Parenting Seminars

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sticking With Our Mission

I've been thinking a lot about what we are wanting for our family.  Especially this week.  You see, there are times when sticking to our mission can be really easy.  Life seems to be supporting us in every way, or at least not throwing a wrench into things.  But this week, my husband lost his job.  I stay at home with the kids.  So suddenly, we are without an income.

And yet, we both feel fairly, relatively calm.  This is a long time coming actually.  We've been through other work and financial transitions that weren't always under our control and we've responded with panic, fear, anxiety and stress.  But this time, we both seem to be calmer.  Still stressed, but the productive kind of stressed.  We see it as an opportunity.  One that we've been looking for since the work he was doing was such a wrong fit.  But there are times when we make decisions just based on the financial needs of the family instead of looking at the other costs.  I think this past year has taught us that the cost to one's soul and the cost to the family when that person is less than him or herself is important to consider.
Forsythia starting to bloom

Now, you might think that living sustainably, more self-reliantly would fit perfectly in this situation.  It does, but there is always a discussion about where to invest today.  Some bigger investments in our lifestyle change will have to wait.  Greener energy systems or building changes will have to wait.  But yesterday we spent quite a bit of money on trimming our apple tree.  We've waited a couple years for this.  Every estimate is over $600.  Its an old, huge, beautiful tree that was hacked early on so it was going to require some extra attention.

And then there was this moment as I was watching our low estimate team chop the top off this tree and my heart sank.  We chose a financially cheaper plan.  The tree was getting into the wires, we were not able to do it ourselves and we weren't getting many apples.  We needed to do something.  And this tree is the center of our backyard.  It shades half our house in the summer mornings, holds the swings and slide and shades half the yard in the afternoon and evening.  It allows us to have lots of friends over in the summer months that we can't host in our tiny house.  We have every meal outside in the summer under this tree.  We LOVE this tree.

I don't know if we made the right choice for its optimal health and production.  I feel like we are on a very long learning curve sometimes.  But there are other things that are getting clearer.
tulips coming up

When I was thinking about our garden and that this year, I wanted to move from a few vegetables tucked in with our perennial plants, to a full garden for putting up, I was thinking about all the people I'm going to need to help with the process.  I'll need tools from one neighbor, a truck from another neighbor.  I may need some playdates or childcare help while we do the planting or harvesting.  I'm going to need help harvesting, preserving and creating a storage space for the winter.

I was thinking about the words in our mission statement:  Consumption and Consciousness.  And then it hit me.  A life of consumption means filling voids with purchases and stuff.  Having a sense of lack, like we are never enough or have enough.  Like there are so many things out of our control and we are dependent on others to make our lives happy and successful whether they be doctors, employers or school systems.  It is a life of so much independence that we often feel alone.

But a life of Consciousness is feeling like we have enough.  Even though the amount of stuff we have is less.  The amount of money we spend might be less.  But we are enough, we have enough.  That we are being proactive and intentional about our situations and lifestyle.  Not reactive to the stresses and situations around us.  We are self-reliant in that we are part of our own solutions.  We can make many of the things we use everyday.  BUT...we are deeply entrenched in a community.  There is no lonliness.  And people want to help because they want to feel needed as well.  We can share our eggs, our veggies, our physical labor.  And we can depend on others to share their resources.

So this week in the midst of financial and work insecurity, we have this great calm and confidence.  The universe will open up for us.  We have lots of choices we can still make.  We have a garden that is unfolding in our minds and soon will unfold on our lawn.  We have contacts and connections in this community we've invested in that are showing up with work opportunities.  We have buds popping on our plants and flowers poking through the soil.  Yes, this is a year of transformation, of rediscovery of ourselves and of learning that sometimes, those tough situations showing up are exactly what we asked for.  Opportunities to move, change and grow. to that huge pile of wood chips left from the apple tree.  Work needs to be done.


Anonymous said...

I agree that opportunity will present itself to you and your family! In August 2009 I lost my job and was unemployed for 6 months. Looking back it was a great time of personal reflection and change for me. I hope it will be the same for you (sans the 6 months maybe!) It definitely forces you to think about what is really important in terms of what you have and what you really "need." I will send good thoughts of prosperous and fulfilling jobs Rodney's way. Hang in there!

Chessa said...

Gretchen - so sorry to hear about the financial stress. But I hear you on the mixed blessing aspect of it. It's taken out of your hands - you don't have to agonize over whether you are doing the right thing (by Rodney leaving OR staying in the job). It's just over - now on to bigger and better things!

Have you read the book Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes? It's excellent. The library has it (which is how I read it - if I had my own, I'd surely lend it to you!). Anyway, very inspirational in terms of making a "living" living sustainably, being more "productive" than "consumptive" and just general awesomeness (homeschooling also features prominently in many of the families spotlighted, but definitely not all) ;)

Anyway - we are trying to sort of "sink down" into our lives here in Seattle - up until now we've sort of been living like we were only here temporarily, but recently we've decided to really put down roots. Which means garden! Chickens! Home food production! So if you have any ideas about how you and I can help each other to do that, let me know. We could do gardening playdates or something - my kids LOVE to get dirty. And with two adults we might actually get something productive happening. :)

eringoodman said...

oh gretchen, i'm sorry.

we went through unemployment a few years ago with a toddler and a baby and me as a full-time at-home parent.

it was stressful for sure but it led to really wonderful growth and change in our marriage and my husband's work.

thinking of you and sending lots of good thoughts your way...