This has not been an easy week for rest. Last weekend when we moved, all my crazies kicked and I unpacked like a maniac for three days straight. (My body forgot I was pregnant. Was I hungry? Sleepy? Noooooo. I just needed the towels folded and on the correct shelf.) I went from the realization that I was not, in fact, a superhero whose powers included not needing food or sleep, into a week of beginning my part time job with Young Life, babysitting another two year old for a couple of days, and hosting a dinner party last night. Why did I plan all these things for the week I was still unpacking? I don’t know. Probably because I’m not good with details. But mostly because I like to challenge myself, especially when it comes to how fast I need to be settled in my new home. Hosting a dinner last night was the ultimate of tests. Could I pull it off? Could I get the dining room, the last room still littered with boxes, cleared and organized? Could I get the floors mopped and help my husband prepare the meal all while finishing my tasks for Young Life and reading August the book about sharks he kept bringing me all afternoon?
I’m realizing that the most difficult part of this Benedictine experiment in my life as a stay at home mom is that as much as I can apply Benedict’s Rule, I cannot place myself in the contemplative world of a monk. There’s a reason monks don’t get married and have children. (What? Having children doesn’t result in a constant flow of deep personal prayer and contemplation?!) Most importantly, monks (hopefully) don’t get pregnant while learning how to serve and live in community.
Yesterday I was grouchy about my pregnancy and its resulting need for extra sleep I haven’t given myself this week. I was frustrated that I haven’t gotten more done for Young Life during my free time. I was grumpy that I can’t turn off the needs around me so I can chant some Psalms with a room full of monastics. I didn’t really have anybody to complain to. August does not feel sorry for my back pain in the midst of mopping. And I decided against complaining the cable guy who spent the afternoon in our living room. And when Chris came home we were both so busy making food and getting the house ready that neither of us had time for grouchiness.
Of course, because I love hosting people, I felt great as soon as our friends arrived. It was a wonderful night. My husband pulled off a fantastic meal. Our lovely cloth napkins were Fall-ish and pretty on the table. We laughed a lot. I didn’t think about my tired/achey/complainy self the whole time.
Until everyone left around 11 and I began the dishes. Chris had slaved away at the dinner and he needed to finish a presentation for work the next morning, so I shooed him away from the dishes, assured him that I could clean on my own, reminded myself that the dishes were just as much a part of practicing hospitality as the welcoming and the meal and the laughter. It’s just that when I was about ten minutes into my hour-long duty at the sink, I remembered how much my back hurt. I remembered that it was past 11 pm and I’d been up since 6:30 and August hadn’t slept well the night before and I was exhausted and I’d been cleaning and working and not sitting all day. Why was I the one doing the dishes when Chris was sitting on the couch “working” on his laptop? I’m carrying his child! And he’ll never know how much it hurts to grow a human inside his own body!
For a couple of moments in the midst of those swirling thoughts, I remembered to pray something like, I want to be a servant, Lord. Or, help me get over myself. But mostly I gave into my non-hospitable nature and bemoaned my dishwashing tragedy.
An hour later, when Chris had finished his work and was bringing the rest of the dessert plates from the table, I remembered to complain, which came out in a whine of a cry, about how tired I am and how Chris should be rubbing my feet more and bringing me tea in bed.
The thing is, I know it’s been just as difficult a week for him. He’s been under a lot of pressure at work. He’s had to work late and at home almost every night to get his work done. He’s been in the midst of unpacking as well.
Last night when we both collapsed in bed, grateful for the prospect of rest, I hazily remembered that I can be a real jerk. I remembered that I have an adoring husband who made an incredible dinner for our friends. I remembered that I’ve been unpacking in a home I love and don’t deserve. I remembered that my back hurts because I have been given the beautiful gift of growing an actual person inside me. I get to be a mother again! I remembered that Benedict instructed his readers to “accept [their] own smallness.”
So, Benedict, I’m trying. Again.