Awake and Asleep: Joy and Discovery

car emerging from tunnel
Photo by Martin Fisch, flickr’s creative commons

You arrange to meet for coffee, to come over and watch a movie, to play games. You are invited to the party and you have a few threads for the person next to you, a few yarns for the whole group, a few revelations to give and receive. You go to the dinner party and you pinch the dumplings closed before shoveling them into your mouth, laughing with three friends across the table, three good friends from across the world.

You page through your journal and realize that these memories are underrepresented, that more painful ones take top billing, that you’ve written about the same hard things over and over again. It was something you needed to do, you admit, but your life this January, this February, holds more than that.

Don’t forget today, you tell yourself. It’s 3 o’clock in the morning, but you are high on life and you don’t care. Somehow, you don’t think you’ll regret lying on your back, holding your brand-new memories lightly, because they are light. There is nothing rough mixed in, no desperation to clutch every word as if it were the last of its kind.

And it’s not just today.

You eat ice cream on what was then the coldest night of the year, wearing pajamas you borrowed from your friend. You prop up your head with your hand, flattening the pillow under your arm, and talk until the snowplows scrape down Genesee Street.

You are leaving campus when you see a friend of yours sitting at a table. You stop and say hello, and before you know it you are in a coffee shop sipping a chai latte, lingering until closing time, and not just to avoid the wind. You didn’t realize until now how much the two of you have in common.

You stop by the office for a moment and stay almost two hours, until you absolutely have to leave. You pick up the threads of a conversation that started months ago, your favorite sort of conversation, comparing notes and reminiscing about the children’s stories that no one else here knows, the questions that have answers and those that do not.

You drive on two-lane roads to what must surely be the center of the state, two hours there and two hours back, but even though it’s a cold, rainy night, you are in no rush to be home again. You can’t remember the last time you talked this freely for this long without knowing in your bones that it couldn’t last, that it was too good to be true. “I could talk to you about anything,” she says. You believe her, and you agree.

It’s 4 o’clock now. You plug in your headphones and play the old Mozart piece “Rondo Alla Turca” on your new digital piano before finally drifting off to sleep.

Day 21: Thoughts on balance, rest, and multitasking

bench: "rest here"
photo by oliverkendal on flickr’s creative commons.

Balance is hard when you’re a grown-up. When you have a job and church commitments and writing goals you’ve set for yourself because you want to write.

Rest.

I love it in theory, but am terrible about actually doing it these days.

I think back to this time a year ago, and I miss the time I had to take walks and spend time with people without feeling that push of the schedule, that nudge to end the Skype call or the coffee date not because the conversation had come to a natural end, but because I worried that I wouldn’t get everything else on my list done and still get enough sleep. Relationships are a luxury now.

Maybe it’s not the commitments themselves, though; maybe it’s how I spend my time after and between and before. Usually, it’s not very restful. Usually, I’m better at carving out to-do time rather than to-rest time. And to-do time is usually to-do-many-things time.

Whenever I’m on my computer, I’m always doing many things at once. I start to read or write an email or a blog post, and partway through I check Facebook, or ponder a tweet, or check tomorrow’s weather forecast, or start balancing my checkbook, or clean up the icons on my Desktop. I’m not sure if my ADD is a socially acquired thing or not, but it doesn’t take long before my screen is strewn with many half-finished projects and messages and articles.

It’s not restful, and it’s not even that productive.

Maybe it’s true what Propaganda said at Catalyst two years ago: that “multitasking is a myth. You ain’t doin’ anything good, just everything awful.”

I think of the books I want to read that lie unread as I spend hours “relaxing” on the computer. I think of fall passing me by as I stay indoors behind a microphone or screen, only seeing the changing colors through the car windows. I think of not having time, and priorities, and I realize that the digital world has a strong hold over me and keeps me from the rest I know I need, the rest I desire deep down.

How can I keep from turning rest into tasks to be completed, and how can I find rest in the tasks to be completed? How do you?

This is day 21 of 31 Days in the Word. It’s also the second post in a very loose series about rest. The first was one was called “When the Outcome Matters Most.”

Pencil Grey

pencil and paper
photo by {Flixelpix} David on creative commons (flickr)

I’m happy. I really am.

I started reading Emily Freeman‘s book Grace for the Good Girl right after I finished writing my last blog about masks and personas and people-pleasing, and even though I knew the book addressed all those things with a breathe of grace, I was surprised by how closely it mirrored my life and my experiences. And that was just the first chapter. My sister and I will be reading that book together, little by little. I think we both need it. (And how wonderful it is to read the books written by my favorite bloggers).

For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to see little hints of mask-removal, little moments of answering honestly and not hiding and not ordering my life around what so-and-so might think. It’s nice, even though I’m sure there are bigger tests to come.

I’m not afraid to tell you that I have doubts about God and my faith, or that I don’t exercise and eat right, or that I waste so much time online long after it stops being fun.

But being real doesn’t always mean serious and vulnerable and big. It also means feeling free to be my whimsical self, or to be less busy, or to step out of the box.

This is what I wrote in my journal one month ago:

The most important thing for me to be doing during this time isn’t to develop more good habits, read and write more, “arrive” more, but rather to spend time with God more and try to see myself the way he sees me: to give myself grace.

To focus on relationship, but without the bar set at perfection.

I want to make this last year at home count, before I jettison off to another state or country for dreams-come-true and everything-being-put-to-the-test.

It’s a delicate balance, that finding of freedom between the pencil-drawn lines. I hold the pencil, and I decide when it’s better for my soul to erase lines and redraw them elsewhere … or not. But there are no pens of any sort here (especially no exacting red pens or permanent markers!). Life is pencil-grey and so am I, and I’m okay with that.