“Please not that book. Pick something else! I’ll read you 10 books if you pick something else.”
Of course, this makes it more desirable. So desirable that I end up reading it twice. Every time. Why don’t I just throw it away, you ask? Partly because RJ salvages it from the donation pile when I put it there. And maybe I feel guilty for despising it.
I love Shel Silverstein and will forever keep “Where the Sidewalk Ends” on an accessible bookshelf. But “The Giving Tree” just makes me feel sad. The tree lovingly gives up every bit of itself for a sad and ungrateful boy. It’s a little too real for me as a mother and as a Christian.
GIVE GIVE GIVE GIVE GIVE. It’s never enough and it’s often thankless.
Many adore this book and I can’t figure out why. It is not the story I want to read or the story I want to live. Now don’t get me wrong. I do want to lovingly serve my family and mankind. I want to find joy in generosity. I don’t even need loads of gratitude. It’s that terminal burnout that really itches me. That poor tree had nothing left to give.
I can’t reconcile why the things I want for my children seem possible only by sacrificing the things I want for myself.
I want them to love nature and delight in the petals of a flower, the contours of a rock, or the shimmering of water. I also want to get in a brisk 3 mile hike for myself.
I want them to be full of imagination and creativity. I also want to gouge out my eyeballs when I have to play finger bunnies, or clean up art supplies for the bajillionth time.
I want them to enjoy nourishing meals. I also believe “The Joy of Cooking” was a sick joke, rather than an apt name for a cookbook.
There is no sound on earth more glorious than my children’s laughter. Also, I am constantly overstimulated.
I want my children to know that I am always, always available for cuddle and conversation. I also want an hour without interruption to read or write.
Both my desires for them and for myself are good and healthy and important. But they often seem mutually exclusive and at the same time mutually beneficial. It feels selfish to ‘put myself first’ and yet when my needs are met, I’m more equipped to meet theirs.
When I get time to myself, I’m more patient and involved during our together time. When I get exercise, I have more energy and zest to play with them (at least until evening when I’m done, regardless.)
Perhaps something that would help me is to ease up on measuring time as a commodity. You get one hour of TV. I get one hour of exercise. You get 10 more minutes to play before bedtime. I am off-duty after 8pm. It’s so transactional. I like that. But it’s when I stop measuring time that the best things happen. And those best things are occasionally ME things, but more often WE things; Like that night when Millie and Georgia couldn’t seem to settle down and instead of claiming my ‘off duty’ rights, I joined RJ as we tickled their backs. Both of us in that position like you’ve fallen over from kneeling on the floor, in mirror images of each other, our legs touching from knee to foot. Hush slowly fell over the room and I was deeply in love with my family.
As an introvert I jealously protect any moment I get to myself. But time isn’t really mine to dole out and exchange. It’s mine to steward. The seconds and moments and hours count, but mostly in their cumulative power. There are singular experiences that stay vibrant in memories for years. But they are rare. The stuff that really shapes me is more often the stuff I don’t really remember until I analyze my habits, patterns and rhythms in retrospect.
So what DO I want to exchange “my” time for? What is it that I want to BECOME by the use of “my” time?
John A. Widtsoe said “In life all must choose at times. Sometimes, two possibilities are good; neither is evil. Usually, however, one is of greater import than the other. When in doubt, each must choose that which concerns the good of others – the greater law – rather than that which chiefly benefits ourselves – the lesser law. The greater must be chosen whether it be a law or thing. That was the choice made in Eden.”
My greatest aims and desires are WE things. But I don’t want to be The Giving Tree, whose life-force is diminished by giving. I want to give out of my abundance. I want to have kindness and generosity and laughter and patience and activism pour out of me because it is constantly being refilled by divine sources and there’s not enough room in my own life to contain it.
I want to be like Eve, who knew that she must sacrifice her own comfort and ease in the garden in order to give mankind a chance. She knew that we must experience both the bitter and the sweet, sickness and health, pleasure and pain in order to know true happiness. She knew that WE brings a fuller joy than ME. So I will forge onward in the tug and pull – doing acts of self-care (not self preservation) SO THAT I can have the abundance which allows me to care for others and experience that fuller joy.