I’ve spent a lot of years chasing busy. Propelled on by the (mistaken) belief that my life will somehow have more meaning or value if I’m doing ALL THE THINGS.
As one who chose to leave my job and stay home full-time with my children, I admit I desperately missed the stimulating conversation, intellectual challenges and external validation out-of-the-home work offered. (Not to mention a daily wardrobe that didn’t include jeans or sweatpants!)
But with two teenage daughters, a baby and a toddler, it was a decision that made the most logistical sense at the time. The income I was giving up would not have covered the cost of the nannies, housekeepers and drivers needed to keep our family life sane. I don’t think I fully considered the cost to my sanity, or I optimistically believed there wouldn’t be one.
I was wrong.
Please make no mistake, I love my children dearly and am so grateful to have the flexibility to stay home, but there was not a whole heap of external validation or intellectual stimulation coming from my new full-time clients.
Instead, I was
swimming drowning in dirty diapers, potty training, parenting teens, nagging about homework, driving to sports and keeping up with the endless piles of laundry and meals required. Why do they need to eat so often???
Stay-at-home mom is not a label that has ever fit me comfortably.
Truthfully, it was a blur.
Literally. There’s actually a whole period of time during those years in which I have no recollection of actual events. I was just surviving. It was a relentlessly busy season of life.
It was when the teenagers left home and the two younger ones started school that I levelled up in my pursuit of purpose. Originally, I thought I’d go back to work, but had a hard time finding something that I was passionate about that was also part-time and flexible—the unreasonable criteria I set for my next job.
So, in an effort to fill some of the gaping holes I was feeling in my personal life (like my non-existent self-esteem), I dove into volunteer work. Because at a certain point, when people ask, “What do you do?” (and they always ask…) it’s not enough to answer, “I’m at home,” when your kids are no longer there full-time. At least, it wasn’t enough for me.
By then I had been out of the workforce long enough that I couldn’t keep tossing in what I “used to do” before I stayed home either. Ultimately, a lethal combination of shame and feelings of inadequacy threatened to take me down.
It was a list of volunteer titles as long as my arm that finally offered some legitimacy to my lack of professional employment. I heaped commitment on top of commitment simply because I could.
- Because it made me feel good to be using my brain again. (Not that I stopped using it altogether, but ‘work’ brain feels different from ‘home’ brain.)
- Because I had skills.
- Because I was capable.
- Because I had time.
- And, quite frankly, because this people-pleaser struggles to say no.
All those jobs though, even though I was good at them, didn’t bring me the joy or satisfaction that I craved. The actual fact was this: they just kept me busy.
A little health scare this past spring was a necessary eye opener. (Isn’t that always the way?) Many of you know I’m navigating a journey with cancer that, to be honest, has not been onerous to this point. I’m so grateful. But I know that, at some point, this journey will get hard. (If you want, you can read a bit more about my diagnosis here.)
At the moment, we’re watching numbers: white blood cell counts, platelet counts, red blood cell counts, haemoglobin levels. On paper, the numbers look bad. People who know about these things kind of look at me sideways when I tell them; but my outward physical health remains good. (Praise God!)
This spring, my oncologist ordered some additional genetic tests, which, if positive, would dramatically alter my prognosis. It would take my comfortable, highly-responsive-to-treatment disease and turn it into a treatment nightmare with a prognosis of anywhere between 10 and 30 months. On average, two years. That’s it.
What would you do if someone told you that you had two years to live, give or take?
Well, let me tell you what I did: I freaked out a little. (Or a lot, depending on who you ask.)
Side note: the test results were negative! (Also, praise God!)
But during the month of unknown, between taking the test and getting the results, I turned my life upside down.
Instead of chasing busy, I have become relentless in my pursuit of rest.
There is nothing like a good health crisis (Or any other kind of traumatic circumstance) to help crystallize what’s truly important and where our priorities lay.
I don’t mean to sound glib, because I know firsthand that these are the things that shake us to our very core. A marriage falls apart; a child dies, someone close to you gets grievously ill, you lose your job, the list goes on. These are the things that bring us to our knees.
For me, it was a welcome wake-up call. I’ve been chasing busy at the expense of living my best life. And even though we know that no one is getting out of here alive, a prognosis with a date attached somehow makes it real.
This is where I’m at now.
I’ve taken a step back from every single volunteer commitment I had, (a.k.a. ALL THE THINGS) and you know what? The world has not ended. Other capable and skilled humans are still doing all the things.
And I’m spending my time working on a project that is near and dear to my heart. Because now is when I have the time and the health to do it. I have put it off for way too long—using busy-ness as my excuse.
And I’m chasing rest. Because rest is as much a part of God’s plan for our lives as is work. (He built a day of rest right into the week, people!)
“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.” ~Genesis 2:2-3
As my disease progresses, my body is telling me it needs rest. As much as I don’t like it, I realize I can’t accomplish as much in a day as I used to be able to. And if I need to do something in the evening, chances are good I’ll need a mid-day nap to get through it.
But I am also realizing anew that meaning and purpose will never be found in the midst of the crazy pursuit of busy-ness; it has to come from within. I’m discovering a soul-rest that I haven’t experienced before, and I love it.
Are you missing out on your best life as you relentlessly pursue busy? How can you build rest–both physical and soul-filling–into your life this week?
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart,
and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
~Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT)
It’s difficult for me to separate the term ‘rest’ from the need for a nap. But rest encompasses so much more than just physically stopping our bodies. In our relentless pursuit of busy–“endless demands and stifling routines” we have lost the ability to experience rest for our souls.
In his book, The Rest of God: restoring your soul by restoring sabbath, Mark Buchanan addresses how “Sabbath is essential to our full humanity and faith.” The notion of Sabbath is not just going to church on Sunday morning, it’s taking the time to rest, play, replenish, and live more fully. Whatever day of the week works best for you and in whatever way that speaks to your soul. Maybe it’s hitting the mountain trails, a solitary walk in the woods, turning the soil in your garden? What are the things that fill you?
One of the things I’m particularly sensitive to is physical clutter. For me, it translates directly into mental clutter, and undermines my soul-rest. Unfortunately for me I live with other humans and “stuff” is a part of life. And, also unfortunately for me, I work from home, in the midst of all the stuff.
My husband bought me The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish way to live well for my birthday and I’m loving it! First of all, can you believe there is such a place as the Happiness Research Institute? Second, it talks about little ways that we can create a feeling of well-being within our homes. Since I spend so much time here, I want to invest in creating an environment that is conducive to rest: body, mind and soul.
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I’m doing my best at navigating the twists and turns of this life with faith, hope and humour. Putting one foot in front of the other, and—hopefully—not in my mouth.
Based on my previous track record, I don’t promise that my posts will be consistent, or inconsistent, but I’ll try for amusing. At the very least, I hope you’ll come away feeling a little better about yourself.