Getting out of debt
At the recent BW workshop in Richmond, one of the repeated discussion points that surfaced during private conversations with participants was this: fear—fear of failing, fear of not doing it right or enough, fear that mistakes irrevocable were being made or had been made.
This fear catalyzes a frantic search outside of self to find the right tool, or the right co-op, or the right program, or the right philosophy to lead your family. Yet the resources for a rich, vibrant homeschool live inside of you – they don’t live in a book or a course or an expert.
The best education your children will receive is the one offered to them by a grounded, caring, attentive, flexible parent—who is growing right alongside the child, making micro adjustments from a place of some confidence (confidence that is also expanding, not static, sometimes not present, but always evolving).
About four years ago, I went through a significant reevaluation of my life. This is typical forties stuff (developmental stage of growth in adulthood, really). In that time, I reflected a lot on what constituted “well-being.” I wanted it for me, I wanted it for my family.
After the discussions at the workshop, I thought these notes from that time might be of some use to any/all of you. Let me know what you think:
I think of my well-being as knowing what it takes to feel right-side up with the world—where my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs are accessible to me, and I can express them without anxiety. It means ensuring that the space I live in is one that supports that self-expression. It means living a life where I’m not lying or hiding for self-protection. It means not depending on someone else to create that space for me, nor spending my energy trying to ensure that space for someone else.
It seems to me that we aren’t really giving of ourselves when we set aside our well-being for someone else’s. We’re protecting ourselves from pain (the painful realization that we aren’t needed, or don’t match someone else’s expectations, or can’t bring happiness or learning; or to cover our own feelings of dislocation and not belonging). We aren’t protecting ourselves from mistreatment or abuse, either, since love never covers that multitude of sins. Only good fences and a fierce loyalty to your well-being can stop the force of control and anger aimed at you (whether that comes from inside – self-critical voices, or outside – family members, discussion boards, “friends,” or reading material).
Truth is, you can only give if there’s something in the tank to give away. No program gives itself. No philosophy governs your home apart from your embracing of it, and growing in it. You can’t implement or lead if you are unsteady and anxious, if you hide who you are to remain a member of a group.
If you go into debt to yourself (not attending to your anxieties or fears), some day your soul will come to collect. “You can’t cheat the dark gods.” The price can be high, depending how deep the debt. You wouldn’t go into debt to give to a charity, and so you shouldn’t go into soul debt in order to love others. That expression will be unique to your family, looking like the personality of who you are and no one else.
If we safeguard our well-being, gently protecting it like you would your grandmother’s nicest china dessert dish, you’ll be able to give to others because your spirit will be in good shape, ready and able to be the platter from which love is served.
I didn’t know this, for my whole life. So I was way in debt. I’ve been paying it off slowly for several years now, looking at overdue bills and figuring out how to settle accounts with myself.
It takes some courage to be honest about how things really are in your family and homeschool. But that’s okay. You can go slowly, make space for yourself to heal or expand, and to be present to the ones you love as you do.
Go forth and be well. You and your family deserve your well-being.
Cross-posted on facebook.
Powerfully and beautifully written, but I think that perhaps some seasons are just ‘indebted’. My youngest is just recovering from cancer and we’re all like the living dead in the aftermath. Our situation is obviously extreme, and I hope and pray that things will improve before too long. Meanwhile, I’m making this observation as a warning to myself not to ladle guilt on top of the debt…
Absolutely! I have had seasons of special strain that make it nearly impossible to be careful with my own needs. Cancer is absolutely one of those life-wrenching seasons. I hope you are in recovery now. Peace and hugs.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Julie. Your writing has been extremely influential in my life and personal growth over the past few years. xo