Running On Empty
These days have felt so frantic and out of control, like I’m trying desperately to keep my head above water.
Recently Justin and I have found ourselves staring wide eyed at one another, totally overwhelmed and anxious much of the time.
We’re scrambling, off kilter, off center.
We’re so wired that we can't shut our brains off at night and go to sleep. When we do sleep we are restless, tossing and turning, never really resting. Waking up in the mornings we often feel like we’ve been run over by a train, exhausted, weak. Yet our minds are buzzing even before our eyes open, anxious for the day ahead.
I feel like I’m running a thousand miles an hour and going absolutely nowhere.
Setting out with my to-do list for the day, it’s filled with errands to run, phone calls and emails to return. Usually, I cut a few items off before I even start, knowing that they’re not going to happen, realizing in a somewhat sound state of mind that I have limitations.
Even after cutting a few items, still I find myself running from one thing to the next, feeling frantic and flustered all the while. At the end of the day I find that my list was no match for the limitations of time and no matter how much gumption and hustle I had.
More days than not my to-do list has more items on it that are unchecked than checked.
Taking The Time To Be Silent
The last time I remember feeling this frantic was a few days before we moved back to the states from China. We were overwhelmed, worn thin, and exhausted. We flew to Hong Kong for a few days and stayed at a simple yet lovely retreat center for missionaries on a tiny island just off the main island.
We needed time away, time to be quiet, time to process and think before the whirlwind of life back in America was upon us.
We decided that maybe the cure to so much of the madness was silence.
Each morning we woke, not the the sound of alarms, not to the anxiety that settles right below the surface, waking you each morning with the day’s demands and troubles, but to the rhythm of our bodies.
We woke to the sunlight streaming in through the windows, we woke to bodies that still felt weary and worn, yet somehow rested.
Upon waking most mornings, I instinctually reach for my phone, whether its to turn my alarm off or to see what time it is. But these few days we did neither. We intercepted the reflex to reach for our phones and we left them untouched. Emails unopened, social media feeds unchecked.
Coffee is part of our morning routine and ritual. On those mornings, after slipping out of bed, I would make my way into the tiny kitchen space to make coffee. The rhythm of the water heating slowly and then culminating it a rolling boil, the coffee beans, fresh with their bold aroma, being ground under the blades, scooped out and sprinkled into the bottom of the French press, water poured, filling to the brim, stirring then waiting for it to steep.
We gathered our things, bibles, pens, journals, slipped on our shoes, poured the piping hot coffee into mugs and slipped out the side door. Down the dirt path towards the other side of the island, around to the place where we would perch ourselves on top of a giant boulder, overlooking the South China Sea.
We would sit silently, sometimes next to one another, sometimes on opposite ends of the overlook.
Sometimes we would read, sometimes we would write, other times we just sat, starring off, thinking or praying, but it was always silent.
Those few days, I learned of something, experienced something that I knew was important and significant, something that I wanted to take with me.
Creating Space For Silence
These days I find myself feeling very much the same.
So I’m taking the time to stop, to go back the best way I know how to those warm quiet mornings on a little island in Hong Kong.
Tonight as I lay down, I will resist the urge to set an alarm, one that I know I will snooze half a dozen times before finally stumbling out of bed.
Tomorrow morning, I will wake up, likely to the sun streaming in through the windows, hopefully feeling rested, eyes opening lightly, not still heavy with sleep.
When I wake, I will reflexive reach for my phone, but I won’t pick it up. I won’t skim my inbox for pressing emails, I won’t scroll through Instagram or Facebook. I will leave my phone on the little table next to my bed and get up.
Making my way to the kitchen, I will begin the morning ritual of making coffee. Filling the kettle, placing it over the flame of the burner, grinding the coffee beans, dark, strong, and fragrant, measuring the scoops, hearing the low rumble of the boil, twisting the knob of the burner to 'off,' filling the French press with the water, stirring it gently, waiting while it steeps until I pour it, hearing the sounds of the rich dark liquid filling my mug.
I’ll make my way to my place on the couch, I always sit on the left end with my legs curled up under me. Maybe I’ll read, maybe I’ll write, but I will pray and I will be silent. I may sit there for 10 minutes, or I may site there for more than an hour. Either way it will feel way too short yet also like I have been sitting there for an eternity.
Those moments of silence, I need to find them because they are important. They are vital. They are significant.
Part of me is scared of the silence, I think on some level we all are.
Making space silence feels more like making space for the anxiety, the noise, the clamor, and clattering of life to crescendo at a piercing volume.
But somehow I have found it’s the opposite, the silence silences.
The silence calms.
The silence heals and restores.
The silence quiets our racing hearts and frantic souls so that they can be nourished.
It seems frivolous, it seems a luxurious choice, an over-the-top way to spend time, but I think its important.
Will you join me in doing it?
Pick a day, maybe it can’t be until the weekend, maybe not until next week, maybe you’re so booked up and scheduled out that it’s not until next month. But pick a day. Don’t set your alarm, just wake up the the morning light, the rhythm of your body. Resist reaching for your phone and rather begin with your morning ritual. Maybe it’s coffee, maybe it’s tea. Maybe it’s something more tactile like cooking or baking. Scramble some eggs, bake some bread or scones, whatever is your thing. Find your place, curl up with a quilt, and sit in the silence. Sit in the quietness. Breath in and breath out. Maybe it’s for only 5 minutes, maybe it’s more. But take the time. Take the time to be silent.