This post: Life lessons I learned from being on island time for two weeks.
I glanced sideways toward the half-closed door in my daughters’ bedroom. The chatter of my three boys across the hallway invaded the space between the rooms and collided with the voices of my two teenager daughters- neither of whom seemed particularly tired at the moment.
But I was tired.
It was bedtime.
That time of day when my last iota of emotional reserve dwindles away with the sinking sun.
Tonight, like most nights, I found myself “caught” in my daughters’ bedroom, trying to pay attention to their end-of-day chatter while plotting my escape to my own bedroom.
Absently, I wondered how much longer it would be before one of my sons appeared at the doorway, asking for another drink of water.
My daughter’s hand on mine jerked my attention back into the moment.
I looked into her earnest green eyes and sensed she was awaiting a response.
For a split second, my brain scrambled to refocus.
“So… you were telling me about the weekly art class you’re interested in?”
She nodded eagerly, relieved that I’d been listening.
I smiled and sighed a little.
As I resigned into the softness of her comforter, my other daughter- thirteen year-old Emily– hopped up from her side of the room and joined us on Amy’s bed.
The more the merrier?
“The art class is at the same time as Emily’s theater class, Mama,” Amy informed in that persistent way that she is rather famous for in our house. “It wouldn’t be an extra trip to town. Just a little extra money. And I babysit for you every almost every week.” She punctuated that last statement with a grin.
Ever the advocate, this one.
I smiled, despite how exhausted I felt.
“I think that might work, if Daddy doesn’t mind,” I conceded, and both girls squealed in delight.
Amy had spent the past four weeks debating over which elective she wanted to take for her sophomore year. Honestly, I was more than happy at the thought of being done with the decision.
I drew my knees up to my chest and settled back into an over-sized pillow while the girls chattered about the forthcoming lessons.
I couldn’t help it, but my mind drifted just a little. Back to the two weeks Jeremy and I spent in the Pacific this summer.
For a fleeting moment, I closed my eyes and conjured the feeling of having nothing better to do than sit here and enjoy my girls.
That’s the way the islanders seem to live.
I’m not sure what their bedtime routines for children look like, but I was on the receiving end of their time and attention during our six-day stay in Pohnpei, Micronesia.
And I was amazed by their generous capacity to live into the moments and experiences of any given day.
No tasks that ever seeming more important than people or experiences.
We’re on island time, they say.
And “hurry” doesn’t seem to exist in island vocabulary.
“Is your culture laid back?” one of the pastors had asked Jeremy and I over a leisurely Sunday dinner, just hours before our flight back to the States.
Jeremy shook his head while I emphatically replied,
“Definitely not. In America, we have to learn stress management skills or we’ll go crazy!”
I had laughed when I said it, but just now- back at home, in the middle of our crazy world of ministry, parenting, and homeschooling- I wasn’t feeling light-hearted.
Deep down, the constant pressure of just trying to get through one more productive day wears me down. I grow tired of trying to always “keep up” and “do enough.”
Enough for whom and what?
Sometimes I feel like I’m so busy living that I can’t enjoy life, or the people I share it with.
The demanding yet fleeting days of motherhood force me to ponder this island time perspective.
What can I learn from my new island friends and their unhurried pace of life?
I’m pretty sure the answer is a lot.
The truth is, Jeremy and I hit the ground running since our trip to the Pacific this summer.
It’s been two months since the trip, but, honestly, it feels like a world ago.
My sun tan- if you can call it that- is long gone.
I finally outlived the jet lag. (That was brutal, my friends.)
With nearly six weeks under our belts in the new school year, my kids and I have worked our way into a fairly effective schedule.
But I think about living on island time, well, all of the time.
About once-a-week, Jeremy greets me in the morning with a playful, “You ready to go back to the Pacific yet?”
Of course I know he’s kidding.
And of course I’m kidding when I shoot back with a quick, “I’m already packed!”
But the truth is, I long to live on island time.
Not necessarily for the leisurely days spent dipping my feet in the warm salt water (although that was nice).
But for that cultural gift of having time to give.
Time to rest.
Time to focus on the moment, instead of constantly rushing to the next task.
That’s one of the many gifts our time on the Pacific islands gave me.
It’s a lesson I observed by watching, through just a brief window of time, how the islanders live and how they love.
And it’s how I want to live and love.
But translating “island time” into American time currency is proving to be a daunting challenge.
Stacked against the demanding schedule of my life as a pastor’s wife, mom, and home educator, “island time” feels like a luxury.
No matter which way I budget and plan, I constantly run out this currency called time.
In fact, I’m really not convinced that “island time” is a viable currency here in my world.
But I keep pondering and praying for God to refine my priorities, to reframe the context of how I live and how I love.
And the tiniest snippets of “island time” keep showing up in my busy days.
It’s exactly why I settle onto my kids’ beds at night, look into their faces, and listen for as long as I can before escaping to the comfort of my own bed at the end of another busy day.
It’s also why Jeremy and I fiercely protect our weekly date nights as a couple.
Why we set aside as many Friday evenings as possible as family nights.
Why I take a nap every single Sunday afternoon.
Why I try to really listen when one of my kids asks for another piece of my precious TIME and ATTENTION.
Because I know there will always be tasks, and more tasks.
But there will never be another today. Another chance to live and love in this moment.
So maybe there’s hope that somehow-
like the ebbing of the mighty Pacific against the shores of hundreds of Micronesian islands-
slowly, I’ll internalized this gift of time.
And, one day at at time, I’ll give it away a little more generously than the day before.
Here’s to living well-