You say Self”ish”, I Say Self”less”

Image by Damian Gadal, via Flickr

I’ll admit it: I totally blew it last summer. I tried to extend my “work-year” to ten months by putting kids in summer school, promising myself that it would be enough to do weekly field trips during July and August. But the first ten days of July were taken up with our triple-duty trip to Michigan. Which was a great trip, but by the time I’d put the energy into planning logistics, making arrangements, juggling family and conference, and getting the travel write-ups done, I just wanted a couple weeks off planning anything at all! And then there was one thing and another and another, and by the time it was over, we only managed to do one field trip the entire summer.

The kids were excruciatingly bored.

Summer or not, I need to be able to work. On the other hand, I can’t expect to work as much as I do when the kids are in school. And that can be hard to stomach when it seems like the trajectory of my writing career is trending upward.

Am I alone in feeling that tug-of-war between the suffixes “-ish” and “-less”?

As in: self-ISH vs. self-LESS?

The parent-vs.-work fulfillment dynamic is where it shows most clearly for me, but it also comes into play every time I find myself in conflict with others. My identity as a Christian means I place high value on self-emptying. And yet there is a point at which I have the right to say, “Hey. I deserve respect, too.”

But it’s very hard to figure out where that line falls. I have conditioned myself to give way to everyone else. To take blame in order to keep peace. To take blame in order to teach my children the skill of apologizing. To take blame (at least partial) even when I don’t think I did anything wrong, because that’s what it means to resolve conflict.

Lately, I’m feeling that I’ve let it go too far.

But it’s very, very hard to draw a line and assert myself. I feel selfish.

Still, if all my personal wrestling with the idea of “balance” has taught me anything, it is that the tension in that tug-of-war rope keeps me honest.

So I’ve spent a decent amount of time the last two weeks with a pencil and a three-month calendar, figuring out how to set aside time for the kids this summer while still leaving myself time to work. And I’m spending a lot of time thinking through conflict, trying to see other points of view without applying an internal narrative that negates my own.

And I guess that’s the best I can do.