One of my favorite posts on this blog, My life has simultaneously narrowed and widened, written 18 months ago, still runs frequently through my mind. I wrote then of how I had radically cut away my external commitments in order to focus on a few things, most of all our family. I ended with a exhortation to look closely at how you spend your time, because I believe it is the truest reflection of what you genuinely value.
I have been thinking about this lately, because since writing that piece my life has continued to narrow. It has also kept surprising me with its expansion. Last year I took Grace and Whit to an iMax movie about cavers at the Science Museum. That’s what my life feels like sometimes: as I funnel through a small hole into a darkness that I can’t see my entire world shrinks to the circumference of my body. And then, suddenly, after passing through the fear of the unknown, an enormous, echoing cavern opens up, visible only to me, lit by the headlamp I’m wearing.
From the outside, my life might look small. I often feel like I have to defend it to others. We have a strict one-night-out-per-weekend rule. I don’t do a lot during week in the evening. I say no to an awful lot of stuff, mostly for myself but also for the children. I feel guilty about these decisions all the time, by the way. I feel constantly that I am disappointing friends and family. Our weekends are consumed with sports games and around the edges we go for family walks, play board games, read books, sit around the dining room table and laugh and talk. I’m not willing to give these things up.
And yet our lives feel wide and expansive at the same time. We walk out to Crane’s Beach on a narrow wooden boardwalk, rickety above the sea grass, and then, at once, the ocean yawns open in front of us: that is life. The vista grows small and then startles me with its sudden breadth.
I’m doing so much less on almost all dimensions of my life. I have far less help. I have almost no non-profit and school-related commitments. I suspect I’m often simply not invited to things because I’ve said no so often. And I am doing so much more in a couple of arenas: I’m working a whole lot more, and I’m spending a lot of time with Grace and Whit. There is no extra time. There is only this.
And while I do feel a persistent sense of letting people down, and a need to defend our choices, I also know that I am happy with the values that my choices reflect. I am spellbound by the sparkling universe I have glimpsed, by the glitter-lined geode I can now see. I can’t look away.