How to Break Up with Your Anxious Life
Meeting the Need for Fun, Part Two
One day when my daughter Olivia was four years old, she and I spent some one-on-one time crafting: just a couple of girls, a couple of dollar-bin wood picture frames, a bag of sequins, some tacky glue, and a tube of rainbow glitter.
When our project was at 90 percent completion, there was a knock at the front door, and I left Olivia alone to go answer it. By the time I got back to the kitchen, the entire 4-inch-high cylinder of glitter had been spilled.
Photos I took with my cell phone didn’t do the mess justice. If you have any experience with glitter, you know that even just a tiny bit can infiltrate your home so that days later you are still finding it on your clothes, furniture, and stuck in the collection of tiny hairs above your lip that you don't want to call a moustache but your daughters will tell you is one.
This is why many mommies do not craft, but instead leave it to preschool teachers. You know the expression "live by the sword, die by the sword,” which means if you love violence you’ll die by violence? Well, when my two daughters were young, I lived and died by glitter. [A1] I felt it was worth it to make the mess, because creativity was so good for the girls; and they’ve continued to be creators, using arts and crafts for fun and relaxation. Sophia makes jewelry, macrame and “colors” in coloring books. Liv sews, makes clay jewelry and is creating her own anime-inspired comic. I’m allowed to make messes, too. Our family also lives and dies by sewing pins. In the first decade of our marriage, Jeff had stepped on several, and found needles sticking out of the arm of our couch. I only broke the habit when we got a leather sofa. Right now, we can’t eat on our kitchen table, because it is taken up by two – that’s right two – different sewing machines.
The women I know who find creativity fun -- gardeners, seamstresses, cooks, bakers, ceramicists, painters -- accept that in the quest to make something beautiful, they will also make a mess. Economists talk about the “real” cost of any activity: You charge by the hour to pay you for your work, but also for the time that you now can’t spend doing something else. In your life’s economy, having any kind of fun will require some kind of inconvenience or sacrifice (maybe even at your husband’s expense.)
I’ve worked with a lot of moms of young children over the past 15 years. Usually, when they stop having fun or being creative, it’s because they think the “real cost” is greater than the joy they get from things they used to love doing. They don’t go out for breakfast or go to the gym with a friend on a Saturday morning, because when they come home, the order of their house will be seriously disturbed. They stop cooking exciting new recipes like they once enjoyed because they get overwhelmed with the idea of more dishes. Or they are emotional perfectionists, not wanting to leave the kids home if anyone is upset or crying (Good luck with that, mamas; someone is almost always upset. That’s why you need to leave!).
This can lead to years of self-neglect, until they have forgotten how much joy they get from things they used to do – or what they even were. One of my very funny mom friends, during the pandemic, spoke to her limited ability to entertain herself on Instagram: “Apparently my only hobbies are spending money at non-essential businesses, eating out and touching my face.”
Years ago, Real Simple magazine conducted a survey called “Women and Time.” They anonymously polled over 3,000 women to assess how they spent their time, what their attitudes were toward leisure, and how satisfied they were with their lives. The vast majority said they didn’t have enough time for leisure activities because their to-do lists were too long. When asked what items they would farm out to others if money were no object, the first most popular answer was “cleaning,” but the second was “nothing.” Nothing! Women complain that they have no time for fun, but even when given a free pass to enjoy themselves, they cling to their duties.
This is one of the reasons I love God. He commands me to take a day off every week, even though He knows that my work will never be done. It wasn’t ever done in the agrarian tribal society the commandment was first given to, and it won’t be done for you and me either. Our brains need rest, our souls need times of feasting, and our made-in-the-image-of-the-creator selves need time and space to create. These activities connect us to God’s economy of abundance, rather than scarcity. So, God himself is telling you, my lovelies, that he believes your play, pleasure and rest, at least one day a week, is more important to your spiritual health than staying on top of your tasks. Death by glitter is infinitely preferable to death by a tidy, productive life.
Here are a few encouragements to you as you head into the weekend. An immaculate house will last only hours, if not moments. But a piece of art – a pot, a quilt, a painting, a planted garden – will bring more long-term satisfaction. You won’t have fond memories of clean counters, but you will remember glorious hikes and beach days and dance classes. Time completing tasks at home or on your computer will provide some physical and financial security (great things!), but time invested in the joys of friendship are an investment in bonds that will sustain you in times of crisis.
So let some stuff go this weekend and count the cost of fun as worth it – maybe even get some glitter. Those microblade face razors are great if you don’t want it caught in your mustache.