I am a chronic, mostly unapologetic over-explainer.
I tend to go into slightly more detail than technically necessary when purchasing an item at a store, ordering my food at a restaurant, paying for my groceries, talking to the doctor or pretty much any interaction with other human beings. I make a lot of new friends this way, but I also frequently embarrass my husband and children. In an attempt not to over explain this, here are just a very few examples:
If you receive a gift from me, you are also likely to get a potentially long winded explanation of why I chose that particular gift, what I considered as an alternative, where I sought to purchase said gift, where I eventually found the gift and even, possibly, instructions on how to correctly use your gift.
My daughter and I visited Ann Taylor Loft one day searching for a pair of business-like dress pants for her to wear as a character in a play. In our quest to find just the right pair of black pants for her character, I felt it might be helpful if I told the poor unsuspecting sales lady the entire plot of the play. Thankfully, it was just a one act!
And perhaps my family’s favorite, I once told a waitress that my husband was having a colonoscopy in a couple days by way of explaining why we were ordering a particular modification to our flatbread. Bless. Her. Heart. I wish I had a picture of her face....or my husband's....or my daughter and her boyfriend's....
ANYWAY, why this confession? Because knowing this little tidbit about my character, you will see the conundrum when someone asks me the question, “What do you do?”
I remember when I decided to retire from paid employment right before my youngest daughter was born. One of the things with which I initially struggled was how to answer the question “What do you do?” I often went into an unasked for recitation of my resume; the degrees and certifications I had earned, the kind of work I had done in the past, my last position as a clinical social worker in private practice, before finally saying that I was now home with my kids doing the mommy thing.
Truly, I was not embarrassed or conflicted or even ambivalent (ok, maybe a little ambivalent) about our choice for me to stay home with our kids. I have never once regretted the decision. However, at least at the beginning, I had a hard time with the idea of that being my entire identity. I had worked hard to build my career and I had achieved some success. I loved my work and I took pride in what I did. Truth be told, at that point, I was still feeling somewhat over my head and out of my element as a parent. If I had been a little bolder at the stage of the journey, I would have answered that question by simply saying “trying to keep these two kids alive without them having too much material to talk about in therapy once they are adults..” We were totally making it up as we went along and I wasn't sure I was going to be very good at it.
Fast forward 18 or so years and here I am again in transition. We did it! Through the grace of God, a lot of prayer, and a slightly twisted sense of humor, we have managed to raise these two amazing individuals to adulthood. Too soon to say how much fodder they have for the therapist couch, but they are wonderful human beings and I am proud of whatever contributions I might have made in the process. They are, in some ways, my finest work to date. Now they are both off on their amazing adventures, making their own decisions, and equipping themselves for what I’m sure will be lives of meaning and purpose. I adore them and I have treasured my front row seat in their journey thus far.But that question. Once again, I find myself often faced with that question. “What do you do?”
Well, kind sir or madam, I’m not too sure yet. May I give you a list of my training, job experience, volunteer work, personality traits, the causes I support, my hobbies, my passions, my talents, my loves? I know I SAID in my previous post that I was giving myself time and permission to BE STILL, but it has already been like 3 whole weeks of this empty nest thing. Now what am I going to DO?
But here is some really good news that I’ve learned since I was first struggling with this question 18 years ago: I know that as a follower of Jesus, that it is not what I DO that gives me my value, my worth, my identity, my purpose. I am so much more than what I DO. If I taught them nothing else, I hope I taught my girls that our value and the value of everyone around us is in our identity as children of God. I don’t need to DO anything except say YES to be the recipient of that incredible, healing, fulfilling, extravagant Love. In Him, I am complete, I am enough, I am loved. I truly believe this to be Truth with a capital T and that knowledge does help me as I wrestle with these questions once again. However, I also believe that my identity as a child of God is both a blessing and a responsibility. In gratitude for the grace I have received, I am compelled to DO something with my life, to fulfill my calling, to be a blessing to someone else and to use my gifts and talents for the Kingdom. The question now is what that might look like in this next season of my life.
But do you think that maybe the two paragraphs above are a bit too much explaining if someone asks me “What do you do?” :-)