Can it really be considered peace if the feeling only lasts for a moment, a breath? Is peace when everything lines up, your worries fade, and the future is clear? Is peace when you feel a sense of calm or an awakening of the soul? What does peace look like, feel like? How can I get there?
For those who have followed my story you can guess that a sense of calm and accomplishment is a far fetched dream. With five children, ages 9, 7, 3 and 2 year old twins, life is more like a circus, an unending circle, a balancing act that I’m constantly failing. So I often cling to those brief moments of peace because it feels like I will never have the opportunity to have my heart and mind live there, permanently.
You know, those peaceful moments when you are alone in the car listening to a country song that says exactly what you are feeling. Or that sense of accomplishment that comes when you diligently design a lesson that will elicit the best results, and it does. Or an afternoon spent with your husband, just moving slow, not worrying about the to-do list because the children are with grandpa and grandma.
But peace can be obtained even during the chaos. Vincent VanGogh once said, “there is peace even in the storm,” and this is true, but you have to believe it. You have to change your perspective and you have to trust that your story is more than just this moment in time. Of course peace is found when we have a moment to ourselves, or our work pays off, or we are present in the moment without our thoughts being consumed by the what ifs, worry or fear. Peace can also be found when all five children are calling for “mama,” while a freshly poured milk cup is all over the floor, and at the same time that mama is late for work. How can that be? Because peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.
There are many reasons why I struggle to leave the lake each summer and head home, but one big reason is because when I am there I have a sense of peace. I’m a visual person (my friends will tell this is the case even in odd, weird ways), but I think the beauty of the back drop - the trees, the hill, the water, the wind - it has a way of soothing me, so that when the hardships of being a mom of five, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a perfectionist take shape, I can more easily move through those moments. Having peace within ourselves and in our lives is a choice, but like many I need encouragement to get there and the lake provides not only the beauty that lifts me up, but also opportunities to be flexible, to move slow, to be thoughtful and intentional, and to be present. I think back to one day this summer, when the kids were getting restless and they needed a change of pace, my mom and I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go. We took them blueberry picking at a local farm, then later headed off to Westfield, New York to purchase some infamous Portage Pies, learn a little history about Abraham Lincoln and visit the Barcelona Lighthouse. If those adventures weren’t out of our comfort zone enough, we noticed a beach area close to the lighthouse that had natural freshwater waterfalls and the kids were begging to go and take a dip in Lake Erie and explore the beach. I had no change of clothes, no towels, but I thought “be present, why not.” So they ran and got sandy and wet, they laughed and explored, and it was my favorite day of the summer. They all rode home naked, but what a story! If I wasn’t willing to find the joy in the chaos we would have missed out on that opportunity.
When the scenery isn’t there to bring a sense of calm or remind me to just breath, I have to relay on the belief I have in myself. I am working on my confidence, and finding ways to repel the negative and consuming situations. I can move through hard times when I put the situation into perspective and consider what I can and can’t control. But I’m a doer, and I worry about what people think, so rather than moving me forward, those attributes sometimes result in me being stuck, being frustrated, and being disappointed. If I can find that place where I no longer over-analyze the past as well as worry about the future, I can be present. This alone will allow for peace in my life, even when the flu hits our entire house in the dead of winter, even when everyone’s schedules collide and we don’t have enough hands to manage, even when I falter at my job and I need my peers to lift me up. Being present will help me to make the right choice in my reaction and in result find the calm I am yearning for, and deserve.
We often say when someone passes on that “they are at peace, they are no longer suffering.” But the end of our life is not when peace comes, it can be woven into each and every day. Peace can be present when pasta for dinner turns into a giant mess. Peace can be present when you fall one step behind because of how the day started and nothing lines up. Peace can be present when you feel like you’ve had the same conversation over and over again with your spouse and it’s just not clicking. In those moments though, peace is a choice, it isn’t a giving in, but rather an acceptance that you can live through this moment and come out better. This moment won’t define you, nor will it take you steps backward that you can never recover from.
Inch by inch I’m learning more about peace, I’m learning more about acceptance, and I’m happier for it. It’s not about dismissing perfection as a possibility, but rather accepting the moment for what it is and moving forward while learning from it. Peace is when we are present in each moment.