I was on the phone with the friend the other day who asked me, “What are your plans over Christmas vacation?” To which I quickly replied, “My plan is to breathe.” She laughed, saying “Oh, I totally get that.”
[bctt tweet=”My plan for Christmas break is just to breathe.”]
You feel that way too? At least we’re in this together, right?
In my life, it’s not typically giant life events that suffocate the breath right out of my lungs. It’s more often this small frustration and that responsibility and too little sleep for a few nights and all of this over days and weeks that add up to my forgetting to inhale deep and exhale long.
Breathing is involuntary, but what’s not are all the things that make me feel alive. Spending time in The Word is voluntary. Rest–true rest, without cell phones and television and distraction–is voluntary. Cooking or writing or walking without hurry are all voluntary. Taking a long, hot bath without thinking about what’s next? Voluntary.
And so I breathe in and out involuntarily but still my lungs are full of less and less air and that feeling of being alive–it’s slowly fading. Anxiety takes its footing, right beside feeling overwhelmed, and a sense of being less than enough. Survival mode kicks in. I breathe shallow. In. Out. In. Out.
At first I tell myself I just have a busy day, or a busy week, or it’s just this month. (If you’ve ever worked in ministry, you’re laughing.) But those pacifying lies keep me from a life where I actually feel alive. Instead I run on my hamster wheel and make it. I may not be living, but I’m making it…they’re really the same thing, right?
No. No, they’re not.
The past few months I’ve been in the fight of my life, for my life.
I came home from work one night, deflated. I sat down on my couch, stared at the wall, and thought enough. Enough! I am not a shell. I am not helpless. I am not a victim. Indeed I am empowered and capable. I am able to make a change.
So it’s been a process of prioritization. What do I need in my life? What do I want in my life? What can go? What should go? What needs to go? How can I simplify? How can I streamline? When can I make time for pursuing my interests? When can I make time for my friends?
I grabbed my Bible and borrowed my friend’s copy of Boundaries (highly recommend it), and began chipping away at these questions.
I’ve gotten rid of things that I thought I wanted to keep, like my custom infographic Etsy shop. (And more importantly, said no to several client inquiries post-shop shut down.) I streamlined my blog sponsors. I took control of my email by both combining all my accounts into one organized inbox and unsubscribing from hundreds of newsletters.
I’ve added things that I hadn’t made time for in a while, like girl’s nights and coffee dates. (Still working on daily time with Jesus…sadly this is the most important and yet the easiest to pass over.) I picked up a couple of new hobbies, like learning calligraphy and hand lettering. I pulled out my watercolor set and spent a few evenings painting without a time limit. I’ve allowed myself to sleep in and lay on the couch and read and be–all without a twinge of guilt.
I’ve started to draw boundaries around work, like taking personal time off in the morning after a late-night event the day before. I’ve tried to work from home at least once a week as a way to both be productive and rest a little (PJs are allowed for scheduling and emailing, right?). I’m getting a better handle on delegation and saying “No, I can’t do that,” or “I’ll need more time to complete that task,” or even “I’ll need help to do that well.”
…the list goes on. Both the list of all the ways I’ve fought back and the other list of all the ways I’m still fighting.
It’s been slow and tough (a little like walking through thick mud), but rewarding and worth it. I was listening to Christmas music in the car when I heard the line “Let your heart be light,” and I cried. Because, FINALLY, my heart is light again. And FINALLY, I can breathe.
Can you relate? I’d love to hear your story, too.