I’m 99 percent sure I’ve never done anything as simple as just cutting the stinkin’ watermelon. My hands may be working the knife, but the rest of me is far removed from the task.
My husband is as easy going as they come. He’s rarely flustered. He can tune out anything. Sometimes it drives me crazy. He’ll come home from work, plant kisses on all of his girls’ cheeks, and then shift his attention to his pile of mail. Even as the natives get more than restless (they’re practically on the verge of a full-blown revolt), he’s able to calmly sift through the stack of letters. I’ll look over at him meticulously opening the envelopes, and I’m thinking, “Hellooooo? Can the mail wait? Or can you please look through it and work on helping me restore peace in this war zone?”
All the while, I’m giving myself an internal pat on the back because I know I have the power to thumb through mail and entertain the kids, no problem. Because, like a lot of moms, I’m a multitasking maven.
Part of moms’ ability to juggle several balls at once is a matter of survival. If we don’t want our families to starve, there are times when we’re forced to whip together dinner while simultaneously holding a baby or chatting with a teen about his day. In the carpool line, we learn to schedule a well-child visit with the pediatrician on our cell and file our nails. We streamline bedtime routines by brushing the teeth of a child while wiping down the bathroom counter. We’re adept at squeezing in prayers as we fold laundry or nurse a child.
But sometimes I wonder if our perpetual multitasking causes us to miss out on the peace that can be found in being physically and mentally present on a single task. Personally, I often feel like I’m living in a scattered state, hacking competing tasks into pieces and taking nothing as a whole, which can lead to burnout. Perhaps my husband’s calm disposition has less to do with some superhuman immunity to stress and more to do with how he’s able to let a minute or a task absorb him instead of being distracted by the fifty other things he should be doing or needs to do next or must do at the same time if he’s to accomplish anything at all.
I am productive, but there are days when I may tackle my to-do list with evangelical fervor without really being fully present to anything or anyone – including God. Yet, does God really want me to be constantly racing at a frantic clip? Sometimes He calls me to pause long enough to surrender my heart, mind, and body (put that laundry down; you can fold it later!) completely to Him.
So I’ve decided to make a little pact with my manic multitasking self and try to be more like my minimalist husband. How? By pausing for mini retreats throughout my day to just bask in God’s presence. By not always playing with my kids by the clock. By watching my baby’s round, moving cheeks as she nurses. By occasionally folding laundry slow enough to notice its fresh scent. By focusing on the preparation of a meal and when it’s time to eat, allowing the flavors to mingle in my mouth. By working to define my hours more by what I left undone in order to be fully present and less by the number of items I successfully checked off my to-do list.
By sometimes doing nothing more and nothing less than cutting a watermelon.
I confess that I originally wrote this feature while drinking a cup of coffee and listening to music.
If we take multitasking to the next level and attempt to juggle two jobs, one of which is completely all-consuming (I’m referring to being a parent), just imagine how we’d feel?
A dear aunt once told me she’s always struggled with finding her self-worth in doing instead of simple being.
Is it any wonder moms sometimes complain about bone-aching fatigue, constant chaos and high stress levels?
Personally, I recognize that I get the most impatient with my preschooler when I’m trying to do something else while still “parenting” her. Just the other day I was trying to shoot off a quick email to an editor for a freelance assignment while nursing the baby and simultaneously admiring Madeline’s doodles on a MagnaDoodle. “Oh, that’s a nice picture,” I mumbled, barely even looking at her artwork.
Suck, suck, from the baby.
“I did look,” I said. Now why was I emailing this editor again?
Not surprisingly, I felt my stress levels rising and so did Madeline. She started randomly pressing keys on the my laptop, vying for my attention when I abruptly pushed her aside and shouted, “Stop that!”
Madeline looked at me with her big brown eyes glassy with tears and I realized I just couldn’t do it all and that the editor could wait. I’m not Super Woman. I only have finite amount of energy. I can’t change the laws of physics and create more hours in my day. And my priority right now is my children – not the dirty dishes, not freelance work, not my blogs. If I have extra time, fine. Then write (or clean) away. But when it’s playtime, let it be playtime. Don’t try to make Madeline’s little plastic animals talk while emailing, meal planning and making a grocery list or sorting laundry.
So let’s all embrace my preschooler’s wisdom and make a deal. At least for today why don’t we all hang up our Super Woman capes and just concentrate on being super moms? Let’s play with our kids. Stare at our babies’ round, moving cheeks as they nurse. Watch our toddlers sleep. Twine a wisp of our little girl’s hair around our fingers. Coat our kids with kisses. Smother them with hugs. And when you cut the watermelon, give yourself permission to do just that and nothing more.
And know that we’re all doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing at that moment.
My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. In some ways, ten years seems like a long time – like forever ago. (We’re official card-carrying members of the Old, Married Fart Club right about now.) But in others, it seems like just yesterday that he was courting me, his tall frame making me feel small and safe.
Not long ago we were walking together when we rounded a corner and turned onto a sidewalk that ran parallel to a busy street. A flurry of words were coming out of my mouth, and I wasn’t really paying much attention to my surroundings. I was walking on the outside, closer to the passing traffic. Without saying a word my husband gently placed his hand on the small of my back and eased me to his inside so he was the one nearest to the street.
I kept talking. He kept listening. But my heart hitched, and his act did not go unnoticed. This is something my husband has always done. He never lets me be the one closest to the street.
There have been plenty of times when I didn’t pay much attention to how he subtly shifted to the other side of me. Sometimes I did, but I would mentally roll my eyes, failing to see the simple gesture for what it was: A sign of his love, a sign that he wants to protect me and keep me safe, a sign that he would give his life for me if he had to, a sign that I am his beloved.
