November 27, 2012

redrawing the boundary lines

Today I emailed the leader of our church small group to tell her that, although it’s a painful decision and we love them, we simply have to find a group that’s closer to us where we can occasionally participate and feel like we’re part of a little community. The group had relocated to a house that takes us 20-25 minutes to drive to right on the edge of rush-hour traffic. As a result, it was a good week when one of us could go. And that didn’t happen very often anymore.

I hated doing that. I’ve put it off for months. Even though we’ve met with most of these people weekly for nearly two years and have eaten together, laughed together, prayed and seen the healing hand of God together. And now we find that, because of how our son has redefined our lives so fundamentally, we have to back out of pretty much everything and start over with what is possible.

The fact is, group starts right about the time we put our son to bed. And right now, that bedtime is more important than pretty much anything else. It’s more important that our social lives. More important than how much time we get to spend playing with him after being at work all day (which is not much).

You’d think that knowing this is a temporary sacrifice would make the transition easier, and that would be true. But while family is top priority, it also adds to the isolation that apparently comes with being a parent of an infant. We thought we’d become part of some larger community of people with babies, but that hasn’t happened either. Instead, most of the women I know who have babies are also about 15-20 years younger than me, so there’s not a lot of common ground.

I’m grateful to be part of a growing online community of new mothers over 40, but that’s not the same as quality time with friends. And it certainly doesn’t help my husband much, who needs that community at least as much as I do.

Looking back, I started redrawing the boundary lines when I was pregnant. The more tired I got, the more activities I pulled out of and the further back I pulled those lines. I kept redrawing them until I admitted that I pretty much couldn’t do anything anymore. That was pure self-preservation and I didn’t feel a whit of guilt for it. But now I do.

I want to be part of community. I want to give of my time, talent and treasure through our church. Now, though, I just have to admit that I can never really say “yes” to anything but only “maybe” and even then I have to be choosy. I’m genuinely baffled when I see people who have more than one child who still volunteer or manage to break away for social activities on a regular basis. It makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong – is there a magic combination and I’m just off by a few numbers? And here I am working four days a week with my husband and one kid, thinking I’m busy (insert sardonic laugh here).

So I guess I’m starting over. I’m erasing the lines I’ve drawn and admitting I don’t know how to draw them anymore. Maybe I’ve been using the wrong pencil? I’m standing outside the puzzle until I figure out how to fit in again, or at least which side needs to be adjusted so I feel like I fit better and know what that looks like. Until then, it’s no commitments and no Yes’s. Just me. One day at a time.