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My Down Day’s Gift

Today is a “down day.”

Even though it’s 11:30 am, I haven’t showered and am still in my pj’s. This rubs every fiber in the fabric of my personality the wrong way! Over the last few years I have crafted a life of productivity which includes a daily routine. This routine ensures that everything for my day is prepped and ready to go the evening before, and that in the morning I am put together and ready to leave the house by 9 am. Even if I don’t have plans to go anywhere, there’s a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that I could go anywhere at the drop of a hat and feel organized about it. 

But today I am sitting on the couch in my PJ’s, drinking licorice root tea, and going through some photos I took recently… it’s a “down day.”

Big deal, everyone needs one of these days, right? True enough. I guess the reason I’m musing about it has to do with the drastic way in which my life has changed over the last few months. In the span of about 90 days, I went from being a relatively high-energy, high-capacity individual (with a career and social life to match), to being an exhausted wreck who could barely take a 20 minute walk.

The next thing I knew, I had resigned from my job–with it’s much loved coworkers at a wonderful nonprofit organization–and was faced with some unexpectedly free time in which to recover. 
As I “detoxed” (for lack of a better word) from the densely scheduled lifestyle I loved, it became painfully clear just how compacted my days had become. Virtually every minute of every day was scheduled (or spent catching up on housework). And it was a heartbreaking realization for me, because almost everything in my day-to-day was there because I enjoyed it, because it also had a greater purpose than just my enjoyment, and because by extension it served others as well. I had carefully built my life over a number of years with a main focus, and then ensured that everything else in my life served that focus. And now much of it had been ripped away… 
Aside from (grudgingly) recognizing the sheer volume of commitments and activities that had been in my life, I began to take a closer look at what a healthy level of daily activities and commitments might look like… or more importantly, what a healthy level of commitment might look like for me. I realized that even getting rid of a full time job, my life still felt dangerously full. That’s pretty scary! 

Even after freeing up 8 hours per day (and the associated brain-space), life still felt too full! 

It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others when assessing our lives. We live in a culture that prioritizes productivity. I also grew up with sisters who are even more high-capacity and high-energy than I am. So recognizing my own limitations and determining to do my best–regardless of how that lines up with the culture’s expectations (or my sisters’)–has been a huge part of this!
So what does life look like now? Well that’s a bit of an unfinished story, but here’s the progress I’ve made so far: 
While I’m still figuring out how much I can do at my current energy level, I’m saying “no” to a lot more things that I used to push through… even the fun things, like visiting with friends. 
I’m discovering that there are seasons in which I will be closer to some people than others-
-I can’t be close with all my dear, lovely friends at once. What a freeing thought! Even though it’s tinged with regret, it makes me so much more thankful for the friends I can be close with during this season of life!
I’m discovering that the things I used to avoid because of their high time vs. results ratio are actually really important! I didn’t often sit down with a book or some knitting because it seemed to be a waste of time, even though I enjoyed it.
But now I’m realizing that even though journalling takes time, knitting takes time, sewing takes time, cooking takes time, [insert any slow, enjoyable activity here] takes time, these are all worthwhile investments because they slow me down enough to…… to what? …
I can’t even describe it… It has to do with processing life without even being aware that you’re processing it. It has to do with finding joy in the little things and that these little things break up the daily grind so that you find yourself less often wondering where the week went. It has to do with feeling light in the midst of the heaviness of life. It has to do with feeling free.
Lastly, I’m discovering the dividends that this slower life pays into my relationships–especially my relationship with my husband. I used to be so focused on the next thing in my schedule that interacting in loving ways with him was like another thing on the to-do list; something that required effort and that I only had a short amount of time for. This slower life pace has taken those interactions off of the to-do list and into the realm of creativity. I didn’t fully realize before now how much of my creative energy was going into my work and the other things in my schedule, and how little that left for him. While no marriage is perfect, having the brain-space to be creative in our relationship has brought an increased level of joy to our interactions. 
What will this look like in another few months when I will likely have to go back to work? I don’t know yet…
But I do know that these gains I’ve experienced during this slower time are worth sacrificing for.
Avoiding the hectic pace of our culture and slowing down has been a tremendous gift–physically, mentally, and spiritually–and I hope to carry it forward into whatever the next season of life brings.


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