My husband has a strong protector instinct. Our basement is stocked with military MREs (meals-ready-to-eat). He has packed solar blankets into each of our cars. He saves and plans for a rainy or scary day. I used to tease him for being so prepared and cautious. I tend to be someone who frets over the small stuff but I’m rather nonchalant when it comes to big things – like apocalyptic disasters or getting run over by a passing car. But I don’t tease him any longer. I love that he wants to keep his family safe, keep me safe. I love the big and small acts he does that show how he’s watching out for me.
There’s a difference between chivalry and chauvinism. My husband wants to protect me not because he sees me as weak or incapable of taking care of myself but because he cherishes me.
Ten years ago we danced our first dance to Ben Harper’s “Beloved.”
It seemed like an awkwardly long song for my poor husband to dance to with his new bride because if there’s anything he doesn’t like, it’s being the center of attention. But the song’s lyrics were true then as we began this journey into marriage. As we danced, I felt like his beloved one.
I still do.
Your eyes shine through me.
You are so divine to me.
Your heart has a home in mine.
We won’t have to say a word.
With a touch all shall be heard.
That’s it. With one simple touch, his shielding body taking the place of my own on a casual walk to dinner, I know how much this man loves and honors me.
*And if and when he reads this, my wonderful, private man will turn slightly pink, and then he will start gagging and doing enough eye-rolling for the both of us, but he will humor me and laugh with me and love me, and I’ll feel beloved all over again.
Today my parents celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. I really wanted to put together a beautiful, brilliant tribute to them, but there’s not as much time for writing these days. I’ve been nesting. I’ve been enjoying being a hands-on mom again. We’ve eased into our second official year of homeschooling. The girls have been happy to have mom on her feet again. We’ve baked banana muffins. We’ve gone on short walks (it’s still really hot around here). We even had a water balloon fight the other day. Life’s been good. Busy but very, very good.
Still, I couldn’t let this momentous day slip by without doing something. So in honor of this marital milestone, I’ve tweaked a post (quite a bit, really, so it’s not just a complete re-post) I shared two years ago when they had *only* been married 38 years.
Before I get to that, however, I just want to give a shout out to my amazing parents:
Mom and Dad, how lucky I am to have you as parents. Your marriage and the fact that you always made it a priority has been such a gift to me and to my relationship with Dave. Over the years, you’ve shown me that choosing to love is more powerful, more beautiful, more fulfilling, and more sanctifying than simply being filled with warm and fuzzy feelings. You’ve also never stopped reminding me to keep a sense of humor. I love how we can all laugh together even when we’re faced with sorrow, sickness, or stress. Above all, you’ve taught me to remember that marriage isn’t about winning or losing; it’s about loving God and each other even when it would be easier not to. Congratulations on this milestone! Here’s to many, many, many more years together!
The tweaked post:
Thirty-eight Forty years ago today with God as their witness my parents made a promise to love each other for better or worse, in rich and in poor, and in sickness and in health. Mom was 18, and Dad was 19. Just two kids in love, but that didn’t stop them from taking their vows seriously.
On their wedding day they had no idea that worse might mean struggling during some very lean years, being forced to dole out tough love to a child grappling with a drug addiction, or many, many losing seasons for the Cubs. Nor did they know that better might translate to welcoming healthy grandbabies into their lives, seeing the world together through work trips, or saving for and then being able to buy a dream house on the lake. They had no idea that sometimes they’d be rich with hope and love but that there would be other times when they would have to work at this marriage gig and would occasionally feel poor, at least in spirit, despite the many riches in their life. They could never predict the sickness that might befall their relationship – from watching loved ones succumb to cancer or other illnesses to dealing with brain aneurysms, trigeminal neuralgia, autoimmune problems, and rejection letters from long-term health insurance.
When they were first married, Mom dropped out of college to support my dad, the art student who infamously slept through all of his art history classes yet somehow still scored top marks. She was the hidden force that propelled him up the corporate ladder. He traveled all of the time while she remained back at the home front, caring for little kids while grappling with a mysterious neuromuscular condition. I don’t remember her ever complaining much, although I do remember her watching a lot of Cubs’ games.
In more recent years, I’ve watched my dad take care of his bride – not only financially but emotionally and physically, too. When she had major back surgery a few years ago, he held her like a newlywed, her arms wrapped around his neck. Only he wasn’t carrying her over the threshold. He was lifting her out of the bed when she was too weak to do it herself.
I remember my dad cracking jokes when her incisions were still fresh, and she begged him to stop.
“Stop making me laugh! It hurts,” she said through her uncontrollable giggles. My mom is my dad’s best audience and always laughs at his jokes.
Throughout the years, I’ve witnessed my parents’ affection for one another. I’ve also seen them fight and then later reconcile and forgive. I’ve watched them laugh and kiss and tease one another. I’ve seen them support each other during rough patches. I’ve heard them pray together. I’ve witnessed them make their marriage a priority.
Because of Mom and Dad’s commitment to one another and to marriage, I learned early on that how you feel when you’re in love isn’t as important to a enduring marriage. Your feelings are about you when marriage is ultimately about making someone else happy. It’s what you do – not just how you feel at any given moment – that matters to the person you’re in love with.
And what my parents have done is simple yet extremely difficult somedays and even some years: They have renewed their vows over and over. They have made a daily “I do” to one another.
They have affirmed over and over, I do love you despite all of your imperfections. I do want to serve you even when I’m tired, worried, annoyed with your quirks and bad habits, or stressed out. I do care about you and honor you, and I’m going to try to prove it to you with my actions even when I don’t feel like it every day for the rest of my life. I do love you, and I always will no matter what.
I do over and over, forever and forever.
Happy 40th Anniversary, Mom & Dad (Gaba & Papa)!!!