Yesterday, after a Saturday spent in a familiar struggle, I wrote a letter to myself in my journal. I thought I’d share it here, in case some of you could relate.
Here are some things you’ll need to remember: When you’ve been pushing hard and are really tired, you’ll need to rest. You’ll be looking forward to that rest. But when it comes you probably won’t be able to enjoy it very much. It won’t feel nice and peaceful. You’ll feel bored and lonely. You’ll have a migraine and you’ll feel resentful that the migraines are keeping you from leading a normal life. You’ll wish you could be outside taking advantage of the beautiful weather, or at least at the gym exercising. You’ll wish you could be with friends and you’ll start to feel like you don’t have any friends. You’ll think you should be working more and you’ll worry about money. You’ll feel the depression edging in and you’ll start to worry that if you don’t do something it will come to stay. You’ll worry about eating too much or too little, and that if you spend the day lying around you’ll get fat. You’ll question every hour, and if you should be doing something other than what you’re doing.
All of that will happen, as it always does. And you’ll try to reinvent the wheel and reexamine your life and your game plan, every time. The problem is, that’s not restful. So here are the three things you need to know:
- You need the rest.
- You’re doing your best.
- You can trust God to do what you can’t.
Here are some other things to remember:
You used to eat a lot more. Remember those big bowls of popcorn with butter and Parmesan cheese, those variety packs of candy? The salt and sugar from those binges produced dopamine. Eating + watching TV lulled you and allowed your mind to rest. Without the food you’re more squirrely. It’s okay. It was a coping strategy when the migraines and depression were so bad, but it was bad for you. It’s good that your eating is healthier now. But it makes sense that it would take some time to re-learn rest without that coping strategy. Remember the lesson from centering prayer and savasana: Observe your feelings without judging them. And trust that the good habits you’re learning will continue to fill in the gaps left by the bad ones.
Also, don’t compare your life and schedule now to when you were running and exercising hard four or more times a week. You were only working three easy days then, and now you’re working four and two of them are quite hard (three small kids for ten hours). Plus, you get home later, and need to go to bed earlier to wake up earlier. You’re not going to be able to replicate 2011’s schedule of coming home from work and going straight to the gym for two hours. That’s okay. Do a little yoga. Maybe go for a walk — but it’s okay if you’re not even up for that. Your two ten hour work days are like a marathon, and the other nanny days take energy as well. Just listen to your body and do what you can.
And — You’re living well at work! You pay attention, take in the beauty of the days and the children. You have good relationships with the kids and their parents. You use your mind and your body. You laugh and make other people laugh. You exercise — lifting the kids, pushing the stroller, cleaning up after them. You get outside. You do fun things. It’s not a typical social life, but it’s a good life. So it’s okay not to do a lot on your days off — Your days on are packed!
Last thing: You actually do a lot outside of work, too. Just this summer you went to a writer’s conference, went to two of Glennon’s talks in Boston, and went to a Shakespeare play on Boston common. You spent time with Laura, Suzy, David, Megan, Gina, and the Lundquists. You went to Walden Pond, to Crane’s Beach, to Hale Reservation; you swam and kayaked. You went to the library and to the Arboretum, to Lars Anderson park, to Jamaica Pond. You went to church three whole times! You write a blog and are doing a flash fiction contest, you’re on Sarah Bessey’s launch team (#outofsortsbook), you’re in a writer’s group. You keep in good touch with your friends, you visit your parents often and you went to Connecticut to see your brother. You try to be a good friend to Mark and a good housemate to Jill, you offer support and encouragement to commenters on your blog, on Momastery, and on Facebook. You make soup. You do yoga. You keep your house clean and keep more than a dozen houseplants alive. You put out sugar water for hummingbirds and seeds for the other birds.
You read books, albeit slowly. You read articles and blogs. You think deeply about things. You sometimes pray.
You do a lot.
The resting is a part of the doing.
Wow, this really summed up my life. Thank you.
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I love the rhythms of your lists in this post. Writing about one’s life is resting too, I find. A kind of breathing in and out. An act of mercy and of good stewardship.
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Thanks, Judith. I used to journal all the time but I hardly ever do anymore. There’s also something significant about picking up a pen and paper instead of typing on the computer.
Wow. Your summer achievements left me exhausted. Lots of wisdom in here, too. Well done.
Ha, thanks Joseph.
My wife and I both put in full satisfying days at work, plus a full life after. I put my head on my pillow at night, thank God for a great day, and immediatly fall asleep. My wife on the other hand lays there with her mind spinning, can’t sleep, reads a book, and falls asleep after an hour of decompression. She doesn’t think it’s fair!