It’s been nearly a week since my last post, which is a reflection not necessarily of how hard I’m working, but how many different KINDS of things I’ve had to do.

I’m drawing close to final-draft time on the History of the Medieval World.

I’m doing a number of different editorial tasks for Peace Hill Press: working on the final draft of Writing Workbook II, finishing the last edit of First Language Lessons, Level Four, and helping the PHP West team to get new message boards up (in this case, helping means “watching while you do all the tricky technical stuff and posting comments once you’re done”).

I’m educating the kids.

I spent some time corresponding with a friend in crisis.

I put together the worship service for church.

I finished that dratted author questionnaire.

It snowed,

so I had to dig out boots and mittens and coats and make hot chocolate.

And everybody except for Christopher and me got sick, so I spent four days out of the week carrying trays into bedrooms and wiping noses. (Not my husband’s; he can wipe his own nose, thank goodness. But if Emily had wiped her nose into her hair one more time…well, it’s worse than GUM once it dries. No kidding.)

And today I’m feeling fractured and scattered in my mind.

All this stuff needed to be done. None of it could be postponed. I’m already committed to the pub schedules on the writing projects. It only snows here about once every two years, so what was I going to say to the kids: Forget it, I’ve got to go write? (Don’t think so.) And it’s January. People get the flu.

Except for the sickness and the snow, none of this stuff was really out of the ordinary; and, individually, each task was entirely manageable. But I’m finding that my ability to switch fluently from task to task is NOT what it once was. I find that I have an incredible NEED to finish ONE TASK AT A TIME.

Yet, practically speaking, this is impossible. I have to turn from task to task, job to job. And every time I switch duties, it takes me exponentially longer to remember where I was and what I was doing.

Is this because I’m getting older? Is it because the projects I’m working on are more complex than they once were? I’m not sure.

And as for the sickness and the snow: it’s tempting to say to myself, “Well, this week was unusual. Next week it will be easier to find an uninterrupted stretch of time in which to shape the story of the medieval world.”

But I don’t think that’s true. Uninterrupted, peaceful weeks are the exception, not the rule. It’s so easy to think of crisis-free weeks as the standard of normality, and then to treat the weeks which are punctuated with sickness and urgent family demands and bad weather and crashing computers as abnormal, unusual, something to be waited out until real life resumes.

Sickness and snow are normal. Malfunctioning devices are normal. Sudden crises are normal. Disruption is normal.

So how do I do this? How do I acknowledge that life is a series of crises, that tasks do not divide neatly into uninterrupted chunks of time, and yet also finish projects which require continuity of thought and practice? And why do I feel this increasing need for continuity of thought, when I used to find it simple to rotate from project to project, subject to subject, class to class, crisis to crisis?

No answers today; just questions, and an enormous pile of medieval-history manuscript in which I have not yet found the story.

Showing 11 comments
  • A Circle of Quiet

    I agree interrupted time is the norm, don’t you think when one’s spouse is sick it puts a new twist on the chaos. You two do such a good job of sharing responsibility…if one of the responsible parties has to bow out temporarily, that’s tough.

    May it all be a distant memory SOON.


  • mary kathryn

    I’ve also found it much more difficult to focus and to teach briiliantly (for lack of a better phrase) , since turning 40. My thoughts seem scattered, and I don’t relish digging into challenging academic tasks as much as I once did. I seem to depend much more on praying that God will graciously give me meaningful words to say, and that they will be intelligible 🙂

  • Lori

    Beautiful snow!

    I agree with Mary Kathryn about my own personal mind (and body) going south after 40. That’s what I have spent a good deal of my time doing lately, attempting to get back to some reasonable place where I can get my work done. It is quantifiably harder now than it was just two years ago.

    If it is true that life offers few oases of quiet, then you’ve got to learn to work with what you’ve got. When I was writing a novel in November (National Novel Writing Month), we got an e-mail from some author who was supposed to be giving us a pep talk. The author said that if they worked on something consistently, at the same time every day, during the rest of the day, they were able to think, plan, and mold the shape of the story so that when they returned to the keyboard the next day, it was ready to flow from the fingertips.

    Now, you’ve written more books than I’ll ever do and you’ve got your own way of working. Plus, I’m not sure that this author had children, which have a way of interrupting us in ways that short circuit our minds. At any rate, you’ve got to learn to deal with what is, because mourning over what was is not only not useful but detrimental in that it saps energy that you could otherwise use.

    Yow…what’s up with me this morning? Sorry. I’m going to go acquire some coffee and breakfast. I do hope that things go better and it’s true, you have to celebrate the beautiful moments when they come…never regret that.

