Written a couple months ago when I went all the way to Canada to hit the “reset” button. This is what I’m striving for in 2020. Want to join me?
*S E L F C A R E*
It’s one of those blog topics that automatically makes me want to barf it’s so millennial. Then again, I love boots and Starbucks, and I upload pics of my dog to Instagram daily, so I might as well fully embrace the millennialism. I’m currently sitting in Ontario, Canada, with my phone off drinking a pumpkin spice latte (see previous millennial note). I drove here yesterday to try something for the first time ever: explore and relax somewhere random – alone.
So far today, I baked myself a huge breakfast, sipped a mimosa by the lake, explored the southern tip of Canada at a national park, and ate an oven-fired maple bacon butternut squash pizza (say that five times fast).
Full disclosure: about two hours ago, 26 hours into this getaway of mine, I inhaled a deep breath of Canadian air, and cried a little.
It wasn’t a long or dramatic cry – just a couple tears. But those tears held immeasurable meaning.
I cried because that breath reached deeper into my body than any air has gone in months – probably longer. Truthfully, I don’t really breathe that deeply ever. I just now am learning that I even have the capability to breathe that deeply.
I tend to go, go, go…then go some more. I love people, and I love making people happy. That sounds really nice and good, but when I never have alone-time, it turns into something ugly, quickly.
Not only do I work full-time with the man I go to bed with (it’s my husband, I promise), but I have a job that’s nearly fully digital. “Alone time” doesn’t just mean being the only person in the room, it means being the only person in the room with no e-mail, texts, or social media. And sadly, I still don’t feel entirely alone when that happens.
The small moments when I am technology-free and alone, my tape is still going a million miles an hour.
“Shoot, I really need to wrap that project up.”
“Well, since I’m not letting myself work, I should really meal plan.”
“What exactly did that email from my client mean the other day?”
“I really need to do a better job at mentoring that college student.”
“Dang, I really stink at studying my Bible these days.”
“I should post that photo to Instagram.”
I may be sipping coffee bird watching on my back porch, but when that tape is running, it’s anything but relaxing. Truth be told, sometimes I hate those moments more than any because there’s an added layer of guilt. Not only am I not working on something “productive” to try to relax, but I’m not even actually relaxing – what a waste of precious minutes!
I get it – I should probably be on anxiety medicine.
Then again, even if not everyone is as mental as I am, I think we all know the feeling to some extent. In a world of Facebook, Instagram, Netflix, and E-mail, true alone time is so much harder to find than it used to be.
Even today, as I was awestruck by the beautiful fall leaves on the hike towards Lake Eerie, I found myself taking photos of everything I found pretty. I wish I could say the images were for myself to remember the trip – that’s partly true. But I wanted someone else to see them, too.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with that in of itself. In fact, I believe sharing our experiences is a good thing most of the time…if done in the right way, with the right motivation. But my camera was snapping photos of waves hitting the shore before my soul captured it.
I’m afraid many of us share things for other people before our heart gets fed at all. I think we get it backward – like their approval will fill our hearts.
Isn’t it a bummer that it never works that way?
We work hard for heart-eyed emojis without realizing our hearts are thirsting for real experiences. The likes, the happy client, checking off the to-do list – those are like sips of wine that trick us into momentary happiness, only leaving us more dehydrated minutes later.
Like a muscle that continually twitches, my need for “productivity” doesn’t simply turn off. The result?
- Anxiety disguised as work ethic
- Neck pain that never lets up
- Exhaustion from the moment I wake up
- Unhappiness amid beautiful things
- Blindness to my true needs
- Deafness to the voice of God
It took Canada, nature, 26 hours of isolation, and intentional nothingness to finally get a deep breath today. I’ve had a few more pleasantly surprising breaths that have gone just as deep since that moment. Maybe you have them all the time. For me, they are breaths I won’t soon forget.
As soon as the air hits the bottom of my lungs, I feel my entire body yelling, “thank you.” I hear my inner-soul whispering, “finally.” I feel my tense neck begging for more. My imagination comes to life. I start feeling my heart’s desire to write.
Want to know a secret? This trip has reminded me that when I spend time with myself, I actually like myself. I actually feel like I’m enough. I like feeling the cold air on my skin, watching waves hit the beach, reading a non-work book, eating good food, writing – by myself, for myself.
I like having space.
Space to feel, space to think…space not to think.
Space to hear God.
Space to remember He is near. To be reminded I don’t have to go to Canada to find Him.
I only need to be still.
I knew that before I came, of course. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do to get still. Hopefully, it doesn’t keep meaning solo trips to Canada, but sometimes maybe it needs to be that extreme.
The fight to be still is worth it.
I don’t know what the fight looks like for you. Maybe you find it on your couch or porch, or at a park. Perhaps you need to get away and have a reset, too. I don’t know where you are, but can I encourage you, friend? Even beg you?
Do whatever you need to do to be still.
To get space. To have breath hit the bottom of your lungs.
Your body needs it, your soul needs it.
When the “productivity” muscle stops spazzing for a moment, everything changes:
- Control turns to trust
- Tension eases
- New energy enters, creativity even
- We remember joy
- We see our needs, and we let ourselves fill them
- We hear that still, small voice we’ve been longing for
Ironically, when we are still when we sit with God, we actually can share our experience with others in a healthy way. Our subconscious motivation is no longer to beg for their approval, but it’s just a result of sitting with God. It’s an overflow.
Self-love is also loving others.
We automatically bring peace, joy, love, creativity, encouragement, hope.
Isn’t that what our Netflix, Email, Facebook, Instagram zombie brains need?
I know Canada won’t solve my issues, but I think the choice to reset and to find stillness is a step in the right direction. 2019 in America is not the easiest time in history to be still. This fight we’re enrolled in is a lifetime battle.
But those of us who choose to fight for stillness win more than any fight for approval can gain us.
So what are our next steps?
For me, it’s waking up early, before the family is up and the emails flood in, and sitting in silence. I require limited distraction in this season, but my “stillness muscle” is developing. I know people who can find complete stillness in a crowded room, at work, in chaos. I long to be that person. I’m fighting to be.
What does it take for you to find stillness? Are you finding it? Do you need a reset? A new plan?
I believe you can do it.
Will you fight with me?
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth.”
QUESTION: What are you fighting for this New Year? Answer in the comments below.