A trade-off worth making

June 2, 2022 | Life Lines

When I left my office job four months ago to return to my home-based writing and retreat business, I was mainly focused on doing the work I love most on a full-time basis and expanding my ability to help people walk the spiritual path. And to be certain, I wake up every day giving thanks that I am able to do what I do, feeling a sense of joy and contentment in my heart.

But there’s been a side benefit that has proven to be even more joy-inspiring than the work aspect of home office life: time with my teenage daughter. I knew when I quit my job to change career paths that I’d have a little more time with Chiara, who has only one more year at home before she heads off to college, but I underestimated the impact of those afternoon hours together that I’d been missing for the past six years.

When I decided to go back to work in an office full time in 2015, I figured I’d gotten my three children through the most important parts. Chiara, our youngest, was in fifth grade and had an amazing neighbor to care for her in the afternoons. Eventually, Olivia was old enough to watch her after school. The tough part was done, right? We imagine our pre-teens and teens are fairly self-sufficient and that they prefer time alone to time with parents. But what I’m finding is that I’m not the only one basking in our mother-daughter time; Chiara and I spend many afternoons side by side, whether we are running errands or quietly doing work on our computers, separate-but-together.

As I wait in the car line outside the high school each day, I am grateful for the opportunity to be there to pick her up and hear about the happenings of her day. It’s an added bonus when a friend needs a ride home, giving me the chance to get to know some children who were faceless names up until now. Every day when I arrive at school, I text: “I’m here in my usual spot.” One day the text came back: “See you soon. Bestie 4 L,” which translates in grown-up talk as “best friend for life.” Be still my heart.

At home, as I work in my upstairs office, Chiara often plops herself down on the meditation cushion behind my desk chair — usually with our black cat, Fred, in tow — and hangs out there, both of us doing our thing and stopping to chat now and then. She has no idea how happy it makes me, but I feel joy bubbling up inside, and I say a silent, “thank you,” for the gift of this time together that I really never saw coming.

It has made me aware of the many other things I’d been missing when I was moving at the warp speed of a stressful job that occupied my mind 24/7, which is no exaggeration despite the overused cliché. So many daily joys were buried under never-ending work emails and texts. So many fleeting opportunities had passed me by while I was convincing myself that a job should be more important than the everyday miracles occurring all around me, often unseen because my eyes were glued to a computer or phone.

Don’t get me wrong. My decision to work for myself was a huge sacrifice for my family and one that I know many people cannot make because of the financial implications, so I am blessed. And although my choice certainly comes with daily challenges as I try to rebuild a business, the trade-off — less money and “prestige” for more joy and contentment — is one I would make again in a heartbeat.

What treasure is hidden in plain sight in your life? Stop for a moment today and bask in the simple things that fill your heart with joy. Step away from the computer, put down the phone, lift your gaze, and take it all in.

This column originally appeared in the June 2, 2022, issue of The Evangelist.

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