Just a Short Stage of Life

I’ve been musing about the finiteness of things: work, relationships, childhood, money, etc. Most things are fairly temporal. Addison asked me a while ago how I juggle it all (presumably school, work, family), and her question seemed to tie in both a time element, and an energy element. Going to school full-time, at 19, carrying 18-hour loads, participating in theater productions, working evenings and weekends, and managing stellar grades to maintain the scholarship is *hard*.  My general response, when I face that question, is that this is only for a time; we invest in ourselves to make life easier down the road. This is undoubtedly more applicable beyond college, though.

When I am processing fatigue, or frustration, or reminiscing, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.”

When I’m working on a paper for a class that ends that night, and my children want me to help them string together empty boxes to make a train set (such was my Wednesday yesterday), I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” I know I can stay up late to work on the paper, but they’ll remember Mom building a cardboard box train.

When I’m up and out choring and feeding animals, and bottle-feeding the clumsiest, bumsiest little buckling you’ve ever come across, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” Someday the children will take over tending the animals, or there will be no sweet bottle-feeding animals, and I’ll miss that.

When I’m desperately missing my husband, who’s off on a job for weeks on end and sometimes can’t make it home but 24 hours every 2-3 weeks, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” He’s working hard to invest in our family, and our farm, and I’m blessed to have such a man.

When I’m running on about 6 hours of sleep from juggling my school work, my childrens’ school work, and my work load, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” When my degree is done, I look forward to having a normal job, with normal hours, and I’ll have hours to leisure read again, or sleep more. I’ll probably pick leisure reading over sleep, though.

When I have to pass on impromptu “come drink wine with us” requests from my girlfriends, even though I’d love to have some time to catch up, but have final papers to grade, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” We’ll find time to have a girls’ lunch, and when the kids have all flown the nest or work slows down and there’s more time for girlfriends, I know I have great ones who will still be there.

When my relations with exes gets strained, and there’s conflict, and I need to emotionally remove myself from interactions, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” There’s generally a pattern to good times and bad times with the exes, both his and mine, but these smooth out in time.

When I see a situation completely different from a sibling, and there’s conflict, and we don’t have the closeness that we’ve had throughout the years, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” We’ll both work through our perspectives, and the closeness will pick back up again, because it always does.

When I’m cleaning up linens from a child’s accident in bed, or wiping vomit off the bathroom floor, or vacuuming up smashed Cheez-its in my bedroom carpet (where they know they’re not supposed to be eating anyway), I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” Someday I’ll sit in a quiet house and wish I were vacuuming up smashed crackers. I’ll invite the grandkids over, hand them a bowl of cheez-its, and then ignore when they sneak them into the room.

When I have some seriously goofy expectations from my supervisors, who occasionally think I have nothing to do but read the same emails and watch short videos, so I can be “good” at what I’ve been doing for 10+ years, I remind myself, “This is just a short stage of life.” Supervisors change. Work expectations change. The only real constant is I am good at my job, and the students seem to respond well.

I do believe we invest in ourselves. I believe our frame of reference may vary wildly from another’s, but that the best I can do as a person is try to improve, and sometimes, personal improvement is just draining. Having healthy relationships takes work. Raising compassionate, responsible children takes work. Completing a terminal degree takes work. Providing for a family takes work. I’m actually fortunate to have the opportunity to experience all the challenges and opportunities that cross my path, however demanding they may seem at the time, because I can see how much I’ve changed over the years, and anticipate so much more change to come.

Measure your life in stages. Be grateful for each stage.

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