I watched this week. I watched as tweens and teens gathered together for a revival, of sorts. A time to get together and revive their faith, restore their souls, and regain a bit of understanding that life, while not always simple, is a good thing to get to live.
We headed to the mountains of Colorado. A place of majestic landscapes. A place that is a tiny step back in time. On a Y camp with tiny log cabins and dorms and an arts and crafts lodge. A place where cell service is irregular. And a place of a slower pace.
When I woke each morning and got ready, I realized I didn’t have to do any dishes that day. I didn’t have laundry to lather, rinse, repeat. I didn’t have to plan out my schedule… that was determined for me. I just got to be.
That’s a rarity in this day and age. Isn’t it?
When was the last time you just got to be? Do you know? Especially those who have kids or jobs or spouses or living spaces to tend to. When so much of your life is based on getting people where they need to be. Or getting the house picked up in a window of time. Figuring out meals. Or finding the other shoe that just absolutely cannot be located. It’s rare to be able to be calm.
Be of the moment.
I walked all around our campground. Alone. I paid attention to the views and the buildings. I engaged in a meditation activity. I listened to my breath. I heard my shoes scraped on the gravel. I found myself using a paper map of the camp. Knowing I had three to four hours of alone time, I just walked. And walked. And hiked. And explored. And it was restorative.
So much of life actually sucks livelihood out of you — having to break up your kids’ bickering, having to make sure clothes are ready for the next day, having to make sure your career is on track — that you feel drained at the end of a week. A day. A minute. And then, there is no time to truly rest.
Even though our children or spouses add to our lives, it often means we are never truly alone with our thoughts. Even though our jobs and passions are our identity, of sorts, they mean we always have something that needs our attention or time.
We have phones in place of maps. Or books. Or even, for some, friendships. We have an app for it all. We have something that needs us every waking hour. Something that begs us to hold it in our hands and be drawn to a screen that supplies our minds more stimulation than one really ever needs in any given week. Hour. Minute. And we cling to it like it is vital to our existence, at times.
But yesterday, I rested. I looked up instead of down at a screen. I didn’t have a computer to write when I had thoughts circulating so I pulled out a notepad. And I doodled and just sat. And there I was, refueling.
I was alone. I don’t know the last time I was alone that didn’t include a toilet or anesthesia. I was alone with my thoughts. With me. With God. I was able to think so much I did not have to overthink. After about a half hour, I actually started to stop spinning. And just be present.
It was insanely refreshing. And I felt like my basket had been filled.
What a reminder it was to me that we MUST take time in solitude. We must take time to close our eyes and meditate or pray or think out our worries or frets. And about gratitude and enjoyment. We must find a way… ANY way… to get a date with the most important human in our lives… ourselves… because we will know ourselves the longest of anyone and we need to make sure we can last it out.
I do take intentional breaks from technology and indoors and others. When I got sick, I started to think more about how my time was being spent. And so I do try to recognize who the person I’m toting around is. Because she is a person who deserves my attention.
But that is no easy feat with children, is it? Because they need us. Everyone needs us. We have to do all the things for all the people who need all the things. That is our job as moms. Wives. Women. Employees. People. The job of husbands. Fathers. And the like We are to arrange and puppeteer. We are to create these picture perfect little corners to share in tiny squares on social media. We are to be it all. Serve to all.
But what if we weren’t? What if we, like I did this past week, got to unplug, unwind, and rejuvenate our bodies… our hearts… our minds? What if we didn’t have to make sure everything for everyone else was perfect?
Guess what? That can be a real thing.
We can be that thing that some believe to be selfish. We can give ourselves a true break. Because in an ironic way, I believe that — choosing to be alone — is actually selfless. Because when we water our own garden, we don’t get so stuck in the weeds. When we feed our own souls, we are no longer walking around drained and on empty.
We need to give ourselves a break.
“That’s impossible.” You say. “I have a baby and I have to feed it and calm it.” Yes. You are right. You have a responsibility to your baby. But what if you got a sitter for two hours and went to work out? Or went for a walk without your phone? Or sat on a park bench and read or just thought? Or sat in the car and listened to Taylor Swift music and ate candy corn? Would that 2 hours make you a worse mother because you left your child? I don’t think so. Because sometimes the greatest responsibility is to be able to be a good person for your little humans and I think getting there all the time… well… that takes rest.
“That’s impossible.” You say. “I have to cook meals. And clean the house. And nourish my children’s souls daily.” Sure. You are right. But what if you feed the kids cereal once (or 4 times) a week? What if you removed the stress of mealtime and just counted your blessings when you all gather around the table for a bit, regardless of what’s on the menu? What if you have someone else clean your house because that is a possibility for you financially and it makes your life easier? What if you leave the laundry for another day? Will the world stop turning? I highly doubt it.
“But I can’t.” You say. “I have a huge project at work. I can’t possibly take a s.i.n.g.l.e. moment of time off. I must run from meeting to meeting like a mad woman. I must show up at work or I won’t be seen as a contributor.” Because that is our culture. GO. GO. GO. Can’t stop wont stop. But what if you took an afternoon off? What if you took the time and laid out at the pool or decided to volunteer or walked around a trail or sat in a coffee shop with a crossword puzzle or a journal? What if you sat out in the breeze and listened to an audio book?
Could you just be?
Could you possibly just let go and step outside of your career life long enough to realize you shouldn’t live to work? Because I think you can get there.
But it requires you to stop.
I stopped this last week. I didn’t have any projects or deliverables. I didn’t have to be in charge. I didn’t answer emails or tend to writing. I just got to be. Me.
And you might say, “but that’s easier for you because…” fill in the blank. Because I stay home. Because my kids are different ages than yours. Because my husband and I balance our “duties” in life. Because… because…
But I assure you… taking a week away or a day away or a morning away for me… that takes work and logistics and even causes some initial guilt. But it always ends up being worth it.
And I challenge you to do it, too. To find a way to live in a state of rest. One without distractions. One focusing on relationships. One that let’s you feel like you can breathe in and out without the weight stacked upon your chest. One that allows you to make your life’s work, that of becoming yourself, one of your priorities.
What if you didn’t do it all and you just took a rest? What if you stopped and looked around… used a paper map… and went on an adventure? What if you just let everything else just stay there? Because I can guarantee it will be there for you when you return. In fact, as long as we live and breathe, something will always need to be done.
And be kind to your soul.
If tweens and teens are able to ease into the idea, even though it took a few days to detox from lack of technology and screens, certainly we adults can make it happen over time, as well. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture but rather a small step towards the concept of resting. Of being. Of just quieting our minds.
Today we return to life as we know it. Life full of stuff and responsibilities and the weight of to dos. And we will get further and further from that mountain high of feeling free and grounded. And so I write these words as a reminder to myself: just be with yourself. Feed your life. And see how much better of a you you will become.
And then you can get back to your normal pace… that of: Go. Do. Repeat.