I returned to Seattle at the beginning of mini-sabbatical: week 2, eager to jump right in to my great big list of grand plans for the month. I had done the “resting” part of my month off and was feeling quite accomplished for slowing down and taking the time to be so reflective. While my reflections would continue to be integrated into the coming weeks, I considered the sedentariness of that time to be over. Now was the time for action; no “to-do” would be left undone!
Shortly after returning to Seattle, while out for an afternoon run (because “training for a half-marathon” wasn’t going to just sit on that list looking all pretty), I began feeling an increasing amount of pain in my right foot. There was that familiar voice in my head, saying, “Forge ahead, Mallory! Remember the to-do list! We will not be stopped by relatively disconcerting pain!” So I “forged” against my better judgement for the next two days. By the third day, I was down for the count. My foot was an embarrassing amount of swollen and I was able to put almost exactly 0% of my body weight on it.
With no viable options outside of a full-on surrender to my limitations, I soon decided to do just that, listening to both my doctor and my own body. I allowed the 35 feet from my bed to the couch become my great physical journey of each day, for the next several days. I took down a strong dose of humility and received help from a friend, being served meals as I sat in my nest on the couch, and I finally put away my list of “I-want-to-and-have-to-and-should-do’s” that had been staring at me endlessly with a sort of mocking duress.
In my couch-nest, I learned that living intentionally does not necessarily mean sticking to a plan. The less I worried about how much I was doing/seeing/experiencing during my time off, the more space I had to be aware of what it was that I really needed. And what I needed was some serious rest. I don’t mean the kind of rest I’d typically employ when I have a free afternoon: putting on sweats, zoning out on Facebook or Netflix (or both) and trying to convince myself that re-watching every episode of New Girl for the umpteenth time is maybe pretty similar to what God had in mind on that seventh day of Creation. It turns out, there is a difference between resting and simply not doing anything.
Once I treated myself as a human rather than a machine, a settling occurred within me. I felt freed from the pressure to “do” and invited, simply, to “be.” My “being” led me to assume a posture of mindfulness, remaining aware of my thoughts, feelings, body and environment. So I iced my foot, I drank hot tea and I turned off my music. As I paid more attention to myself, I realized that I didn’t actually want to be on Facebook or watch a movie or even look back at that ambitious to-do list. I wanted to sit in silence. I wanted to play Solitaire. (This was random to me, too.) I wanted to sleep when I felt tired, read books I didn’t think I’d ever have time for, journal, take hot baths, write cards to friends and practice self-reflection. Essentially, I wanted to do nearly everything I’d rarely include on a to-do list.
So I did. And, wouldn’t you know, my foot began to heal, my capacity to offer myself grace expanded, my energy returned, my creativity reemerged, and my Solitaire game improved exponentially. I’d say that is time well-spent.
What restful activities would not make it onto your “to-do” list, but could be found on your “I need” list? Try setting aside 15 minutes each day to integrate these things into your regular schedule, before experiencing a forced slow-down.