For about the past two months, I’ve found myself at a whole new level of discontent. One that I’ve relentlessly tried to manage through planning, scheduling, and a rigid routine--none of which ever fully gets carried out. I’ve managed to convince myself (up to this point) that if every day my house is cleaned up, if I get my work (personal and paid) done, type something for the blog, get my run in, read my Bible, volunteer, feed and care for myself, Isaac, David and the dog, then I will be happy….A little unrealistic? It’s no wonder that at the end of every week I find myself the exact opposite--unhappy. Not to mention a tad bit angry and drained from the fact that I fall short on those goals repeatedly.
In trying to make all of that happen, I’ve managed to be living a pretty hurried life. And you know what? I’m not the only one. One of the Bible studies my husband and I are participating in has involved us reading John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted. These pages cover a diversity of spiritual disciplines, using a vocabulary that is easily understood by those of us who are NOT Bible theologians - for which, I am thankful...Anyway, this past week we read about the discipline of solitude, and how that relates to the hurried lives that many of us live. I could deeply relate to the notion presented in the chapter that we’ve become obsessed with trying to pack our days full of responsibilities and activities, so as to make the most of our time. When in reality, doing so only causes the days to go by faster, and for us to miss out on being fully present with the people surrounding us. In other words, while we are trying to stretch time, we’re actually just shortening it.
I started thinking about Isaac. And the fact that many of my days amount to mere checklists, while he gets left to play by himself because Mommy is “too busy” with those checklists. I started thinking about the fact that I decided to stay home after giving birth to him so that I could be present with him as he grows up. In fact, my original checklists and schedules were developed to help me be intentional with my time, so that again, I could be present with Isaac while still getting stuff done. But at times they seem to have taken over the spotlight.
In his book, John Ortberg writes that “Hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” That hit me hard. He then goes on to talk about the fact that hurry and loving the people around us are two incompatible things. Because love takes times. A diminished capacity to love is, as he states, “the most serious sign of hurry sickness.” Tied to that principle, he talks about sunset fatigue, which he defines as finding ourselves at the end of the day so burned out, so exhausted, as well as preoccupied, to love the people around us that we claim are the most important, and to whom we have made the greatest commitments. Again, that just hit me hard.
I could relate to what he was talking about WAY too well. Lately, there have been more times than I care to admit where David arrives home from work to me completely shutting down. Rather than be sweet to him, I sit there and complain about how hard I think my life is, which is really only as challenging as I make it. I’ve been tired...And you know what? I’m tired of it!
So the other day, with my newly realized need for slowing down in my life, I made a conscious decision to prioritize my time. I could have spent an afternoon working, actually typing up a post, and feeling poorly about not spending quality time with Isaac, OR...I could spend some quality time with Isaac. Simple as that. Forget “the responsibilities” (that honestly could wait another day) and just have fun. Rather than stress about the things in my life that I actually have some control over, I decided to go on a stroll with Isaac to our local nursery to look at plants and flowers, and to be intentional in my time with him.
I’ve been considering how this relates to self-care and the wellness of our bodies. And this is what I’ve come up with: sometimes self-care doesn’t involve what we DO, but rather what we DON’T do. In other words, cutting back or setting aside a responsibility for a time is another form of self-care. That responsibility really isn’t going anywhere, and it can probably wait to be done at a more suitable, and less stressful time. Stress does in immense amount of damage to our physical selves. We owe it to ourselves, and our families, to save ourselves some stress.
Rather, let’s stroll more often. Every once in awhile, let’s take our kids to the park instead of sweep the floors. Let’s read a book or watch a movie, instead of working out. Let’s hug our husbands instead of complain to them. Let’s allow ourselves to take a breath, and to savor the moment instead of be stressed by it.