By Aymara Carpenter
The alarm on my phone goes off at 6:00AM on Monday morning and I roll over to turn it off. Depending on what the weekend has held, I may or may not be able to perk up without using the snooze feature. If I am really lucky, it’s the alarm that has actually woken me up and not one of the kids. If it in fact was the alarm that delivered me from sleep, I put on a pair of my favorite stretchy pants. I put on a comfy t-shirt (probably inside out knowing me), some ankle socks and my running shoes. I run a mile or two at my granny pace, or walk with my artfully curated playlist if that’s what my body is asking for. When I return, the next hour is a little stressful: get my four year old daughter, one year old foster daughter ready and fed, and make sure my eight year old son and fifteen year old foster daughter are set as well to go off to school with nutritious lunches packed and homework completed. The next several hours involves tidying up at home, running errands, calling my grandma or maybe catching up with my sister or a friend on the phone or in person. Then the afternoon is a blend of picking up kids, playing with kids, transporting kids to and from activities, and playing sous chef to my husband who gets dinner on the table for us when he gets home from work. Like most people in this same stage of life with young kids, I lead a busy life with many responsibilities. But it’s because I strive for a full life that that busyness is able to take on real meaning and that tending to those many responsibilities ultimately brings me great joy.
The one major life lesson that took me a bit of time to learn, is to never chase happiness. Happiness is such an unsustainable condition, that I have learned to savor it when I’m feeling it, but to never chase after it when I’m not. Instead, I chase work and challenge. I chase fun stuff too, like adventure and excitement, new people and experiences, but I find that it is through chasing work, projects, and situations that place me just a little outside my comfort zone that I can really grow and experience what it means to live a full life.
There are four areas in my life I have been most interested in exploring as an adult that have led to the construction of this full life of mine.
1. I have devoted time to explore my own interests and talents. I’ve taken my curiosity for the world to a place of knowledge and understanding in the form of furthering my education. I have discovered where my strengths lie and what type of work to pursue in order to utilize these strengths; I have found work that keeps me busy and feeling useful without robbing me of joy or my sense of humor; I have adopted the attitude that these strengths and skills can and have and will change and that I must adapt accordingly.
2. I have learned to explore the aspects of my most difficult family and social relationships to find what it is that makes them so difficult. I have looked inward to figure out what in myself needs to change or yield to improve these relationships. I have accepted that my most difficult relationships are the ones that will continue to lead me to the best version of myself. I try to remember that I will continue to make mistakes in relationships and that others will too, and that I must adjust my expectations and be forgiving of self and others.
3. I have found that a life lived in service to others is the most fulfilling of all,
I have learned that there is a divine reason why we live and function in families and in community, and that it is my duty to, out of the many problems in our world, find the problem that I am most capable of working towards solving. For me, that has been to work with and become a safe person for children in need of unconditional love and acceptance. After close to two decades of working with kids as a caregiver, arts educator, and most recently, social worker, I have never found it difficult to love other people’s children. I feel called to be a foster parent, and feel the most at peace and satisfied with my circumstances that I have ever felt since taking on this endeavor in recent months.
4. The only way that I can keep myself engaged in work, my relationships functioning to the best of their potential, and my heart and hands being of service to others is through some quiet time for rest, peace and reflection, or really, time devoted to God and it is why we are a part of Ecclesia. My definition of God has evolved as I have grown, aged, and evolved. But the older I get, the more I believe in magic, not just because things have worked out nicely for me (as I feel that free choice has had something to do with that) but because I’ve experienced magic in my life. And to me, believing in God is a little like believing in magic. Jesus was my first teacher in the subject of God. I have sought out other teachers in the past, but I am looking to Him for guidance again today. I have found a wonderful community of people here who, like me, want to live a full life and help others, and I’m proud to encourage others to try this on for themselves and get that little chunk of peace that just might change everything.