Wednesday, May 9, 2012

stepping back.

{photo by Plywood Office}

I am a happy person, but even happy people have rough days and weeks and months. Because I have long considered this a personal space, I choose to blog openly and honestly (with some caveats, of course). This means that sometimes, you — whoever you may be — get a glimpse inside my head, and that glimpse might not always be pretty or tidy or fair or complete. I am a work in a progress, and this blog reflects that.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how pie saved my life, how slowing down and working with my hands helped me regain some of the happiness I have lost because of circumstances both beyond and within my control.

I received some lovely comments on that post, but the one that struck me the most was written by someone I don’t know and — because of the anonymity of the internet — I cannot respond to via email. So I’m thanking Cheryl the only way I know how: via a rather public blog post.

In her comment, Cheryl expressed concerns that the way I lead my life now (namely, by saying yes to so many things and no to so few) might one day lead to chronic illness or depression. While I am unsure that would be the case with me personally, I am appreciative of her care and concern, and I’m especially appreciative of her practical suggestion: To say no to everything for an entire month. It’s a solution my mother and a friend also recommended to me, and I’m going to assume that when three separate people, on three separate occasions, recommend something to you, you probably should pay attention.

This is me, paying attention.

For the month of June, I intend to say no. I will work, and I will participate in church on Sundays, but other than that, I will try to say no. I can see my friends raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads, and that’s okay. There will be exceptions. (I know in particular of at least one graduation ceremony I will absolutely be saying yes to.) But I am going to go into June with the intention of saying no and slowing down. I’m not sure if it’s a woman thing or a human thing, but I just don’t always make time for myself. Maybe that’s because I’m super selfless, or maybe it’s just because I’d rather be busy and distracted than have to pay attention to my body and my intuition. Either way, I don’t always put myself first. For one month, I’m going to do that. I need to get my life back, and I love this idea that for a month, I might say no to everything so that, later, I can begin saying yes — one by one — to the commitments and the people who I have discovered are most important. It’s hard to discover those truths when I am entangled in a web of life’s commitments.

Although I won’t force Jordan to join me in this journey of saying no, we are going to say no to some things together. We will say no to the things that require rushed dinners and late bed times. We will say no to the things that distract us from healthy, happy marriage. We will say no to plans that keep us away from each other too many evenings in a row. We will say no to some things so that we can yes to each other.

It’s time for this. Beyond time, really. When Jordan graduated from law school, we were elated, but I think our excitement prevented us from purposefully intending and discussing what our life would look like in this post-education era. While Jordan was in school, I busied myself with plenty of activities. I didn’t want to be in the way while he was studying for exams, so I instituted book clubs and planned parties and designed blogs and invitations and logos. I wanted to be busy because he was busy.

But life has changed, and for the better. Our life doesn’t have to look like that anymore. We both work regular, full-time jobs. We don’t need a different activity every night. Instead, we need nights where we read on the couch. Now that it’s officially feeling like summertime here, we need evenings spent by the pool. We need walks in the park.

I won’t be bored, because my life is already so full. I love to read and write and listen to music and work on scrapbooks (Project Life, anyone?). I’d like to pray more with my husband. I’d like to do my laundry on time instead of in monstrous loads every time I run out of clean underwear. I’d like to cook and have time to enjoy it. I’d like to go to bed when I’m tired instead of staying up late to have the “me time” I couldn’t have earlier in the evening. I’d like to have the freedom to tell a friend I’m available for lunch or my family I can come over for dinner because (guess what?) there’s nothing in my planner.

Basically, I’d like to make my life move a little bit more slowly.

I think that’s okay. I won’t really apologize for that.

The good news is, summer is the perfect time to institute a plan like this. Summers here are hot and humid and practically beg for time spent lying under the ceiling fan. Southern summers are meant to be sipped slowly, and I’d love nothing more than to experience that slowness fully.

My hope and prayer is that this intention won’t become some legalistic experiment, but will instead refocus my mind and my heart and my life. It will result in a calmer, more healthy, balanced me. And in July or August, I will be able to say yes to things that really matter. My prayer is that I will genuinely learn something in all of this.

This is the year I wanted my soul to awaken. I am confident that won’t happen unless I listen to its needs, unless I take a step back and really try to change.

I’m giving myself this month to prepare. In June, my weekly Bible study will be over. We have no trips planned other than one I’ll need to take for work. My cousin’s school year will have ended, and I will no longer be needed for sentence diagramming.

In other words, the universe is giving me a relatively clean slate in June.

I plan to use it to my advantage.


What about you? Have you ever had to take a step back and reevaluate your life’s goals and commitments? What did that look like? Am I a crazy person, or does this sound doable to you?


brie. said...

i did this a few years ago. and really, it was fantastic. i pulled out of all my extra commitments and only said yes if it felt right to say yes. what happened? i found that the things that were important and i really enjoyed i did, and those that didn't i didn't. it did make me wonder about my own selfishness. i learned to balance mainly. and when i started saying yes again, it was for the right reasons, and not always because i wanted to do something, but because it was the right thing to do.

Erin said...

Good for you. I'm so glad you're doing has sounded like you need it and deserve it. And I'm looking forward to hearing how it goes.
Even though I'm not at a point where I have too many commitments, this does make me think more seriously about what things I say yes to that might not be that important to me after all.

Leslie said...

love this post! excited for you and your month of slow/no :) i think this sounds like a really wise goal.

jenna said...

That. Is. Brilliant.
I think June is going to be SOOOOOOOOOO refreshing for you. And I am so happy to hear that you plan to allow it to be. Your faithfulness and discipline will be rewarded.

There have been several different occasions when I had to step back and de-clutter my life. The beginning of my junior year in college, for example. I had gotten myself overcommitted to many a thing at Faulkner, and I just had to start marking some off the list. No more chorus. No more social club. Those were just two of the big ones.

Sometimes I just have to sit down, talk to God about it, and then clean out a couple of bags of clothes and stuff to bring to goodwill, just to initiate the process with one tangible first step.

In January, I had to say no a lot. I went to bed at 8:30pm, didn't spend a lot of time with friends, spent way more time in solitude or in the presence of some older, calmer people that helped my healing. I had to let time slow down, so I had to step away from a lot of the things that would have pushed me along faster than my weakened heart was able to move.
And it was good.
Very good.

I love you, Annie!! Praying for the most relaxing, restful, rejuvenating, peaceful, healing month ever! :)

Senja said...

sounds like such a good plan! :) good luck (in a positive and encouraging way!)

XO Senja

Sabrina said...

Bravo Annie:) The only thing I know is that by saying no I bet you will see more of what God is trying to tell you. From busy person to another, it will feel odd at first. But very soon it will feel refreshing. The summer is the absolute right time for this slower pace. Don't get sucked into the TV/computer trap though. I know sometimes when I have more "time" I end up with more screen time. That's like swapping one stressful thing for another stressful thing:)

Annie said...

Good for you, Annie. I feel like summertime is always a good time to step back and reevaluate and just rest. I actually did this - kind of - last week. It was my first week without classes and one of my two jobs, and I took full advantage of that. I didn't tell myself to start on job applications. I slept in and I watched TV and I read books I wanted to read, instead of books I thought I should.

I do want my summer to be busy, but purposefully so, so I'm slowly adding things back in. I want to focus on doing my current job well and applying for full-time jobs, and besides that, stretching myself as a person in a variety of ways.

I love this post I read today by Hayley at The Tiny Twig, and I think you might, too:

Velva said...

Annie, I think what you will find is saying "no" can be a liberating experience. Your June mantra is "just say NO"

Take care.