We had a break this week, from our unusually rainy winter here in So Cal. It’s strange how, as the sun comes out with a crisp brightness, I naturally feel compelled to wake up and step out of my winter hibernation.
I went into the holidays with a full calendar of parties and events, mixed in with our own gatherings – hosting friends and family. It was a beautiful season sharing our new home with the people we love. We experienced the new paths of movement around the island in the center of the house, and we sunk in to a slow daily rhythm, enjoying food, music and conversation. The pace of our shortened days were captured by the view out of our picture window, watching the sun rise over the mountains to the east, following it’s journey up and over our house, until it finally disappeared behind us, turning the LA basin outside our windows, into a virtual sea of city lights.
Most profoundly, the season was marked by the passing of my sweet Uncle George, just a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving. And with the shortening of the days and what would normally be a gradual slow down, this year, everything came to a sudden stop. And all that mattered was time…time with our closest loves. We seized this gift of time and did our best to set aside all of the incidental ‘things’ that came up. We laughed, we mourned, we told stories, we held hands, we gave gifts, and we ate a whole lot of food. And we took our time. We did not rush toward the New Year. We sort of let it just happen. We did not rush to get back to work. We’ve sort of just eased our way through January. And I am quite thankful for it.
Now, for those of you who ‘know’ me. You will understand that this is not normal for me. ‘Stopping’ is difficult for me. I love the start of a new year. I love to hit the ground running on January 2. And I’m usually halfway through whatever my first project of the year is.
And to be quite honest, while I embraced the gift of time with family and friends, I found that the back of my mind was still charging on… …planning…organizing…strategizing…dreaming…
It was really hard to completely shut it down. My need to achieve is strong. My sense of responsibility is enormous. So, even though practically, things slowed down, the inside of my brain was still motoring on!
One evening before Christmas, over dinner with friends, I was sharing about this inner tension, and our conversation turned to the natural rhythms of life. Our friend Craig described the intense human impulse to stay in tune with the earth’s patterns. We slow down as the day’s become shorter. Offices are closed early and we add more hours to our sleeps. And it’s all good. Our bodies need this time to rest in the Winter months, before the reawakening of Spring – the time of new birth and creation. In other words, we should give in to the desire to curl up on the couch and binge watch holiday rom-coms and sip on something warm and yummy, (in hindsight, I’m guessing he did not, in fact, share an urge to binge watch holiday rom-coms…I may have added that detail myself). And we should trust that the time for creating and building will come with a new sense of energy focus.
Still, because this is not natural for me, a couple of weeks later, sometime around New Years, I found myself wrestling with this again. Maybe I should cancel our plans with friends…maybe we shouldn’t just spend the day with my cousin…maybe we don’t need to go to a concert with my brother-in-law (even though it would be the highlight of the season for him)…because…work…projects…writing…obligations…I had an overwhelming sense of guilt. I should be working. I should be producing. I should be creating.
The inner tension was strong.
And then, I happened to listen to two different podcasts (I’m sort of addicted to the pods). Both speakers, in their own way, described their own battles between rest and production – the need to create vs. the need to be – hurry up or slow down. And the peculiar thing is, they didn’t necessarily advocate for a complete shut down, as in a fight for the 20-hour work week. Instead, they both described with compelling clarity that following natural rhythms of slowing down and re-awakening will give our souls the ability to flourish. Take a break. Give your body and mind permission to rest. Enjoy the company of the people you love. And then, remember who you are and what you are doing here. And out of your rested place, get up, have a stretch, and start moving.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, here’s to a slow start…and here’s to all that’s to come in 2017!
If you’d like to listen to the podcasts I mentioned, you can find them here:
Rob Bell – ‘I May Vacuum Out My Car Tomorrow’
John-Mark Comer – Hurry, The Great Enemy of Spiritual Life