I am away on a writing vacation, which means that I work, but in a quieter place, in lovely serene surroundings, and I get to sleep more hours, and eat well, and just be in the present, while I try to reconnect with God, in a meaningful way, and get back into the writing that I need to do. Sounds fairly simple, right? Not actually …..
I heard an advertisement this morning on television that said, “It’s always better when you can do two things at once.” I don’t know if you believe that. I make a career out of multi-tasking. I try to make the best use of time that I can, because I always have more and more to do, and I take on things that I should probably farm out to other people. I have had a friend staying with me recently that makes me make eye contact when they want to talk, and doesn’t allow me to do two things at once, or three. He has helped pick up some of the slack, and is working on bookkeeping while I’m away. I have been working at not taking everything on.
The second night I was here, I was up in the night crying. I have been so busy for so long, and so occupied, that I have been pushing God away. It’s quite easy to push away what is important with the busy-ness of life. I know that when I pay attention to God, and accept what needs to happen in my life, I do better, but I really do my best to avoid it. C S Lewis talks about this in The Business of Heaven, p. 244-45:
“I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys: I am even anxious, God forgive me, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under threat because it is now associated with the misery of those few days. Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything else away from me. Let Him but sheathe that sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over – I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.”
I so much become that puppy. I have to find a way to create balance in my life, or at least a life that is connected to the holy more regularly. I need to make time to be quiet.
It’s been a week now, and I’m still struggling at times. I get to eat when I want to, and sleep when I’m tired, and be with people a lot, and just enjoy the space. I also need to be part of the quiet, but I know I am drawn to noise, and activity. I like something going on in the background. It somehow keeps me focused, and I let that happen too often at times, instead of just trying to be quiet in the moment.
I have stress in my life. I have physical issues, and work issues, and increasing demand from clients in a soft economy, and if there’s anything that can go wrong with my house, it will. I have adult children with learning disabilities, and with medical issues. I have friends who are so depressed they have no will to live, and somehow keep putting one foot in front of the other, but I worry about the day that will stop. I don’t ever seem to make much money, and I’m moving into a time when we will need to be renovating two or three areas of the house again. There’s always something with the house, like most houses. This reno will involve asbestos removal, for the second time. I have clients who are struggling with enormous levels of stress. The face of my business is changing. I am always behind with writing and working on the things I enjoy. I cannot even begin to get to the things I want to do, and I am working on new revenue streams, that involve things I enjoy doing, but I need more space. I know about stress.
I also know that if I eat protein several times a day, and I exercise regularly, and I do things that are fun and healing for me, I manage my stress levels better. I know that nurturing friendships and taking time to do these kinds of things – ie. writing – are very helpful for me. I know that spending time in worship and connecting with the spiritual world initially takes a toll on me, but it’s healing, and I can manage life better. I don’t do the things that I know. I need to start doing that after I return. The first week is insane. I have a lot of things going on that week, because I will have been away from clients for 2.5 weeks, and I don’t earn money while I’m away, so I need to work as much as possible when I get back to make up for lost time.
We live in a world that wants more and more out of less and less, especially in North America. We don’t take lunches or breaks, or holidays. We start work early, and we work late. We don’t take time with ourselves. We spend time with friends and family on text, and email, but not in person. We don’t spend ‘face’ time with our partners, friends and children, and we wonder why our relationships are failing. We grow apart, and we can’t imagine where we went wrong. We drift through life without any real connections, and we drag our stress along with us. We use media to keep us away from closeness that hurts, instead of figuring out why that’s happening, and work on it. We do the least we can with the least amount of investment, and we cannot imagine why our lives are stretched, and we feel like everything is taut all the time. Sometimes we keep the distance through addictions and affairs. We do not talk about the difficult stuff. We pretend it’s not there. Technology has been said to be a very important part of our lives, and it is, but we need to be in control of the technology, rather than the other way around.
Part of the reason that psychotherapy works is because we develop that connection and bond. People are dying to have that connection with another person. We need to take the time to nurture connections, and allow time with others. We need to make our lives more about us, and less about being busy. When we take care of ourselves, we have more to give others.
I know this is not a popular message these days, but good self-care, and taking time away from work, will go a long way to making stress more manageable.