Still Days

I am sitting in a hotel room in Minneapolis and it is -2 degrees outside.  The Mall of America is just minutes from my hotel and yet I am sitting here snuggled in my comforter.  The voice that shows up in my head says, “You should get up and get ready.  You should go do something.  Go see the roller coaster…experience life.  You should go check out this or that. You should go meet people.  You are here to do business…get up, go.” And while I would not be thrilled to go out into the frigid weather, that is not the reason I am sitting here still.

There is an energy out there that challenges each and every one of us.  The mentality of having to do more, be more, push to be better, accomplish and achieve, produce on all levels, and prove ourselves and our worth is at times damaging.  The nature of our immediate satisfaction world, coupled with our fast paced lives filled with texts and conversations and posts, creates pressure.  We often experience life in terms of “How would I post this on Facebook?  I have to take a picture for Instagram.”  We love it and we hate it.  I know I am not the only one that fills overwhelmed by the notifications, the emails, the voicemails, the calls at times.  I crave the connections and want to be a part of it, yet sometimes I just want to hide.

I have learned that it is hard for me to be still.  It is hard to disconnect and say, “I’m done.  I need to pull back.  I am regrouping over here and I am not going to push.  I am going to lean in to being still.”

Stillness is critical yet so uncomfortable.  Stillness is just being and feeling and listening.  Stillness is quieting the bossy voice inside and instead gently speaking to our spirit.  “It is good to be still.  Just be.  Just breathe.  Don’t reach for that phone.  It can all wait.  Right now we are just focused on being still.”

I am going to be still.  I have spent the last few years flying here or there, doing all I can, leaving no stone unturned.  I have lived every day to the max and thought that this was wholehearted living.  I thought if I did all I could do, and experienced everything possibly and didn’t waste a moment, I would eventually strike a balance.  I wanted to play full out and I did.  I have given everyone and everything all I had.  We have scheduled time for work and learned to schedule time for play. We made sure that there were times where we were having fun, believing that this would prevent burnout.  And it wasn’t bad, there was plenty of fun and I liked parts of it.

I believed that there was always more I could give because I had learned to rely so greatly on God.  If I didn’t have the desire or energy, He did.  And He came through so many times.  Things I have done would not have happened without his abundant help.  I am not sure at what point it happened, but somewhere along the way I became someone who never stopped, who decided things were okay even when they weren’t.  I pushed even when I didn’t want to.  I faced fears and I ignored my own needs thinking they were small and didn’t matter.  “It’s okay,” I would tell myself.  “I should be happy I get to do these things.  I will have time to relax later.  I can keep going.  It’s only a little bit of time…it will only take me a few minutes to do this for this person…it will be fine…I am happy, I am blessed, I am where I belong.”

And I sort of was, but not completely.  Imagine a symphony only playing in one loud dramatic volume.  It might be fun for a one song, but an entire concert of loud masterpieces would not satisfy the soul.  The best symphonies draw you in with crescendos and decrescendos.  You are able to feel the music in the quiet parts.  The variety of volume is critical to enjoying the experience and certain emotions can only be felt when it is quiet.

I have had a few friends in the last month announce on Facebook, “I’m disconnecting.  Things are fine, but I need to focus elsewhere.  I need to be away from my phone.  I will be back but I am taking a break for a few days.”  I respect that action but think it shows what a crazy world we live in when we have to announce that we need some space.  We all need to give ourselves permission to pull back, to slow down and to be still.  I think it would be awesome if we could just say, “Hey!  This is a still day for me.  I need to check out so I can come back refreshed.”  We could all support each other and say, “Yeah! Still days are the best!  You deserve it!  Enjoy! We will be here when you get back.  Don’t worry about responding to any of our messages and we won’t judge if you are being still for an extended period of time.”  Instead of just celebrating the weekend, we could celebrate Still Days.

Here is my problem, I think I swung so far to the side of being busy and producing and serviceable and engaged that now I crave a huge amount of stillness.  And it is the type of stillness that can’t be ignored. It started brewing last March when  I remember telling my husband, “If we do not disconnect in a major way this summer, I feel like I will snap.  It is critical for me to just have time off where I can’t be reached and where I can just be me.”

