I didn’t realize how poorly I’d been sleeping.
I didn’t realize how long that medical test kit had been sitting on my dresser waiting for my attention.
I didn’t realize how tight my shoulders were or how dark the circles under my eyes had become.
I didn’t realize how much I’d missed the sound of certain people’s voices, as texting had become my usual mode of communication.
I didn’t realize how much I needed to immerse myself in silence …
Until I did.
Today I come off a two-week blogging break. It was a terrible time to go quiet. My new book was just picked up by Target. It was being “tested” in stores nationwide to see how well it did last week. When I should have been tweeting, posting, and encouraging people to buy my book, I was getting my nails done by a 9-year-old with little manicure experience and carving scary faces on pumpkins.
My book had just gained serious momentum, I knew going quiet—no interviews, no viral posts, no podcasts, and no email—would certainly not keep things going. Going quiet meant the glorious momentum would drop off. I could have pushed myself. After all, I have an impressive track record when it comes to powering through the exhaustion … ignoring the warning signs of burnout … and making excuses as to why I cannot slow down. “Someday, I’ll have time to do that, ” slides off my lips quite well—at least it used to.
But ‘someday’ is nowhere to live your life. This I have learned.
I was once a professional putter-offer, meaning I consistently put off the best moments of life to attend to the urgent demands of life.
Too busy to play
Too busy to sit down and eat
Too busy to just talk
Too busy to think
Too busy to breathe
But in that delay of living well comes a pretty unpleasant side effect—one you cannot hide. In that delay of living well, the worst side of you comes out. At least, that’s how it was for me.
All I have to do to remember how bad it got is look at this picture of my family.
We’d rented a cabin in the mountains for a weeklong vacation. Circumstances were less than ideal, but it was safe and comfortable and my family was all there. But for three solid days, I was miserable. Nothing was good enough. Everything was inconvenient.
I remember hurriedly brushing my daughter’s hair one evening before we went to dinner. We had no timetable, yet I was still in an agitated rush. I’d wanted her to wear something specific to dinner, but she insisted on something she picked out herself. She began to cry, and I was unsympathetic—annoyed, actually—as if it was her fault. As if a five-year-old could be at fault for her mother’s misconstrued priorities and bad attitude.
During that vacation, I was consumed by lack of Internet connection, overabundance of calories being ingested, commitments I wasn’t fulfilling, and projects I needed to complete back home. It all seemed so urgent, yet I don’t even remember a single detail about those duties now. That’s how insignificant they were. But at the time, they were overpowering.
Now here’s the really tragic part:
I talked my husband into leaving early.
We left our dusty but cozy cabin in the mountains because my outer demands and outer approval were more important than my inner needs and inner circle.
I’ve only told one person that painful truth, and it was years after it happened. I’ll never forget how my friend touched my arm gently and said, “I am glad you don’t shorten your vacations anymore, Rachel.”
When you start to shorten your vacations, you shorten your life. This I have learned.
By “vacation”, I don’t mean cabins, hotels, or beaches. I mean reconnection, restoration, and rejuvenation. Vacation moments can happen in your own home—simply by turning off the world and turning toward your inner needs and inner circle.
For the past two weeks, I stepped away from blogging and scaled back my productivity level. In return, I received:
The warmth of real voice and a real face …
A collection of precious three-year-old nephew questions to last me for eternity …
The relief of finally completing a medical test I’d been putting off …
Reading a book that was not work related …
Long naps with my husband …
Chilly fall night walks with my 9-year-old songbird …
Popcorn and couch time with my brown-eyed tween …
As a result, my little Moments that Matter notebook that had been running dry has been replenished. I haven’t been able to fill it fast enough.
For the first time in months, I’ve slept soundly … laughed loudly … listened intently … loved deeply.
It was not a good time for me to step away, but it was a necessary time.
I was beginning to fade.
I was beginning to doubt.
I was beginning to withdraw.
I was beginning to put what was urgent in front of what was important.
But instead of continuing on that damaging path by saying, “Someday, I will get back to living and loving,” I said, “Enough. Enough.”
And with two hopeful hands, I shut out the noise and darkened the screens. And just as quickly as life’s distraction had threatened my health and happiness, I was able to fix my eyes on what mattered most.
