I think we think so often that when we’re absolutely running on empty we need to do something big. Head off to a monastery, a hotel, a family member’s house- leave all the cares behind, rest and recuperate and then have a fresh start. And seriously, if that’s within your resources to be able to do that, then by all means, do it! But I find it to be pretty rare that most of us can do something like that. We have to start with smaller steps to finding that wholeness.
It first starts with saying no. It means backing out of every obligation we have, good or bad. The bible study, the soccer team, the sunday school teaching. The boys scouts. The local home group. The part time job that may be paying some bills but is absolutely draining you dry physically and emotionally- it’s not worth it. Whatever it is, it all has to go for a while. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, especially the good stuff, the stuff we love. But it has to.
It means simplifying our lives as much as possible. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have a support group around you that could bring you meals. Be honest with them about your needs and it just might happen. Go to the grocery store and load up on frozen meals or easily prepared meals (we’ll get to the food later). Pull out the disposable plates and utensils. If you’re potty training a kid, take a break (trust me on this!). You are sick (in heart) and you need to treat it as such. This is the time to pull out that movie the kids have really been wanting to watch- the electronic devices, anything that helps. And then, for at least a few days, do nothing but rest. If it means the kids have to go around in nothing but undies, do it.
Why is it that we are completely willing to acknowledge that our children don’t make good decisions when they are exhausted, tired, and hungry, and yet most of us adults spend most of our waking hours in that state? And then we expect that we’ll make rational decisions?
This is why I have learned to rest and re-fuel first before trying to make decisions or facing a transition. I also want to gently point out that this is not a one and done thing. Life doesn’t have one big transition and then it’s all downhill from there- far from it. There are peaks and valleys, surprises, joys, sorrows. We will find ourselves in this place of needing to re-evaluate from time to time.
I’ve noticed a few things that seem to fall by the wayside for me leading up to the “I can’t do this anymore!”. Any of these slipping out of the schedule should be automatic red flags to me, especially when I am too busy or too harried to pray. These are usually the first things I pick back up after the rest period. They are (in no particular order):
- prayer and attention to my spiritual life
- healthy food available
- creative endeavors (painting, scrapbooking, sewing, knitting, etc.)
- time to read good books
- time to spend with my family unharried
If there has been a constant state of depletion, this re-fueling period should be much longer. You simply cannot pour out if you are not being poured into, period. It doesn’t work.
Somewhat concurrent to this, I take stock of where things stand. Why was I to the breaking point? What needs were not getting met? Did I ignore the road-signs and if so, which ones and why? What can I do to ensure those fueling activities stay firmly in my days? Has something changed in the family dynamic that needs attending? Is a routine no longer working? Have we been spread too thin? Or do we need to re-allocate resources?
If you’ve taken the time to rest and re-fuel, those problem areas and needs will probably make themselves pretty clearly known when the fog of depletion has cleared. Maybe you realize that you don’t know how to practice good financial management, or kitchen management, or time management or you’re at an absolute loss as to how to feed your family healthfully and frugally (me, for many years!). Maybe you realize you need more time built into the schedule to pursue that learning. Maybe your family simply took on too much and need to be more judicious with what you say yes to. Instead of slipping into the same patterns and choices that led to these problem areas, take the time to research, explore, and learn new approaches. It is investment of time that will always return exponential dividends. It looks completely different for everyone, but the end result is the same- when we choose to listen to the signs, we can choose different, healthier paths, eventually finding a place of wholeness and peace- home. Refuge. We can make the choice not to run any longer.
It’s not easy, by any means. It doesn’t happen overnight. That girl in the picture was five years ago, and it’s been a long, painful journey to where I am today. I bear no illusions that I have “arrived”- though I am healthier and happier and more whole, I see this is as a life’s work, a life’s journey. We live in a broken world and we are broken people. So many fractures. A path that turns towards Home means we must dwell in healing and no longer lace up our running shoes.
I’ve received such lovely, encouraging notes from people while writing this series. I am so grateful that even one person has found help and hope from what I’ve written here- somehow that makes the pain and sorrow of it all more worth it, if it means that even one person might not have to endure some of the same pain and sorrow that I have. This series was a promise kept, and I am ever grateful that she would not let me out of it. I have found further healing in writing it all out, and seeing that there was reason and rhyme to many things I could not see straight at the time.
May the Lord keep you, make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace.
This is the final post in the series. Start the journey here.