I’m not talking about spots or half empty toothpaste tubes; I’m talking about life. As much as I go on about making the most of now, cherishing today and other such sentimental cliches, I’m very much against squeezing.Treasuring and squeezing are two very different things. When I squeeze an orange I get out a glass of lovely tasty juice but I miss out on the whole orange. I miss the aroma I experience when I peel the skin causing small sprays of juice to squirt off in all directions. I miss chewing the pith, allowing the liquid orange to explode in my mouth filling my senses as I swallow, triggering my taste buds to tingle with flavour.I used to be a juicer. I needed the quick fix, getting the most I could out of something before quickly moving on. My life was too full with a to-do list far too long. I used to think making the most of today, knowing my son may not be here tomorrow, meant squeezing. Squeezing myself, my energy my emotions and myself to the limits. My life was consumed with tasks I thought I had to do for my son for fear that one day I might regret not having taken the opportunity.
However, I realised that all this squeezing meant I no longer looked like me. I had been pulverised by my expectations and fear, driving me to try and do everything today at whatever cost to myself and my family.
It all began to change the day a young man came to stay with us. Not long after he arrived we discovered his older sister was twenty three and similar to our son on the disability spectrum’. Instead of this news giving us hope, my husband and I reeled at the prospect of existing as we were for another twenty years. Our reaction came from the single fear of life continuing to be as hard in twenty years time as it was now. I decided I didn’t want to fear my future, I certainly didn’t want to imagine life without my precious little boy. I wanted to live life in such a way that was not only sustainable but satisfying.
Our lives had to change. I needed more help. I realised I couldn’t be the mum I had created in my head. I realised…I’m not superwoman. I think we all have a super’ something we are trying to be the squeezes and maims us. As Rob Bell so eloquently puts it in his book Velvet Elvis;
You have to kill your super whatever.
And you have to do it right now.
Because your super whatever will rob you of today and tomorrow
and the next day until you take it out back and end its life.
So I took to killing the super-mum, super-wife and super-Christian I was trying to be. Then after a painful period of cutting out parts of my life, relationships and activities, I began living with margins and space. I discovered that abundant living is much more about balance than squeezing. I believe there is a very good reason we are supposed to have a sabbath. Because life is about quality not quantity, and quality requires rest. I needed to pay for extra care (and I don’t underestimate how lucky I am to be able to do so) while repeatedly drowning out the voices in my head telling me I should be able to do it alone, because when I get sleep and space I am a better mum and wife.
If I ever get the opportunity to start up a charity it would focus on giving parents whatever help they need to get a good sleep. Sleep deprivation is crippling and makes the world a grey place. Sleeping at night allows you to see the full spectrum of colours in your life and your kids much more easily each day.
So now I’m learning that valuing today needs to include getting rest amidst the busyness. Creating the space to laugh, cry, reflect and live; not just cope. Each day I try to recognise my limitations (it’s a work in progress) in an attempt to prevent me being squeezed. I’ve decided I don’t want to be juice from concentrate, I want to be a whole orange.