‘I’m running on empty’ was once how I described my life. Mid-week through my Ignatius prayers, I no longer believe this was true. Instead, I was running on the gas of success.
Back when the boys were still toddlers, I broke my life like a wishbone between graudate school and my fast-paced career. In theory, my family received leftovers; but in reality where it counts, my work ambitions as a senior tax executive absorbed the best of the rest. I craved success like a crack addict craves their next high. And because my work additction was knotted up with my shaky self-esteem, I couldn’t seem to break free of it.
My first step toward ‘sobriety’ came when my husband’s career intervened with the first of many overseas trips. Before leaving town, my husband left me a detailed written schedule of the children’s weekly activities – the soccer practices and games, the Cub Scout activities, etc. I needed this cheat sheet because I had effectively delegated the family to my husband, in the same way I had delegated work to my staff and outside consultants.
A few days into my new life and role, I began keeping a journal. Re-reading the entries today made my eyes water as I relived again those days of young family. The pages witness to the normal everyday life that the kids and I enjoyed: we spent evenings at home doing puzzles, watching movies, going through home readers and subtraction cards; we ate dinners together, usually fast-food we picked up on the way home from daycare. We had fallen into a rhythm of family, with both boys falling asleep in my bed and me falling in love with the idea of more time at home.
Within two months, I had relinquished my title along with the ambitions and stress in favor of a part-time staff position that allowed me to pick up the kids after school and cook dinner. My friend Dianne was midwife to my new life – by listening and planting seeds of advice, she offered hope that a more balanced life was possible. And my husband was there to support me every step of the way — I now laugh that we made this major life choice from an airport pay phone, during my layover between an east coast-west coast business trip.
I recognized the importance of this life event while it was happening. But, until now, I had not recalled that it was also the point when I began writing my life. I had spent years chasing after life – pursuing the trappings and the glitter – the big home, the corner office the large salary and never-ending ambition for more. But in those two weeks while my husband was overseas, I learned life is not somewhere over the rainbow, where you chase your dreams until your running on empty down the yellow brick road. But rather that life dwells in the everyday. And it was there where I found subjects worth writing about. And still do. Because if you blink instead of write, you’ll lose them forever.