So it’s January now. Both physically and metaphorically, this is a different season. I’m relieved to be on the flip side of that transition into being a stay-at-home parent to kids who are in school all day. I’m glad to say I’m working and glad to say I’m mostly at home. This fall I got another (the first was last winter) two-month stint of working full-time which was enough to make me glad for my time at home again. In those last weeks I was so eager to be done. While wiping down cafeteria tables I daydreamed of writing out Christmas cards in a quiet house with Handel’s Messiah playing softly in the background. I couldn’t wait to have the time to make a soup that takes all afternoon and grocery shop on a Tuesday morning instead of Saturday with the masses.
This is exactly the job I needed. And it’s the job I already had. I get to work when it’s convenient for me and not when it isn’t. I never have to work on a snow day or when I have a sick kid or a vacation planned. I never have to work past 3:30 so I can always get my kids to their activities and still eat together as a family afterward.
This job keeps me humble and at the same time fills me with that warm blessy feeling that only comes from work that puts some real tangible good into the world. In August, I forgot that these are valuable things.
In fact I was forgetting a lot of things in August when I was doing all that searching and waiting and stewing. I was also having a bit of a Jonah complex trying to run away from some commitments I made to myself and to God and to my husband. When both kids were in school all day I was going to start correcting lessons for CrossRoads Bible Institute, formally complain to Meijer for packaging eggs in styrofoam, start a non-profit to provide (the amazingly comfortable and cute) Arie bras and underwear to women in shelters and iron my dear spouse’s work shirts. I think I realized I didn’t actually want to do those things. I just wanted to have done them.
I was also afraid of all that time alone. Just me. And God. Was he going to expect me to spend the whole time reading the Bible and praying? It’s way easier to be too busy. Now I see that he didn’t want me to spend all that time alone, just some of it. Because that’s what I need. He already knew that.
So I never had to turn down those jobs because they turned me down first. First for one job then the other, I got automated emails thanking me for my application but another more qualified candidate had been found. Well, there were my answers.
There is still part of me that wants a full-time private-sector job. One that really sharpens my mind and skills and makes better use of my training. One that doesn’t require serving the very young or a government institution or cutting the tops of Go-gurt tubes (Yoplait, this is serious packaging fail). But you can’t have it all. And I’m pleased as punch with this work-life balance.
In late September I started noticing more and more monarchs. The milkweed were beginning to die off and the sunlight weakening. As the fourth or fifth generation of the season, each freshly hatched from a chrysalis, these butterflies (or mariposas once they cross the border) were migrating to Mexico. Traveling about 120 miles a day on four-inch wings, they had already begun their 3,000 mile journey. Each day I would count how many I saw. I saw nine, then eleven and then finally it peaked at fourteen. I won’t soon forget the day I saw the fourteen. You might think, as my husband did, that I was seeing the same few over and over. I assure you, this wasn’t the case. They appeared to be flitting about haphazardly the way butterflies do with their seemingly inefficient high-low-high-low-high-high bumbling arrhythmia. But I watched every one until they flew out of sight and each fluttered alone decidedly west (though a few rebels were going south), toward the lake.
I’ve read that monarchs use Lake Michigan as a highway in their migration. I’ve also learned (Thank you, Wild Kratts) that monarchs band together and rest up in trees at the shore, warming their bodies in the sun before crossing Lake Erie in big groups. I bet the same thing happens with those that reach the shores of Lake Michigan.
Most of the sightings on the day I saw fourteen monarchs were from one bike ride through the neighborhood. Maybe it was because I was riding a bike and the blood was a-pumpin’ and a flowin’, or maybe because I was still adjusting to my baby being gone every week day until 4:30, but my heart was aching for these creatures with such tiny brains and delicate bodies that were flying all the way down to a forest in Mexico* without even understanding what they were doing or how hard it would be or how long it would take or who would go with them or why it was necessary. I remember taking one hand off the handlebar reaching up hoping the one flying over my head would land on my finger but it didn’t. Thankfully, the monarchs didn’t seem nearly as apprehensive about their trip as I did. They were created for this life, this course, this journey, this purpose, this job. And they were doing it.
*Monarchs instinctively mingrate to the same forest in Mexico as the ones that came before them. In fact most go to the same tree, almost the same square foot as their ancestors. After a four month rest they lay eggs and then die. Their sons and daughters migrate back up north.