We made plans to disconnect from our lives in a big way.  We rented our San Diego home out to our beach-loving friends and we left for about 7 weeks.  We drove through California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Idaho.  Justin flew to Oklahoma and Florida to teach a couple classes and I flew to Washington and Texas.  Then we took our entire family to Aruba for 2 weeks where we recharged.  I felt the trickles coming back in and I celebrated that we had been brave enough to listen to the voice inside that said it was time to rest.  We left Aruba and flew to Virginia where we visited a brand new niece and toured DC in a blitz. From DC, we flew to Atlanta and then drove to South Carolina to visit my Aunt’s bed and breakfast.  Although she hasn’t hung a shingle out, it is better than a real bed and breakfast.  She is a trained chef and we enjoyed her hospitality and the nearby beach. Back to Atlanta for a few business meetings, then finally a flight home to LA where we picked up our car and drove to San Diego.

A magical, unforgettable summer with plenty of breaks, lots of beach time, and a bit of work mixed in.  It was wonderful and yet, when we returned home, my cup was still not full.  Six months later I discovered why.  Although I had insisted upon pulling back and doing less, inside I had so much self judgement about that choice.

I felt bad that I was tapped out and could not give anymore.  I felt bad that I wanted to be still when sitting on a beach and didn’t even desire to chase my kids.  I felt good that I had gotten away but felt bad that I needed the break so bad.  And if you read the schedule we kept, it was both invigorating and exhausting.  And not one time last summer did I tell myself, “I need this.  I deserve this.  It is okay to be still.  Of course you don’t want to run on the beach and it is okay!”  I was never compassionate towards myself.

I justified the experience with thoughts like: “It is good to create family memories so it is okay that we are doing this.  It is giving me time to read and reconnect to God.  I am doing this so I will be ready to go again.”  Those things are all good and true but there was a layer of self-judgement in every city we visited.

I am retraining my thoughts.  I am embracing the days where I get to be still.  I am releasing the self judgement and practicing self compassion.  I am letting go of doing being and having, and just leaning in to the stillness.  I am seeing that God knew what we needed when he said, “Be Still and know that I God.”  He knew there would be people like me who would not know when to say, “Enough is enough.”  He knew that we would be in a busy world with all the contacts we could possibly want coming from a tiny little i-Phone.  He knew that we would crave success and peace and not know where to find it.  He knew that we would engage in good things and still not live whole heartedly.

“Be still and know that I am God.”  I always thought that meant to stop your worrying and trust God to handle things.  I think it also means to literally be still.  Stop. Rest. Be still and trust that He can watch over things for you.  Trust that if you need to be still, He is not going anywhere.  He will still love you because He is God.

He wants us to not just lean in to the stillness, but to actually lean in to Him.  And I thought I was doing that the last few years.  Before committing to working with clients or to being at an event, I would always check in with God.  I could close my eyes in an instant and know if the opportunity was a good fit for me.  But I quit checking in with myself.  I quit asking myself what I really wanted, thinking that if God was good with the plan, I would be good too.  I still think that is true, but I think we were given a brain and a heart that were meant to be used.  We were meant to be involved in our lives and to use our agency.   Now I am bringing my own feelings to the table, knowing that whatever I am feeling is okay and understood by God.  Now I can say, “I’m needing to be still, and I am going to let this one thing go.”I feel the peace come in and I know that God is with me.

When my spirit says, “I’m tired and I want to rest.” I am resting without judging myself for not being motivated to do more.  When my spirit says, “I don’t want to get dressed,”  I am saying a pajama day is okay.  When my spirit says, “I am scared,” I am asking questions and being gentle with myself. When I think, “It’s too cold to go outside!  I don’t want to go anywhere!” I am looking a little deeper.  I am doing a heart check and asking myself what I am really feeling.

I acknowledge that I don’t love the cold here in Minneapolis, but really I want to sit in my little hotel room and just be still. The need to be still is greater than my dislike of cold and snow.   The old me would say, “You have all this time away from kids!  Do the things you can’t get done with them – launch that program, make those calls, go run the errands you can’t get done! Go, go, go!!!”  The new me recognizes that while I don’t get as much done when I am surrounded by my littles, I also don’t rest as much.  With three children and a busy family, still moments are few and far between and a still day is nearly unheard of.  It makes perfect sense to me that when I know they are taken care of and I have a comfy bed to sit in, I would want to just be still.  It is okay for me to lean in to the stillness.

I have discovered that half my problem with being still was the judgments I was making towards myself in those moments.  When we step into self judgement, we do not feel peaceful, accepted, loved, or loving.  It is natural to judge ourselves, but I believe we have to take the next step of self compassion.  Learning and practicing self compassion has helped me to be braver, to love myself and other more, and to be okay with it is happening right now in the moment.

It has since started snowing since I began this journal.  There is no way I am going outside now.  It is a good thing I have such a comfy place to hole up and be still.

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