  • The Tutor

    Thank you for writing this. I am so happy to see my own thoughts so eloquently written out and know that these thoughts and questions are common (even if not yet answered). After reading this post, similar sentiments in The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazerro and L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer, and multiple Psalms, I get the distinct feeling that God is trying to tell me something… waiting for the “perfect time” (or circumstances, or mood, or materials, or whatever) in a fallen world is a vain enterprise. Strive for Christ-likeness, be content with imperfection infused with grace.

  • AmyL

    Okay, I hope this isn’t too selfish a reaction but YAY on the First Language Lessons level 4! I can’t tell you how much better my boys have been doing this year since we switched back to the series. I’d gone to Rod and Staff after finishing one and two of the First Language Lessons and it was really a tough year. I’ve been a little anxious about what we’d do next year after things going so well this year. Thank you and everyone at Peace Hill Press for all your hard work. 2 young men who’ve struggled with learning are really starting to come into their own and blossom this year. You’ve had a part in that.

    As for the fractured feeling, oh I so know how that feels! Hugs to you, and I hope you find a moment or two for a good hot cup of coffee (or tea, or hot chocolate) and relaxation.

    There’s something to be said for a small yet powerful word when too many projects are coming your way: no. Or, you could lengthen that to “not now”. By limiting your professional obligations you open yourself up to more time for the family and friends who need you. And you avoid falling into the SuperWoman trap. Just food for thought. 🙂

  • Janice in NJ

    I. Know. What. You. Mean.
    No answers – just loads of empathy coming your way!
    I’ve spent too many hours pondering that question. If there was an answer, I suspect that it would have surfaced by now. Shrugging my shoulders with indifference rather than trying to ferret out a “better course of action” for “next time” seems to create a smaller back-log of regret in the back of my brain – where those thoughts tend to pile up until they take over and put me in a funk – during a day that should be peppered with peace rather than angst.
    I hear you. I’m sorry! Here’s hoping that your Tuesday rocks!

  • Trish

    It’s just January, Susan. And Mercury is in retrograde. 🙂

    Everyone is out of sorts because of the time of year (one of the hardest times because of the cold and the post-holiday depression, bills are due, etc.) and I had to remind myself of this countless times last week (and all weekend).

    Sending good vibes to you and wellness vibes to the fam. Hang in there and enjoy the process. This is what it’s all about (or so they say)!

  • Strawberry Queen

    I find this very thought provoking. I too am 35 and I find myself craving the uninterrupted times to focus on just one task. But then the people in my life have needs and it seems that I’m the one they need. Until your post I had not attributed my angst over this to age, but it is a strong possibility.

    However, it is January. I’m trying to remain positive so I don’t loose even more time to the winter blues, especially as the sun is about to set.

    BTW thanks for your writing. I have truly benefitted from the effort you’ve put in.

  • Alesha

    I honestly believe that if I had to do any three of your to-do list at one time…I would run away to a tropical island and read a good book(with a wonderful bottle of wine). Though I do benefit greatly from all you do. Thanks for writing so many incredible books that make our school days run well, except for those days that we accidently re-read the W.T.M. and try to do everything… those days don’t go quite so smoothly(must remember not to do that).

  • Sahamamama

    Maybe you want longer stretches of time because you want to think deeper thoughts. What is your spirit telling you? What does the Holy Spirit say?

    What would you, and you alone, have to say to the world with your “pen” if you could, at some point, clear away all these urgent projects and just listen for a while? You have so much stuff in your head, and a unique way of connecting it for the rest of us, who do not have as much stuff in our heads. If you are asking these questions, really asking them, then maybe it really IS time (or near time) to slow down… for a season? for a reason that you don’t yet see?

    Of course, it could just be the age thing, ha ha. I turned 41 last month, and I am running around this little house after a three year old and 13 month old twins. Can someone say DISTRACTED? The other day I was TRYING to CONCENTRATE, but my three year old (Sarah) just HAD to keep coming into the room to ask important questions, such as:

    1. Mommy, may I wrap up Pooh in my new frog towel? (30 second interval)

    2. Mommy, may I put another band-aid on Love-Alot Care Bear? (1 minute interval)

    3. Mommy, may I please have a little snack? Is it sooooooooon to lunch time?

    You get the idea. 🙂 Susan, you are a mother. You are a wife. Now I will add modifiers — you are a homeschooing mother and a pastor’s wife. For most of us, these two (unmodified) roles take up the bulk of our time. If you try to fit all that “other stuff” in, you are going to feel it sometimes. I know that I would. You feel stretched out because you are stretched out. I hope it all works out.

  • shanmar

    I also appreciated your thoughts. As I have added “opening a bookstore” to my already flowing plate, I have been amazingly overwhelmed. I can do one thing well, at a time. My reality is that I need to do 20 things well, at one time. I end up doing nothing well. I was coveting the 14 hour day, you mentioned that you have, to just work on a project. Thanks for sharing your struggles. It helps.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt