Soul Food

I was talking to a woman this weekend (I told you, Doo-dah, that if you wouldn't blog about it, I would!) about her life. She has a stressful life. It's busy, crazy, and very, very productive. She doesn't like it. She's not, like, totally maniacally depressed or anything, but we spent a long time talking about how and if she could change it, just so she could feel more fulfilled about life and less stressed. She's the mother of 2 great kids, and her life basically revolves around getting these kids to where they need to be, and doing the variety of things for others that she feels she needs to do. It's all about them. Sometimes she feels that her life is never about her. In talking to her, it occurred to me that certainly her problem can't be unique. Women, mothers especially, are really good at giving service to others, and I actually believe that our lives shouldn't really be about us, they should be about others and Jesus Christ, you know, that whole "lose your life for my sake and ye shall find it" stuff. I really think that He means that. I believe it works. But sometimes, for whatever reason, with all the service we are doing, our souls still don't get fed. We are losing ourselves, indeed, but the finding, um, not so much. So I guess I want to know how you balance serving others and serving yourselves, or if our souls are only fed by the right kind of service. What is the right kind of service? Is there a wrong kind of service, a soul starving service? And in the midst of all of this service, do any of you take a break and really go for some soul food? If so, what is it? Do you have an equivalent of a soulful double fudge chocolate brownie? I, of course, told this woman to get a garden and grow some pumpkins. She didn't appreciate that (and she doesn't even have deer where she lives!). Then, of course, I told her she should blog. Given the fact that she hardly feels like she has time to breathe, let alone hang out on the stupid internet all day, that didn't go over very well either. Oh well. I tried my best to convert her. I guess there are just some things you have to learn for youself.


Anonymous JKS said...

You need to give your life to the Lord. Not, to everyone else. While I think the Lord wants us to be good mothers, I think it is in an eternal sense, more than being our own perfect idea of being a mother.
She should look at exactly why she does some of the things she does. Do her children have too many activities? Why? Does she really think the Lord wants her children to have so many activites?
With more thought, she may find that some of the things she thinks are "serving others" are really more selfish than she realizes. Sometimes what we "do" for our kids, for instance, is more about what we ourselves want (even if we don't admit it) than what the Lord wants, or what our kids really need.
Take, for instance, my kids' birthdays (one day apart a couple weeks ago). Cake for family, cupcakes for class, cake for family, cupcakes for class, 2 cakes for the birthday party--all beautifully decorated I may add.
I could fool myself and say that I'm doing it for my kids, and it was just so much work and stress trying to do it all. But, I realize I was doing it because I wanted to. I like it. I wish it wasn't all at once because it got a little much, but I told myself that if I wasn't really enjoying it, I shouldn't be doing it. The kids would grow up just fine without really cool cakes & cupcakes brought into school.
I think Mothers should prioritize. They should figure out what they enjoy doing and do that. Figure out what they don't enjoy and try to simplify and eliminate as much as possible.
Heavenly Father has to send spirits to homes where there is abuse, alcoholism, or starvation. How sad is it that a home with the gospel, with love, with shelter and food, with everything a child needs....how sad is it that families still find ways to make themselves miserable. How can we tell the Lord that we have these advantages but we are miserable because we absolutely have to read to our children each day, and we absolutely have to take them to gymnastics and piano lessons, and we absolutely have to make their Halloween costume, and we absolutely have to have elaborate, healthy dinners, and we absolutely have to give our children everything possible. I think the Lord has a more eternal perspective and we get lost in our desire for perfect parenting.

10/27/2005 12:13:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I've been thinking about what I posted earlier. I covered the serving kids. I think I left out the serving others problem.
Sometimes callings can be overwhelming. Usually there are ways to try to reduce the workload, simplify, say "no, I don't think that is necessary."
Serving others like family or ward members who need help? Sometimes you just have to say "no." I think that is important. I had a friend once who needed babysitting ALL the time. I finally told her "You know, I don't really need babysitting as much as you do, so instead of trading, you can just pay me. I'll charge $4/hour from now on, sound good?"
Then, she couldn't take advantage of me anymore.
Or lower your standard at what you will do for them. If you have to babysit your sister's kids all the time, go ahead and let them watch TV the whole time, or make them play outside and stay outside the whole time so they don't wreck your entire house. When you go VT, don't take a treat. When you take dinner for a family, pick up Papa Murphys.
If your husband isn't helping enough, sit down and tell him you are unhappy and need some things to change. Find some compromises. As long as I know that I can take off and go to the library for an hour and he's cool with that, I'm happy.
If he helps with a family clean up for 7 minutes, it makes a world of difference. And if I spell out that it only takes up 7 minutes of his time, but makes me really happy, he thinks its probably a good use of his time.
Husbands need clear information and solutions, not criticism and hints.
I also give myself permission to take days off...from cleaning, or from being a perfect mom. I give myself permission to spend the whole afternoon reading.

10/27/2005 05:28:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

An empty fountain waters no one. We are to give our lives to the Lord, but nowhere does it say we must martyr ourselves on the altar of activities. As a convert, it is especially striking to me how hard Mormon women are on themselves; we all could use a little more softness in how we think of ourselves. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking "If only I did more, everyone would be happier", and this is just not fair.
For me the litmus test is when I start feeling sharp and loosing my temper over small things, I know it's time to back up and let some things go. I also try and apply advice I would give a loved friend to myself. If I knew a friend was struggling and feeling overwhelmed, what would I tell her? Then I give myself the same love I would give my sister. It helps keep things in perspective.

10/27/2005 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger Yogi-girl said...

I loved the "Soul Food" post. I could relate to the hyper-busy lady.

Been there; done that. Nothin' but burn-out, but it was a lesson I had to learn.

I have two rules now:

1. Only do service that feeds me, ie if I notice that I'm being sapped, I stop, drop, and roll. Nine times out of ten, it's an activity that's gone overboard anyway.

2. (this one relates to child-rearing, specifically the question of "when is it too much mothering?") My motto: Die without regrets.

10/27/2005 08:50:00 PM  

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