I’ve always been the kind of person who follows instructions and mostly does what she’s supposed to.
I don’t think this makes me a doormat or thoughtlessly compliant. Generally, I’m willing to accept the advice of experts. As I get older, I also recognize that I am my own expert for many life choices. I trust myself more than I used to, and sometimes that means I don’t always do what I’m supposed to.
A few days ago, I let my younger kids stay home from school.
No big deal, except that my father was a teacher, so I was raised with the attitude that missing school for any reason besides one’s own funeral was pretty much one of the seven deadlies.
So I found myself weighing options at 8 a.m. while an unappealing mix of snow and sleet was falling fast outside. What was I supposed to do?
My youngest son was “sick,” meaning, it was hard to say if he was actually coming down with physical illness or was merely feeling extra emphatic about his lack of enthusiasm for academic anything.
The other children were up, but not yet ready and moving very slowly. If we were going to be on time, I’d have to start barking orders soon.
We live on a mountainside. I could quickly plow our steep driveway so I could get out. It was the only way to safely get down the hill, but then I would probably not be able to get back up, because while the snow was piling up, the sleet was freezing on the road. And then, after walking back up the icy driveway, I’d have to salt and plow again to go pick up the kids—a mere four hours later, since this was a short day at school. Salt and gasoline are not free, and time and energy are also finite resources.
I didn’t have to go into my office. Aside from getting the children to and from school, I didn’t have to go anywhere until later afternoon.
Full respect to all teachers and students who show up to school even in terrible weather, but at that moment, it wasn’t worth it to me.
So I said, “Kids, we’re having a cozy day. Find a book to read while I make breakfast and call the school.”
Later that morning, I texted with a friend and admitted I felt guilty for staying home when I was “supposed to” take my kids to school.
Let it go, she sagely advised.
“They’re missing a short day on a sleet day during a pandemic perhaps with a sore throat in the household,” she said. “You’re doing the world a favor.”
Hearing it from a voice outside my own head allowed me to believe it: Sometimes, the right thing to do is different from what you’re usually supposed to do.
I found similar affirmation in Pastor Meg Vail’s Sunday sermon at First Presbyterian Church of Logan. It’s not my congregation, but since my Presbyterian friends are gracious enough to share the link to their recorded worship service publicly, I feel invited to peek in.
The topic was about keeping the Sabbath day holy, one I have pondered many times. I half-listened to the sermon while I busily wiped the kitchen counters and prepped for lunch, thinking about the many, many things I was supposed to take care of before Monday.
But then, the pastor’s voice interrupted my mental checklisting.
“In recent months I’ve discovered that finding time for Sabbath, for holy rest, only happens when I replace the rituals of things and practices that I think I should be doing with rituals that nourish the mind, body and spirit,” she said. “I long for rituals that teach that God renews, heals, guards, mends and redeems.”
The tendency to cope with upheaval by throwing ourselves into “habits that make us feel productive and accomplished, but are not necessarily restful or oriented to wholeness with God, neighbor and self,” Pastor Vail said, are not the most effective way to promote personal spirituality. Deliberate Sabbath practices help us prepare to offer the world our best selves come Monday — mindful, replenished, ready to love and serve.
It’s a Sabbath-specific version of LDS General Authority Dallin H. Oaks’ nudge to carefully evaluate what is good, better and best in our lives, and choose the best whenever possible.
Maybe thoughtful recovery from the busy work week is more important than chores and perceived productivity.
Maybe popcorn and a movie at 10 a.m. with kids on a snowy Wednesday is better than academic learning.
Maybe deliberate mindfulness is the key to making choices you can live with, regardless of what you think you’re supposed to do.
Contact Sally at email@example.com.