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Practicing Restoration at 41

I remember it vividly. It’s one of those moments when you can see the train coming even though there is nothing you can do to get out of the way. I sat on my couch and took a quick survey of my schedule and my to-do list. We thought that there was an up-side to having four months’ notice before moving across the country. We’ll have plenty of time to say our goodbyes, wrap up projects, and pack incrementally. What we didn’t account for was how this meant that anything and everything found its way onto the list.

When we found out we were moving from Nashville to Georgia, we had one month.

One month to pack, say our goodbyes and prepare to leave. It was a tight four weeks but it also forced us to make decisions about what was important and what was viable. But having four months meant that there was no reason to be discriminating. And before we knew it, every moment was filled with events and tasks that were all marked IMPORTANT.

This is where I found myself in mid-October, collapsed on my couch, surrounded by cardboard boxes. I could feel it in my body. I was already spent. I went back to the schedule. Was there any time at all to take a break? Anytime to get away and breath?

No. To do that would mean someone or something was sacrificed. We only had a few precious weeks left in this part of the country. What would I regret sacrificing once we were moved out to Texas? Would I be okay with cancelling any of this just so I can rest? The answer came back again: No.

So I pressed ahead.

By the time we moved in December, I was on fumes. I had already used my reserves and I knew that I was in the danger zone. I have spent most of my adult life carefully adjusting my habits to benefit my mental and emotional health. The sum total of those adjustments went out the window in October and it would be months before I found the margin to restore them. When we had everything moved into the house, Mike lasted two days before he went down with sickness and fatigue. I lasted a week. This was just enough time to unpack and show up for my first two days of work. By Wednesday, I was so sick, I didn’t have the strength to feed myself or walk to the bathroom.

This is a hard confession for me, friends. You see, years ago, I was locked into self-destructive cycles where every five months or so I would crash like this. My body would give out. I would be sick and incapacitated for a few days. But then I would start the cycle over. I used my body and my mind like workhorses to the point where they would foam and writhe before collapsing. Life had to be lived at maximum effort and I was hell-bent on pushing every limit, damn the cost.

But I have changed. Those who know me now know that those days are long behind me. I have learned the power of margin. I appreciate rhythms of rest and productivity. I acknowledge my limits, even if I’m not happy about them. I don’t crash anymore. I don’t push my sanity anymore. I don’t punish myself anymore. Yet, there I was.

My only consolation was that the holiday break was coming and soon I would bounce back, like I always do.

But last week, I confessed to my therapist that I just couldn’t shake this fatigue. It’s been six months since I started the new job in a new state and so many things were going so well. But I was tired. Even my mental bandwidth was giving out in the evenings. Sure, my body gets tired, but my mind never slowed down. It has always been a point of pride and frustration that I struggled to focus or calm this whirring brain in my head. But in my session, I realized that I hadn’t bounced back. I hadn’t recovered. It was still hard to keep up with all my projects and priorities.

But one of the many reasons I have a therapist is for moments such as these. He asked me questions that got me thinking about my dilemma in a new way. I landed on a question I had not asked myself in a long time: do I know how to rest? And additionally, have I learned how to adjust my habits of rest and recovery for this new stage of life?

I turned 40 last year with optimism and joy. I started a year of fun, new challenges that still have me exploring new possibilities. The plan was to prioritize vitality and self-care in this new decade. But today, as I turn 41, it is clear to me that this next year is going to be a journey towards deep restoration.

Where do we find restoration? What have I learned about myself all these years and how can I be gracious with my aging body? What would it mean to adjust expectations based on a careful attunement to the transformation of Sabbath?

So, this year, with my doctors and other professionals, I am going on a journey of discovery. I want to take careful stock of my habits: what I consume, how I exercise, and how I sleep. I want to step back and look at my output/input ratio. I want to learn about the person I am becoming. I want to shed any emotional weights I am still clinging to. I want to calibrate by listening to the cadence of the Holy Spirit. I want to know that I can age without equating the process to scarcity.

And yes, it might just be that I can’t do everything like I used to. It may just be a season coming off a taxing transition. Maybe it’s something physiological that can be altered. At any rate, I want to make sure I am living into abundance everyday of my life. This means finally taking a serious look at rest and restoration.

I make this a public declaration so that I can be more accountable to these new roads I am walking. Also, I hope that maybe you will join me on this path. There is something powerful about the spiritual realities of Sabbath, Jubilee, and contemplation. Its more than self-care or margin or vacation. I feel as though I have only scratched the surface and I am not a little bit excited about learning what new wonders this journey will behold.

Here’s to forty-one! Let’s take it down a notch.


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