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Life's Little Lessons

"If you ask me what I came into this life to do, I will tell you: I came to live out loud." – Emile Zola

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slow

Tapped Out

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chasing Slow

The perfect ending to my day is a walk with the dog down a hidden path in a farmer’s field not far from my home. It is quiet and serene and leads to an open field by a brook and is as picturesque as they come and if you time it just right, you can watch the sun set behind the Allegheny Mountains.

The problem is, I don’t take that walk all that often and tonight when my feet hit the path, I wish they did.

The list of excuses is extensive; too busy, not enough time and sometimes simply lack of motivation but all in all, I find when I head towards that hidden path, something inside of me breathes easier and the space within me becomes wider which makes room for what and who is important.

And you want to know how I got to go on that walk tonight? I had to say no to something. Actually to someone. I was to have dinner with friends but the day didn’t shape up the way I had planned and consequently, my evening was freed.

But I hated to say no. I kept telling myself for hours I could make it work but honestly, in the long run, I couldn’t. Too full of a day isn’t always best and sometimes you have to be the one that makes the hard decisions for the greater good and tonight the greater good was my family.

I am finding in my fast paced world, I need a lot of slow. A lot. And the only way to slow things down to a pace that is not only manageable but enjoyable is to say no.

Friends that is hard. I hate to disappoint and let people down. I don’t like conveying, “This is not important to me. You’re not.” But people pleasing is often my demise. When you’ve battled fear of rejection most of your life, you long to be accepted and you  become a person who says “yes” like it’s an insurance policy with an affordable deductible. The payment is somewhat doable…at first. But the thing with saying yes all the time is that it has a snow ball effect…one yes turns into another and before you know it, you are giving your time and your energy to things and people you shouldn’t and you can become easily burned out.

Saying yes is like a drug, a way to stay busy and numb out and sometimes the only way to discover why you are on the hamster wheel is to detox your system and your schedule so you can understand why you have a need to be constantly on the go. What are you trying to avoid by remaining preoccupied? It’s a question I have been asking myself. For one, resting and chasing slow makes me feel unproductive and since much of our culture associates productivity next to godliness…I feel as if I “should” be involved in all things, showing up and presenting my smile and doing my part.

Truth is, the core of who I am craves slow and part of me wants to say that’s because I have secretly been an introvert made to think she was an extrovert but I don’t think that’s what it is. I think I began avoiding life and used people and staying busy much like a drug….so I wouldn’t be confronted with being alone with myself and my thoughts.

Now after going through one of the hardest seasons of my life plagued by depression and faced with the harsh reality that I literally am not responsible for anything or anyone but myself, I have been forced to hit the rest button and look at my life and what is my part all over again. Looking back, it’s been a good and needed process though the realities of it all have not seemed so beneficial at the time.

Chasing a slower pace of life has challenged me to look at my time and what I can realistically handle in any one given day. I always believed that I could handle a lot of pressure and stress because I was always forced to but then I looked long and hard at my coping mechanisms and realized that I wasn’t really handling the heaviness all that well. So I am learning to say “no, not now or I have to reschedule.” I am finding that the sky does not fall on my head and that ultimately, I’m the one who has to sleep with myself at night and the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no body happy.”

It’s true.

“If Mama ain’t happy with being with herself, she ain’t happy with being with anybody else.”

Is truer yet.

Friends, please make time for the walk. Your body will thank you but your soul and your spirit will thank you even more.

The Day I Cancelled My Week and Saved My Life

I could feel it coming on, the urge to cancel. To hole up and escape. Every now and then, I find myself longing for slow, for home. I actually find this quite crazy since our home is a complete hub of continuous activity. We have children, five of them, but they aren’t toddlers. They are KIDS, as in TEENS who eat more than my husband and I combined. Kids who are active and stay up later than I do at night. Kids, whom for the love of God, talk ALL. THE. TIME and have their own opinions and schedules. Plus, we own our own business, a couple cows and a pig and home is where it’s ALL at, like literally.

And home is where I most like to be.

