My children will tell you that I am one of the most inflexible people they know - they would actually say that I don't roll with the punches very well. I am rarely spontaneous (although when I am spontaneous - I love it). I don't handle change well, especially changes to my calendar. Imagine my surprise to discover that I am dealing with issues of flexibility in my life on all fronts right now.
For starters, the joints in the ring finger of my right hand seem to be sticking. When I go to bend the finger, it appears that the bones have to pop out of joint to complete the arc. When it happens in my sleep at night, it wakes me up. I always thought I had to have an uninterrupted night of sleep to be at my best the next day.
I started working outside of my house a few weeks ago. No, I'm not talking about yard work, although that really needs to get done too. I'm talking about getting up, getting dressed (not in sweats), putting on make-up and going somewhere else to work for several hours every day. I've not done this consistently in many years. I had a home based business, liked that I could run laundry while I was returning phone calls, and cooked every meal we ate. Now, I'm surrounded by dirty clothes, layers of dust, and I cannot figure out what to cook for supper. I always thought I was good at managing to get lots done.
My fourteen year old son is in marching band, and on the drum line at NPHS. I'm thrilled for him. He seems to be having the time of his life. When I received the schedule and made all the entries into my calendar, I cried. Having not done this before, when an item was marked TBD, I did not write them down. My error! Suddenly there are more events on my calendar than I have time or energy to manage. I always thought I had to be present whenever my children performed.
With three children still at home, and a married daughter with kids of her own, it seems that there are lots of family demands on my time. For the first few years of their lives, my grandchildren lived in Florida. I've only managed to see them once or twice a year since they were born. My grandchildren are having minor surgery in a couple of weeks, I wish I was in a position to go stay with them for a few days and help my daughter out. I always thought I'd be one of those grandmothers who are involved with their grandchildren and with supporting their grown children.
My calendar is the focal point for family activities. My rule has always been that whatever goes on the books first, is what we do. Now that I have three teenagers at home, two working adults, with a total of three drivers, and all the other activities and jobs we have agreed to, the calendar becomes the focal point of knowing when I have to be at a specific place, and who is picking up which child. It also houses a continually growing TO DO list, which seems to only get longer in spite of marking things off. I always thought that if I could put it on the calendar, I could do it.
When I was growing up I went to church every Sunday, and my father, a Methodist minister, always preached a good sermon (which I managed to listen to, even as a kid). I always thought that everyone went to church, believed in God and that all sermons were worth listening to.
Often these days, I catch myself in moments of inflexibility based on what I have chosen to believe about my life, my calendar, my responsibilities, and even my religion. I am beginning to learn that life is a paradox. That by allowing things to happen differently than I planned, accepting that there are other ways of looking at the world, and even different ways of believing or not believing in God, I can be more flexible with my life, my family and my community.
The Rev. Paula Roper is an Independent Interfaith Minister in New Providence, New Jersey. She is available for spiritual counseling, weddings and other life cycle ceremonies.
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