It is the dusk of my 35th birthday.
Wow. 35 years. I can see tinges of the classic “midlife crisis” creeping in. All day I found myself looking back and wondering if I have spent the last 3 1/2 decades well.
I think I can say that I am (mostly) proud of the person I have become. I have (sort of) learned to stop and think before I speak. i have matured to the point where I can (grudgingly) admit that my parents were right about many things (shhh…don’t tell my dad). I can (sometimes) admit that I was wrong.
But there is one thing I have always known about myself, but did not realize was a problem until today.
I am not a process person.
I am a results person. Unlike my sister, I do not revel in the repetitive and routine. I mean, I like to be clean, but if I had the choice between showering and pushing a “clean Kristin” button, I would choose the button every time. For me, the process is just the means that get me to the results.
It is not that I don’t recognize the importance of process, of how process impacts results. I took ballet for 12 years, and ballet is all process. How you learn and practice your movements determine how well you can perform. The way you move your body into each position is as important as the position itself. Quality process equals quality results.
I know process is important, but I just hate having to do it.
This summer, we made the
brave idiotic decision to ditch the velcro and purchase tie shoes for our 3 and 4 1/2 year olds.
Kristin! What were you thinking?!
Honestly, I’m not sure what possessed me to do it. I think the girls told me they really wanted tie shoes and I thought, “Wow! How mature of them! I should encourage this!” So with visions of my prodigy preschoolers tying shoes themselves flashing in my brain, they were purchased and brought home.
My positive enthusiasm lasted for about 3 days before I realized that Lidia did not have the dexterity to tie her shoes yet and Madeline was just way, way, way too slow. Most mornings, we left the house with both girls crying and me screaming to just “grab those (mumble under breath) shoes and don’t you dare try to tie them in the car and get them all tangled up and I will just have to tie them when we get to where we are going.”
Over the past several weeks, there has been a recurrent theme. In conversations. In prayer time. In watching an amazing artist chronicle the creation of her works. In the post on how you respond when life changes…or doesn’t.
The message is the same:
The process is not just important because it gets you results. The process is important because it is a result in and of itself.
So this morning, as we were getting ready to go, I sat down with Madeline to help her tie her shoes. I stopped, took a breath and really paid attention to what I was doing. As Madeline tied her first shoe, I watched how the muscles for fine motor skills were honed as her tiny fingers had to work really hard to correctly grasp and twist and pinch the strings just right. I noticed how she stopped everything else and really concentrated on what she was doing. I marveled at how she handled the frustration of dropping a lace by closing her eyes, taking a deep breath and trying again.
Strength. Concentration. Perseverance. Patience. All the things needed to climb giant rope ladders at a playground, have healthy friendships, and succeed in the future. All this gained from the stupid process of tying one stupid shoe.
Then, as I tied her second shoe (because, really, preschool shoe tying is SO SLOW), I took the opportunity to look right into her eyes down at her level and smile. She flashed an enormous, rare, giddy smile, said, “I love you, mom,” and gave me a big bear hug.
Wow. So much better than screaming and crying.
This. This is what I need to work on during the next 35 years.
Ugh. But it is so hard for me.
I need to take lessons from Nick. You see, I am married to an extreme process person. Nick is actually an ancient Japanese man born into a modern American body. Results are important to him, but it is the process, the how, that gives him joy. He becomes alive doing all the tedious things that would drive me crazy: gardening, cooking, practicing scales on his guitar, shaving with a straight razor, fitting a hearing aid. Nick graduated with a Japan Studies concentration in college and he tells me that the traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, Chado, epitomizes traditional Japanese culture. People would spend their entire lives working to fully engage in and master the process of their craft. The beauty and joy lie not just in the end result, but in the journey of getting there. If you have ever read Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, you can hear this undercurrent running through her words.
As I thought through this today, I realized that this is why this phase of my life is one of the most challenging. So much of what I do is purely process. The changes and results of the work I am doing with the girls are either so far in the future, are imperceptibly small or are so short lived, that I often feel like I am achieving no results at all.
I hear the platitude “enjoy the journey” all the time, but I never really grasped the depth of what that means in my day to day life before today. If I never do more than put up with the process while waiting for results, I will have missed my life. Because nearly all of life is just that, a series of processes that refine us and make us into who we are. The how is not just the how. The how is also the what.
The process is not just important because of the result it produces. It is important in itself. Because of what you learn. Because of who you become. Because it can be enjoyable, fulfilling and beautiful. The process is the result. The process is the now.
So, on the dusk of my 35th birthday, I make my quasi-midlife resolution. Much like Brother Lawrence that Laura just wrote about, I will seek to find enjoyment, beauty and appreciation for the tedious, mind-numbing processes that make up life. I will listen for God’s whisper in the common and the mundane.
It will probably take me the next 35 years to even start to scratch the surface. Because by later this afternoon, as we were onto the third iteration of putting on and tying the shoes to get somewhere, I was back to the screaming and crying routine.