So when I get out of sorts and only get to spend snippets of time here, I pray for God to encapsulate our county with a snow storm so we are all forced, as in mandated by law, to stay put. When a snow storm doesn’t hit, I day dream of a real life zombie apocalypse without the zombie’s so I can hunker down for long periods of time and regroup in order to survive. Both thoughts secretly bring a smile to my face and also strike me as somewhat concerning. Is this thinking the onset of my becoming a flesh eating hermit? I call my therapist and schedule a visit and then I check the weather, just to see. Snow is in the forecast but not good snow, just nuisance snow that won’t bury us deep and that doesn’t count. Besides the whooping cough that recently hit our county, everyone seems to be in relatively good health and for this, I give thanks.

But damn. I recently bought milk, bread and eggs. Please don’t let it be for nothing.

I open my calendar and I begin. I cancel everything possible to negate, even the therapy appointment I JUST scheduled. Lunch with a friend. Errands. Doctors appointments. GETTING MY TEETH CLEANED. You name it, if it did not involve my work or the health of my children (like feeding them), it was wiped off the face of this weeks planet. Then the voice of reason rises within me and says, “Was that all really necessary?”

Um. Well yeah. Maybe no.

Years ago I did a personality test that clearly labeled me as an EXTROVERT. It made perfect sense and actually FED my need to GO GO GO. The striver in me LOVED being an EXTROVERT. It was like some little badge I wore, all shiny and freshly pinned. I loved being known as outgoing and involved. It was as if I was an octopus with my right hand in it all but it soon became a crutch and an excuse. Overtime I found myself living in a vast vacuum of contradiction. GO GO GO is not at all WHO I am and I KNEW it. After years of struggle, I realized that SLOW or FAST has nothing to DO with my external environment but my internal one. I realized that guarding is necessary because my internal environment is vitally important and influences my outer environment, just as my outer influences my inner if I’m not careful.

Such a tricky, sticky balance.

Maybe it’s because I’m starting to grow up after all these years. Maybe it’s because I’m settling into my skin and getting comfortable with being ME. Perhaps I’ll be THAT older person; contrary and odd, but I love the quiet to think and just BE as I pine for a slower pace. I crave making time to REST and RECENTER and REGROUP and when I don’t make time to RESET my internal alarm, I get all discombobulated and begin praying for snowstorms and apocalypse’s.

That’s when I hear His voice chide.

YOU did this sister. YOU.”

Because you know, I have a tendency to blame…

And He is right. I forget sometimes that “no” is a word and not just a word in some sentence but a COMPLETE sentence. A COMPLETE paragraph. A COMPLETE book.

No. I cannot be concerned with what someone else thinks when those words cross over my lips. I cannot be bothered with guilt or riddled with shame. The only person who has to live my life at the end of the day is ME and if that truly is the case, then I am the one who will have to live with the choices that I make. Heaven on Earth or hell as a reality…the choice is mine.

Learning to say no when no is needed has actually led me to my YES when my yes is needed. BUT…if I’m tired and have expended all that’s inside of me, I have little to give to my YES and those are very sad moments in my day that take my feet out from under me like quicksand…

My biggest YES are these fine people living in this house I long to be in.

I know now why the Lord created Sabbath (Genesis 2:2). THIS is why He rested. He wanted to enjoy WHAT He had and WHO He had created. He wanted to appreciate them and be filled with gratitude and proper perspective. He RESTED, RECENTERED and REGROUPED. He modeled how to take a day, ANY DAY, and just BE. Jesus often gave up being the center of attention to purposefully retreat to “lonely places” to be with the Father and pray (Luke 5:16). He knew. We need to say NO in order to say YES.

We ALL have a YES and our YES overflows from WHO we are.

Our RESET button continually changes over time and looks different from one another. What brings me REST might not to you and vice versa. Let’s just be ok with that. For me, it is being home. Being HERE, in my crazy house, cooking dinner for my hungry kids. Living in my car as a I zoom kids around. Taking a bath at night and slipping sleepily into bed by 9:00…

We NEED that one day, I most certainly DO. I just totally canceled my whole entire week and all I needed was ONE day to reboot and recharge so guess what? Tomorrow’s back on, I won’t cancel it. I’ll show up confident that I can do whatever is in it without incident. I LIVE in a better place when I make time for a slower pace (ok that was just weird rhyming that I did NOT intend, but I’ll leave it). You get my point?

Guard your heart. Seriously, those are LIFE words. In the end, it is how you will save it. (Proverbs 4:23).

Much Love-

August

Round Table Discussion:

*Do you intentionally set time a side each week to REST, RECENTER and REGROUP? Why or why not?

*What is a RESET button for you?

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