“I myself am full of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.” – Augusten Burroughs
When someone finds a way to say what you’ve been feeling, in a way you never thought to say it, but wish you had, it is the most bittersweet validation. Hearing your shortcomings echoed back through someone else’s voice and experience is like a doctor telling you that weird sperm-shaped mole is totally normal. Of course the bitter is the bite of not coming up with the words yourself.
If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been ingesting a healthy amount of non-fiction gospel lately, crafted by the minds of, among others, Shonda Rhimes and Glennon Doyle Melton. More often than not, you read these amazing works and then they leave your mind just as swiftly as they swept in and shook everything up. They get pushed out by PTO meeting notes and potluck dish assignments and lyrics from the Storybots song. But I’m finding the messages that were truly meant for me always seep back in.
Driving home from the gym this morning, I watched the sun beginning to rise and started ticking through my lists: The things I didn’t get done yesterday. The things I needed to do today. The things I would most certainly put off until next week. The shortcuts I could take. And I was reminded of sweet Shonda. In her commencement speech at Dartmouth College, she spoke about motherhood and working.
“Shonda, how do you do it all?” they would ask. And she would respond, “I don’t.” The truth according to the TGIT maven, and every mother, I think, everywhere, is that if we are succeeding in one area of our lives, we are likely failing miserably in another. She said it. She spoke my truth with words that I will likely borrow a million times from today until forever.
I am most certainly experiencing success in several areas of my life at the moment. And just as certainly, I am experiencing some failure … or rather, I am failing. I will not only own that last statement, I’ll pay for it outright in cash. If I were to take the personal and professional buckets of tasks, both mandatory and aspirational, that fill my days, and put a penny in the ones where I felt like I had killed it, I might have enough to buy a pouch of Big League Chew by the end of the month (Do they still make that?).
Did I handle that presentation well? Yes. Drop a penny into the professional bucket. Did I spend enough time with the chicks? Never. No. Skip that bucket. Did I get dinner on the table? Yes. Penny. Did I get my 5-mile training run in? Um … skip.
Then, as if someone were pouring cake batter over Swiss cheese, the voice of Glennon Doyle Melton oozed into my brain and filled in the holes. (I should mention here that I’m currently listening to her audiobook, Carry On, Warrior. I don’t just randomly hear Glennon’s voice.)
“There are two different types of time. Chronos time is what we live in. It’s regular time, it’s one minute at a time, it’s staring down the clock till bedtime time, it’s ten excruciating minutes in the Target line time, it’s four screaming minutes in time out time, it’s two hours till daddy gets home time. Chronos is the hard, slow passing time we parents often live in.
Then there’s Kairos time. Kairos is God’s time. It’s time outside of time. It’s metaphysical time. Kairos is those magical moments in which time stands still. I have a few of those moments each day, and I cherish them.”
And I was struck, right then and there, with more beautifully bittersweet words! The lights came on and I said, “amen!” out loud so the whole empty car could hear me. I am a creature who crowds herself with hours of toxic chronos time but so, so desperately wants that divine, illusive kairos time. You might be, too. Let’s work through some examples.
Laundry is chronos time.
Staring at your baby sleeping is kairos time.
Wiping baseboards is chronos.
Cuddling is kairos.
Monday morning staff meetings are chronos.
After school stories are kairos.
Making a grocery list is chronos.
A glass of wine with your husband is kairos.
The morning routine is chronos.
Hiking through mountains at sunrise is kairos.
My initial assessment has revealed that these two classifications of time, defined by the Greeks however many years ago, so accurately describe the divide between pleasure and pain that they were obviously intended for me to discover on this dark September morning. The worst part is, in many ways, it’s self-inflicted. I offer. I raise my hand. I sign up. I put my name on the line next to, “volunteer”.
Where does that come from? Am I a pleaser? Do I fear I’ll get bored? I mean … I should know I am NOT going to get bored.
I can not do it all. Shonda is right. I can not succeed in all of the areas that matter to me all at the same time. But now I know who to blame.
I blame the chronos.
Kairos means, “the right opportune moment”. And maybe that’s the problem. When, dear sisters (and brothers) in your day does it ever cross your mind that this, yes this, is the right opportune moment to stop everything and look at your sweet little girl’s endearing chocolate-covered cheeks? Or notice that dimple in your husband’s chin? Or admire a tree with particularly interesting branches? I know … right between picking up your middle child from daycare and burning dinner. If that time is too tight, you could always squeeze in some kairos while picking clothes up off the floor or replying to that 20-response-long email thread or prepping food for tomorrow’s friendship day snack.
In my world, and I’m guessing in yours, there doesn’t appear to be any kairos (opportune) time. But, as Glennon would say, that’s why you have to make it. No one is going to make it for you. No one is going to grab your feet and put the roses under your nose. The world is always going to go as fast as you let it. You might not set the pace, but you choose to keep up or just let it pass right by.
They’ve said it so well. In so many ways. In so many words. These beautiful women who sat down at their keyboards and were courageous enough to spell out the struggles of trying to do it all and trying to savor it all. They lent their voices to so many who want to scream but don’t know what it sounds like.
I can’t do it all. I can’t succeed at home and kill it at work. Or dominate in the office and still be the mother I want to be. Most days. But it’s the trying that they see … those little girls of mine. It’s the trying and the reaching and the ambition that they notice. All I can do is try to settle into a good pace, sprinkle in a bit more kairos, put pennies in the buckets and pray they’re lucky.