Exactly one month ago I entered into a month of rest from work (except for email checks once a week) and all social media. I knew I needed to do it, but to be honest, I had more than a little trepidation about what my days would look like without the things that usually fill them. I did not expect to be catapulted into an old way of life that felt like how I was meant to be living. It took me by surprise that I didn't miss the companion of constant distraction. (Because let's be real, with a little one running around I have plenty of that already.) In my foolishness, I hoped to be "productive" and "get a lot done" during this time. I wanted a more clarity about the next 6 months and hoped to gain new insight. I didn't expect to come out on the other side with even more questions and craving even more time for true rest. However, I did come to understand more of what real rest looks like and that rest revealed the true state of my heart. Resting made me see the things around me more clearly.
It seems silly, but before this past month I don't think I understood what really, truly resting looked like. Sure I had "off days" here and there, but if I'm honest I was always doing, going or taking care of some project or another. Granted, I'm a mom, business owner, ministry wife and a host of other things, which honestly doesn't leave much time for rest left over. Much of July was learning how to make time, pursue rest and say no. Because, like everything else in life rest doesn't just happen. I have to actively make it happen and clear out the clutter in my heart and mind to make room for it. And you know what? My very type-A, overachiever, never-stopping, always going, doing, making self thrived on rest. I was immersed in a (mostly) distraction-less existence and it was bliss! Instead of grabbing my phone for spare moments of down time, I prepared ahead of time and took my books and notebook with me wherever I went. I learned that it's ok to simply be and figure out things later. I sank deep into books and fed and fed and fed my soul, realizing just how hungry I was for substance. I had been living on snippets, instead of big, beautiful concepts and full stories laid out over myriads of pages. I never wanted to surface again! As much as I love the connection, beauty and the ability to share life on social media, I my eyes were opened to how little it was really enriching my life. I had been missing out on allowing my mind to dwell on a handful things per day, instead of probably hundreds of other bits and pieces of information.
Resting made the scales fall off my eyes in regard to the state of my heart. Slowing down made me see how fast I had been going for months and months on end. Things always felt crazy in my life, and I don't believe I'm supposed to live that way. I tasted a life with a little more simplicity - and now I can't get enough. The first two weeks, I kept telling my friends that I had no idea how tired I was. It wasn't actually my schedule making my tired, it was all the distractions around me. I actually sat down to read books, and didn't have to sacrifice sleep at late at night to do it! I didn't feel like I was "wasting my time" writing, just for myself. I actually got to spend a whole day with my daughter without looking at my phone - some days I actually hid it so I didn't have to see anything at all. It revolutionized my world. I'll be honest and say that I was tempted to relapse and "peeked" a few extra times when I purposed I wouldn't except for business things that needed to be taken care of. We ended up having plenty going on apart from business (exciting things I'll share soon!) anyway. My weakness those two times were actually a blessing, because it made me see exactly why I don't need so much in my life. It didn't make me feel better. I didn't feel "caught up" or like I had missed out. It only stirred up discontent and distraction. It made me think about other, pointless things instead of focusing on what was right in front of me. In many ways, working so much and being inundated by social media only served to divide my heart and tear my eyes away from a singular focus on eternity.
I also was able to see things more clearly because of rest - even the beauty of my surroundings. One day I sat in silence and took in every sound, every nuance of what was around me. It was a beautiful place, but instead of taking a photo of it, I just sat there and breathed it all in. By hiding my phone, I studied my daughter and experienced so much more with her by not documenting with my iPhone. I found so many good quotes and thought of so many fresh ideas, feeling no need to share them. I simply let them soak in my heart for a while. It is ok to let things saturate my mind without moving on to the next thing, or feeling the need to bring others into it immediately. Beauty appreciated, in fullness, without creating immediately. I think there is a lot of value missed by not letting inspiration steep for a while. It can only make the image deeper, the idea fuller and more clear. I don't remember letting myself have space to think like that in a long, long time.
Now that I'm "back" so to speak, it is undoubtably apparent that I really don't need so much of all the things all the time. I've been wrestling with how I can combat the effects that this warp-speed culture has on my heart and life. Here are the few things I think might be helpful moving forward:
- Only get on social media 2x per week for 30 minutes max. (One business, one personal)
Creating boundaries for social media will be the biggest change for me. It is really ok not to respond to every comment. It won't kill me to "miss" a few updates from my friends. Do I have to make rules for myself? No, but I'm fully aware of my weakness and the fact that it is easy to fall back into old habits. I don't think my business will fail if I never have ____ (x amount) thousands of followers. I actually think I can be more effective in business and serve my clients better if I spend less time on social media. Take an honest guess at how much time you spend on social media every day. Would you be ok with sharing that number? Once I didn't have it for a while, I realized just how much it was filling up the cracks of time...and that adds up...more than I think any of us want to admit...at least it was for me.
- Taking books and a journal with me everywhere
This is a big one for me on fighting the urge to fill my time with useless things. It really surprising (even when I have Elle with me) how much time I have to read a chapter or two here and there. I ended up being gone about half of the month and somehow I was able to fit in 6 books...which may not be a lot to most people, but for this girl, it was monumental. I felt like I was back in high school again, devouring all the books I could get my hands on. (I know, I was that artsy, poetic nerd back then...who am I kidding, I still am!)
- Have friends keep me accountable
I am so blessed to have some KILLER friends. It wasn't always that way for me, so I don't take any of them for granted. I will be relying on them to help me because I know full well that I cannot do this alone. I am too weak. I will fall back into the clutter I'm desperately trying to get rid of. Addictions are funny that way. You know they aren't making your life better, but you deceive your heart into thinking that it's good, that it won't hurt and fall back in anyway. I want more room for other things, so I've decided to get really serious about getting rid of this crutch.
- Redefine what a successful life, business, etc looks like for me
I DO NOT HAVE TO DO WHAT EVERYONE ELSE DOES! I want to shout it over and over again. It is so easy to have perceptions changed, ever so slowly and subtly, just because of what we are seeing. The path to "success" is redefined so often, and so appealingly, that it's hard not to believe it all unknowingly. I thought I was strong, but pulling away, then coming back made me see just how susceptible I truly am to feeling the pressure to conform. My heart was free! I felt no pressure to look a certain way, post this, travel here, shoot that...none of it! Then I'm back and all the sudden I hear the "less than" lie coming from my screen. It just isn't worth it to me. I'd rather live unencumbered. Simplicity and doing things well seems more and more attractive to me with every passing day.
- Discipline my mind with meditation and prayer
I've realized I HAVE to take control of my thoughts if I'm going to change anything. It all starts in the mind, then moves to the heart, and only then can things change the soul. I want to fill my mind with good things, better things that what has occupied the "empty" space. It's only empty and filled with useless things because I let it happen. No more. There is a new world of seeping every extra moment in scripture and prayer. Don't I need more of that and less distraction? It comes down to discipline, which isn't something in my nature. It is hard. But I believe the reward will be far greater than "giving in" to living how everyone else does.
"Will keeping this make me more happy, content, focused or effective?"
This is the question I'm asking from here on out - nothing is off limits. I've been living with my heart divided for too long....and I didn't even realize it! That is the crazy part to me. I thought I was doing fine. I thought I was ok and that being busy and filling my life with so much was fine, but I wasn't living to the fullest! By turning it all off, I lived better. Once I made the step for a few weeks, it made me less afraid of letting it go a lot more. No, I don't have more answers or clarity after this month away, but I do know more of what real freedom tastes like...and I'll be pursuing much, much more.