Last weekend I came home from a two-week trip; one week to California to celebrate my daughter’s graduation and the other to South Carolina to visit my grandson and his parents (in that order). Since both my daughter and son are in the military, intentional time with them is not only necessary, it is precious. It was a fantastic two-weeks packed full of new adventures and good memories and I’m grateful I was able to set the time and money aside. If you ever want to know why I have a part-time job at a Beer Stube…this.
But here a week later, I find myself waking up already tired for the day. Already behind. Already done. I realize I’ve been going non-stop since I got home. Life is good, but a busy life can be a draining life and I am drained.
So yesterday I said no to something I really wanted to say yes to and reset my life. I went slow, took a nap, was intentional with my conversations, did the dishes and ended up in bed on time. It was a conflicting decision to make but one that needed made because when you are tapped out mentally and physically, chances are it’s because you haven’t been taking the best care of yourself.
And I haven’t.
In the last three weeks, I’ve traveled thousands of miles in theory and in reality. I sat on seven different airplanes and heard the same speech seven different times. When you fly on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs you to put your oxygen mask on first, before helping others. Why is this an important rule for ensuring survival, you may ask? Because if you run out of oxygen, you can’t help anyone else with their oxygen mask.
Looking back now, I probably didn’t have my own oxygen mask on this past week, maybe the past three. The over-achiever in me has died a gruelingly painful death over last few years and I no longer have the desire to collect the accolades and trophies that I did in my 20’s and 30’s, but I do feel the pressure to pack my life full of activity and maximize my time by doing all I can and making the next 45 years better than the last. And the last couple weeks have been packed full and then some.
And I know I am not alone. Many of us have homes we rarely live in, tables we rarely eat at and dogs we rarely walk. We are busy for all sorts of different reasons both intentional and precious, but if we are not careful, we get distracted by our busyness while little foxes sneak in and steal our time and our energy, leaving us waging battles on foreign grounds.
If life in the slow lane appeals to you, as it does me, here are some things I’ve found helpful to escape the rat race and enjoy a simpler, healthier life (even in the midst of a very large and crazy one):
- Choose 3 things to accomplish each day. I know, you could probably come up with a list of 100 things, but don’t. You don’t need to prove anything so keep this number manageable and small. Keeping the list this size will force you to decide what’s really important day to day. Trust me. When you finish the list, the rest of the day is yours to do whatever you want to, not have With this approach you’ll be completing 21 important tasks a week. Seriously, I feel like I am winning at life when I go low and slow. If you do your three things and still feel like you’re drowning or being hit by a train repeatedly, reevaluate your commitments.
- Learn to say “no.” Stop taking on more responsibility. Again, you will not win a prize for being the most stressed-out overachiever in your circle of friends. Volunteering is a noble way to spend your time, but stretching yourself too thin can rob you of what and who you say is important to you.
- Be unproductive.Even if you can only manage 20 minutes a day at first, do it. Don’t read anything to further your career or impress your friends. Do something useless like walking into the yard in your bare feet just to feel the earth between your toes. Pick the honeysuckles that grace the farmers field and then try to get the “honey” out of suckle. Sit on the floor with your dog and get all covered in their hair. Dig back into your memory bank, because most of this stuff are things you probably did as a kid when your gusto for living a simpler life was the real deal.
- Only check your email twice a day. This includes twitter, Facebook, stocks, sports scores, blog stats – anything. Checking these sites can become an addictive habit which steals time you could spend doing stuff that actually brings you joy.
- Embrace quality over quantity. Listen to your Knower. Know what you need in the season of life that you are in and then hone in on it. Become a Specialist in that particular area. Listen to those Podcasts, read those books, go to those places, with those You don’t have to do or know it all, but what you do and what you do know, show up and give it your best.
- Find a hobby. This is YOUR oxygen mask. Most times, we are too busy doing for others that we forget to do for ourselves. If you’ve been fed the lie that taking time for yourself is selfish, let me be your truth teller. You are essential personnel. The end. Find an oxygen mask and then regularly use it.
- Spend time with people you love. Have you ever stopped and thought about WHY you are doing what you are doing? WHY is your life going 100 MPH? WHY are you working all the time? WHY are you ragged and worn out? Is your answer bringing you closer to or further from your inner circle of people? Relationships form the backbone of life. Sharing who you are, your hopes and your fears with another human is the surest way to slow down and enjoy life. Without close contact with other people, we grow into cold, lonely doings instead of human beings. I don’t want that and neither do you. Make time single.day to spend with the people in your life that you love. Nothing else is worth doing.
The truth is, you can do all these things; you can say no all day long and be as unproductive as you want while your feet are buried in your backyard’s dirt but if you are not intentionally being present in the moment that you are in, slowing it down won’t matter. You need to figure out, why you’re tapped out because sometimes, a day at home won’t make things better. They won’t make YOU better.
Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place.