Do you feel restless?
Are you waiting for the next thing; the next job, or weekend, or night of unbroken sleep?
Is your heart drumming it’s fingers on the desk?
Are you impatient?
And how’s your soul?
Are you at peace?
Do you know contentment? Can you experience quiet and rest?
This weekend I spent time with my sister and my Mum. These two wonderful women are both very active people.
They are energised by being do-ers.
They do stuff. They get stuff done.
And in the action of fulfilling these tasks they find satisfaction. For them it seems this active, busy life is life-bringing.
In years gone by after some time hanging out with my inspiring family members I would feel low. I would feel my life was not adding up to as much as theirs because I didn’t do as much, I seemed to not be working as hard or achieving as much. I didn’t pack my days as full and felt I was lazy and a failure. They seemed to have endless capacity to serve and throw themselves into meaningful activities. In comparison I felt exhausted.
I believed I wouldn’t be such a failure if only I tried harder, had more self-control and was less lazy.
For a while after spending time with them I would make a plan to be more like them. I would try harder and make lots of lists. I would put lots of things in my diary and try to emulate their capacity for action and service.
I would determine: The house would be kept cleaner, and the meals I prepared more nutritious. I would spend more hours working and give my children more focussed attention. I would invest in my marriage and be a more considerate friend, texting and calling and making more plans. I would serve more in church, volunteering more and having a better attitude about it.
But before long I would find myself in a heap, anxious and weepy, probably having let someone else down and definitely feeling I had let myself down.
The pace was too fast for my soul.
(I don’t think I am alone.)
I wonder if most of us believe we should be working harder, that our days should be busier, that we should be more productive. We can find ourselves living as though every day has to be crammed full of stuff and we have to do more and be more, to keep up.
And how do we decide that our efforts are not enough? By comparing ourselves to those around us. Those who appear to have or do more than us.
Eventually (after strong nudges from my husband, and nearly a decade of what I later learned were panic attacks) I started seeing a therapist and began to unravel the tightly wound mess I was in. I had been burying my true feelings, my pain and anxiety, because I believed there was only one way to live – and I couldn’t keep up.
Since then I have been learning to find my own pace.
And, do you know what? It might be slower than yours.
And that’s okay.
Faster isn’t necessarily better.
More isn’t necessarily better.
This weekend I spent time with my family, but I didn’t come away feeling less or low. I know myself more now.
I know I need extended slow times – for relationships, for the work of thinking, for calm. I have become aware I need a quieter pace to enable me to remember to be kind and to have compassion, both for myself and for others. I recognise I am most alive when I am not rushing trying to be someone I am not.
The world tries to tell us we should be aiming for a goal that is just out of reach: a house that is more than we can afford, a job that is going to work us harder but be worth it for the power and reward, a body that is thinner and more toned, a life that looks more ‘perfect’.
The world tells us we are not quite enough and if we re-doubled our efforts and pushed ourselves a little harder we could achieve this idealised goal.
But I’m over it.
Rather than striving for a ‘perfect’ that may well never be, I am enjoying the good that is.
And I am learning to recognise that I am enough as I am, in this season.
I rehearse the idea daily allowing this new reality to make its way past my insecurity and need to achieve, into the heart of me.
Gradually it is sinking in.
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