I was on vacation last summer when the realization washed over me. I had been in a state of perpetual motion for longer than I could remember. I was always busy, but I was painfully aware that I wasn’t spending time on the things that really mattered. I felt empty inside. Something had to change.
When we returned home, I dedicated myself to what Matt and I lovingly called my schedule diet. I had been working on a grant project that was ending so I suddenly had significantly fewer commitments. It was a perfect time to make some adjustments. Foolishly, I thought it would be easy.
I was wrong.
Do you know much about dieting? Successful dieting is a combination of subtracting and adding. One must decrease things like junk food and extra helpings. At the same time, one must also add things like exercise and healthy foods.
For my schedule diet, I had to decrease some activities that were important to me. I had said yes to them for a reason. It was uncomfortable to see the looks of surprise or disappointment on the faces of people I care about when I told them I couldn’t keep doing for them what I had been. And while that was hard, it wasn’t near as challenging as what I had to increase. In order to understand my desire for too much on my schedule, I needed to add times of stillness. I had to spend time reading, praying, and thinking about how I got to where I was in order to avoid picking up another project and continuing at this pace.
It was painful for me because I realized that many of the things I spent my time on were numbing me from my life. I didn’t feel good about myself when things got quiet, so I didn’t let them get quiet. I felt better about myself when I was accomplishing things, organizing things, completing things. So I stayed in productive mode. It helped to drown out the voices that chanted to me… you know you’re not enough.
When I got quiet, the chanting got louder. That part was really hard. I had been a Jesus follower all my life and yet I had been building my life on the unstable foundation of accomplishment. I was disappointed in myself and unsure of how I could plant my feet on the ground that was more solid.
Slowly I have begun to rebuild a different relationship with myself. I have been reading books that are helpful. I have been teaching bible studies that remind me how much God wants my dedicated heart. I have found clarity by writing about my experiences. I have connected with a Daring Way coach (someone trained in Brené Brown’s research). She assists me on this journey by asking me important questions. I have dedicated myself to living with the uncomfortable today in the hope of a more peaceful tomorrow.
I still have a lot to learn. But I do know something. Today is a good day to begin. If you feel like your life is running you, you can apply the brake. It’s not easy, but it is possible. The world will always call us, taunt us even. Do more. Produce more. Accomplish more. Say yes to more. The world will tell us they won’t like us if we say no. It will tell us we won’t measure up if we rest. Let it. Because the world will tell us that no matter what we do.
Successful weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. Neither will this. It will take time. But we will see results when we decide to add time for honest reflection and subtract activities that are a distraction. One small and steady step at a time, friends. That’s all we need to do. Peace!