When you take away what is urgent, you find what is necessary.
My friends, let me tell you what I found is necessary just in case your vision is a little blurry or your heart is a little weary today:
It is necessary to nurture our bodies.
It is necessary to nurture our minds.
It is necessary to nurture our souls.
It is necessary to nurture our romantic relationships.
It is necessary to nurture our parent-child bonds.
It is necessary to nurture our friendships, our passions, and our faith.
And if you are like me and sometimes need to be reminded of what is not necessary, here’s some reality:
It is not necessary to respond to all the emails in the inbox.
It is not necessary to text back immediately.
It is not necessary to have social media apps at your fingertips or electronic notifications turned on.
It is not necessary to look at the phone first thing in the morning or right before bed.
It is not necessary to feel guilty when you say no.
It is not necessary to please others at the expense of your family or health.
It is not necessary to do duties at 110% proficiency level.
It is not necessary to clean the kitchen before sitting down.
It is not necessary to take a homemade baked good to the party—store bought works just fine.
It is not necessary to wash your hair to go out—a hat works just fine.
It is not necessary to deprive yourself of sleep to get everything accomplished.
It is not necessary to deprive yourself of LIFE to get everything accomplished.
Whether it’s for ten minutes, ten hours, or ten days, decide it is NECESSARY to push back the world for a spell so you can tend to your inner needs and your inner circle.
There will never be a “good” time.
But perhaps that ache in your soul or those tears on your cheeks indicate it is a necessary time.
Please take out your calendar right now and designate a little white space for Something That Is Necessary. I have a feeling you know what it is.
Watch what happens when you use that white space for reconnecting, replenishing, and restoring. When a space is filled with someone’s hand, a medical appointment you’ve been putting off, an easel, a picnic, or a book in the sunshine, you will receive immediate confirmation. You’ll know it was the right thing to do with that sacred space. You’ll hear yourself laugh or cry or exhale and you will say, “I didn’t know how much I needed this … but I do now; I do now … I’ll try not to forget.”
We cannot change the moments of our precious life in which we were emotionally absent. But we can do something about the moments we feel ourselves fading from today.
We can push away what is urgent so we can see what is necessary.
And then we can hold it to our chests for dear life.
Friends of The Hands Free Revolution, I have THREE important things to tell you today and all of them are valuable resources for creating vacation moments in your everyday life:
- Nine simplicity authors (including me!) will be sharing wisdom designed to help you simplify your life throughout the 12 months of 2016. Along with inspiring and informative articles that will come right to your inbox, there will also be a live webinar each month where you can connect with the authors, ask questions, and meet other people on a journey toward a more meaningful life. Early-bird discount registration is available today through November 20. The course would make a meaningful holiday gift for yourself or someone you know who’s yearning to make time and space for what is necessary. All the information you need to know about A Simple Year: 12 Months of Guided Simplicity and early-bird sign up is here.
- The brilliant Dr. Jessica Michaelson is launching a 14-day digital detox program called ‘Look Up‘. The purpose of this program is to give you back the precious time you’ve been wasting online. Using 4 short, simple modules (provided in video, audio & written formats for your convenience) Jessica provides the step-by-step process of creating mindful online habits over 14 days. To get a little taste of Dr. Jessica’s inviting style & inspiring message, check out my recent “Be What You’re About” interview where Jessica showcases women who’ve designed careers and businesses they love while being fully involved mothers.
- And lastly, some really wonderful news given what I reported in the above blog post: Because Target was adding 15 feet of book space last week and Hands Free Life only made it to the shelf in some stores, they are giving my book a new week to see how sales go! I would be beyond grateful if you’d consider a trip to Target to pick up my book. I no longer teach in the classroom and do not advertise on my site which means my income is derived from book sales. With each book purchased, you support this blog and tell my publisher to keep publishing my work. It fills me with joy each time someone posts their #handsfreelifeintarget pictures on The Hands Free Revolution page, Instagram, or emails them to me! I love that so many of you are considering the book as a meaningful holiday gift for friends and family! The book is also available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble if you do not live near a Target. Feel free to check out the 105 amazing customer reviews on Amazon if you are still on the fence. If I could hug every person who has written one, I would! Reviews are like GOLD to an author. Thank you for your loving support!